In today’s college education system, it seems like everything is focused on one thing: finding a job. Think back to your high school years. One of the biggest pressures of upperclassmen is finding the right course structure for them to take. Why? To figure out what he or she might want to major in at a university. Then, it’s the pressure of achieving high marks in both classes and on the SAT. Why? To get accepted into the student’s dream school. In college, the competition continues; do well in classes, become involved in activities relating to your major, get quality internship experience. Why? Because that’s what you need to do to get a job. Graduation day comes and goes, signaling the end of college and the beginning of the competition in the job market against the country’s graduation pool. After using the skills that the university’s career center has equipped you with during phone screenings and multiple rounds of interviews, you cross the finish line of the job hunting marathon and are rewarded with a medal in the form of an offer letter for a position.
Now fast forward to Day 1 of the new job. I found myself walking in wondering, “Well now where do I go?” While the answer to that question is undoubtedly different for everyone, I’d like to share a few things I have learned that could help you find your own answer.
- You’re qualified, you didn’t fool everyone. This is the right fit. When that perfect job opportunity comes along, after all the excitement surrounding the acceptance dies down and as the first day approaches, the nerves will inevitably set in. You’re asking yourself questions like “What if I can’t do this? What if this isn’t right for me?” The answers to those questions do not matter. No employer expects an entry-level employee to come in on their first day and be an expert at anything.
- “It doesn’t take talent to hustle and be on time.” This was a quote that was plastered all over my high school locker room and it’s a message that is very applicable to the real world. Showing up on time and going through the motions does not benefit either yourself or the company. There is a difference between being at work and existing at work. If you don’t show up every day looking to be engaged and passionate about your work, then what was the point of getting out of bed?
- You should never be bored. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to always be hungry for more work. Complete the tasks at hand and go and find more work. Always be asking, “What’s next?” It may feel like you’re badgering but, to your boss, it shows that you are ready for another challenge. As an engineer, free time is what can kill your skillset. There are going to be times where your knowledge fails you or when you’re not sure what to do.
- There is no such thing as a dumb question or over-communicating. It’s important to take advantage of opportunities surrounded by uncertainty, especially when you’re the “new guy.” Like I said earlier, no one expects you to know everything, which makes every opportunity a chance to humble yourself and expand your knowledge. Leading me to my main takeaway thus far…
- I don’t know everything, and that’s okay. I see this as an opportunity to act as a sponge and absorb knowledge from all of the incredibly intelligent coworkers that I have around me. A chance to learn from them and improve my arsenal of engineering skills as I go. A new desire to look at what I consider to be my best, and think “You know what? I can do better.” As corny as this may sound: the competitive academic atmosphere in life never really ends, the opponent just changes from your classmates to yourself.
-Zack Whelan, Junior Mechanical Engineer