On December 1st 2015, I walked into my first job as a spotty, lanky, clumsy child. Now as I leave my spots remain, I’m considerably lankier and if anything, I’m clumsier. Despite all this, there is one colossal change, I walked in a boy and now 20 months later, I’m leaving a grown man.
Throughout the rollercoaster that was my first job, there were an infinite number of opportunities to learn about both myself and the working world itself. As my role was a retail assistant, it wasn’t the most high-pressured job, therefore I could focus more on using each learning curve as motivation for self-development. I made sure to document every lesson which I could take into “the real world”. I noted every little golden nugget which I came across along the way. The things which you’d never discover in the education system. From this definitive list, I have broken it down into 7 lessons which I believe are most important as I leave this chapter of my journey and enter the next.
- Don’t be a people pleaser
I don’t know where this habit originated from, but it must have had strong roots, as it has been the hardest to shake off. But, it is also the most important to shake off. From the beginning, I thought the best way to do my job was to do anything anyone asked me. This is true, up to a point. This leads to over commitment and then you feel a sense of anxiety that you won’t get everything done, and the people you have set out to please, will be anything but pleased. The best way to get around this is to learn how to say NO! Sounds simple, but as other people pleasers know, it is not. You must make the choice to prioritize yourself. I’m not encouraging you to always be selfish. Just always consider yourself, consider if it’s worth your time and whether your being manipulated, think about whether they really need you and whether it will bring real value to them or yourself. And, one last thing, when you say no, say it with conviction. Don’t make up phony excuses, you don’t have to explain why you’re not doing them a favour. It’s your time, you do what you want with it.
- NO ONE cares about as much as YOU care about yourself
As cynical as this may sound, no one, not even your friends or family care about you as much as they care about themselves and vice versa. It’s just a fact of life. They may care about the majority of your life, but at the end of the day, each and every one of us has our own journey and we must concentrate on it.
I learned this very much so in my job. Customers came in only wanting one thing, to feed themselves, they didn’t care how bad your day was or how you might be feeling, they just wanted you to facilitate their shopping experience. My employers were very much the same, they just wanted you to get your jobs done and look happy while you’re doing it. Despite this bleak outlook, there is a huge silver lining.
Once you come to learn this fact, your experience of life will change immensely. Because no one cares about you as much as yourself, they don’t care when you fail, they don’t care when you succeed, therefore you have complete freedom of your life. Whatever, you want to do, do it. If you fail, you go again. This logic will get you through all the stares, sniggers and those who tell you “I told you”. Because, the more you fail, the more you learn and the more you learn, the closer you get to success.
- Know your worth
This lesson came indirectly from work. It really from my main source of knowledge and wisdom, my mother. She was working in the same organisation as me for the first few months of my employment. She was a constant example of dignity, class and knowledge in the workplace and she knew it. So, instead of earning the same amount as me, someone who just starting out in the working world, she calculated what she was worth to the company and she informed them. Through this she got what she wanted and more importantly deserved.
This was a huge lesson for me, someone who had just started working and deserved nothing. It showed me two things, don’t expect anything, unless it’s earned, even then you might not get it. You must work hard to get respect and acclaim from your peers, and sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you might not even get it. The other thing it taught me was, once you think you have earned respect and have provided value to someone else. Then, you must acknowledge it and calculate your worth to that person and charge them accordingly. There is no room for being modest in the real world.
- Learn from everything (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly)
The best method of self-development is to treat every experience as a learning experience. This is how the main reason I improved at work. In the 20 months I worked, I believe I truly got better every day, because I learned from every person I worked with, every customer I dealt with and every experience I came across. This blog post is a prime example, these are only 7 of the hundreds of lessons I learned within the relatively brief time I spent there. The other thing to note is, these 7 lessons are all based on positive experiences. I also learned a lot from the mistakes of myself and my co-workers. I learned from the ineptitude of others that sometimes, hard-work is only half of the battle, sometimes you also need a touch of class. This is a perfect example of how learning from other people’s mistakes is just as important as learning from your own mistakes.
- A Good Team Is Key
This is something which I’d heard a lot when I was younger from both my parents and my teachers, that “Teamwork is dream” or “There’s no I in team”. It was always something which I brushed off as a cliché. But, as soon as I started work, I learned just how important teamwork is to any organisation.
No matter how many individuals work in a company or how talented (or untalented) these individuals are. They are nothing without a formidable team around them. At the end, it only takes one leak to take down a ship. So, for a truly successful workplace, I believe that all employees must gel and work well together effectively. I’m not saying everyone must be best friends. I just believe that for someone to work to their full potential they must have trust that the person beside them is going to work just as hard as them, and have their back if they make a mistake. Otherwise, employees will begin to fear making mistakes and as my main man Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Fear is the enemy”. A workforce which works as a unit will ALWAYS outperform their competition as long they all pull their own weight and work effectively.
- Work off your initiative when possible
I believe one of the best qualities which I acquired during my time at my first job is working off my own initiative. It was the quality which my managers appreciated most. It made my job much more enjoyable for myself as well. If I had to take order after order from a manager without using my own brain, I am sure I wouldn’t have lasted very long..
I am someone who prefers to create my own solutions for problems instead of constantly looking for someone “superior” to me to tell me exactly what to do to solve the problem. Of course, I will seek advice off them but I figured that the only advantage they have over me is more experience. And, for me to build similar experience I would have to try and fail. It goes back to a previous point that every experience is a learning experience. But, some experiences are substantially more beneficial than others and the best way to get these experiences is to use your initiative, roll up your sleeves, get stuck in and if you fail, then learn from it. It is why I believe I learned so much in a relatively brief time in my job compared to amount I learned in the school environment. In school, there is no room for initiative and creativity with your own education. We are spoon-fed a structured, controlled curriculum with no room for experiences and doing, where I believe the best learning occurs.
- Don’t stop until you find what you love
With this one I’m going to take slightly different turn. I’m going to become a little less practical and a little more preachy. Just because it is something I believe in so strongly.
The big questions of our generation and many previous generations usually revolve around the same themes. “What’s the meaning of life?” “How do you find happiness?” or “What is success?”. I believe it all comes done to finding something you love and doing it. The journey of life is trying to find what you love, then trying to make a living off it. This is what a successful person does. Bob Dylan describes it to tee with my favourite quote of all time ““A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” It is my strong belief that if this what I chase, that it will make my life fulfilled. Because, although I enjoyed almost every minute of working in my first job, I think the novelty of it would wear off eventually, so I thought it was time to move on. But, because I took all these lessons about myself, other people and the working world, I am now one step closer to my goal of finding what I love and doing it till the die.