Life happens fast. We grow up a lot a faster than we think. And suddenly, we are no longer kids; we are young adults ready to start working for the first time. This can be a very intimidating time in our young lives, but do not worry because we are all in the same boat. It is completely normal to feel nervous about beginning work because we do not know what to expect or if we are ready to adapt to the working environment. I can personally attest to these feelings. However, we must and we will get over these feelings and start working effectively. My goal of this article is to provide you with advice and my opinion about how to make the most out of your first job in order to build on this valuable work experience in the future.
I would like to start off with a bit about myself. My name is Andrew and I am about to enter my third year of university at the University of Toronto. I am studying life science and am currently interested in pursuing a career in medicine. I have only had one job to this date but I have had many experiences there which have inspired the advice I have to share with you today. I worked at McDonalds for just over 2 years (from the beginning of grade 12 up until half way through my second year of university). While working at McDonalds, I got promoted twice to the position of team leader. That being said, much of my advice in this article stems from my time working at McDonalds, but I have asked many of my friends for their input and so I will try to generalize it to working for all employers.
My first piece of advice may seem obvious, but I do want to state the importance of them. This is to work hard and have a positive attitude at work. If there is one thing that I realized from my time working at McDonalds, it’s that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. There really is no substitute for hard work (at work and in school) and managers and customers alike will really appreciate the effort you put in. Also, have a positive attitude while at work. This allows you to go to work wanting to learn and be productive, and this will lead to more opportunities for you down the road. This also lets your employers know that you value your job. Plus, having a positive attitude in the workplace will make your job feel like less of a job, making it a lot easier to get through your shifts.
Moreover, you want to make the most out of any training opportunities your work provides you with. It is not ideal to settle for just the mandatory job related training. Yes, you are going to need this to be able to do your current job and this will most likely be the first thing you do once you get hired. However, you should not stop at this. Instead, take advantage of any additional training your workplace may offer which can enhance your development of transferable skills (leadership, team based learning, customer service, etc). Building these transferable skills is invaluable to our future development as professional workers.
Always look for new learning opportunities at your workplace. Don’t be content at just knowing the basics to make it through the shift. Ask questions. Inquire to your managers about advancement opportunities and find out what they are looking for in order for you to put yourself in that position. At the end of the day, you get what you put in and the onus has to fall on us to make the most out of the opportunities we have available to us.
Many employers (especially for positions where a post-secondary education is required) place a high priority on relevant work experience when they are considering hiring you. Now the term relevant can be a bit confusing and ambiguous, but I believe that a lot of employers are looking for the transferable skills that you develop as you gain work experience. Especially when we are just starting out, it is extremely difficult to get the job we really want. This is not to say that we cannot have it. It just means that we have to make the most out of the opportunities we have in front of us to get what we desire in the future. Therefore, we should use the opportunities we are given now to develop this skill set which will allow us to transition to our dream job in the future.
To conclude, I would like to remind you of the importance of balancing work, school and life. Yes, building our work experiences is very important (not to mention it earns us a bit of cash as well), but we must remember the value of our education. Most of my work experiences came during the summer months because I prioritized my education. I encourage you to focus on your education, but supplement it with work and volunteer experiences, as I believe this can provide you with a strong foundation of transferable skills that will become essential in finding your dream job of the future.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my piece. I wish you the best moving forward and I hope my advice helps you make the most of your work experience.
~ Written by Andrew Peluso