It’s been 8 months since I resumed my first job working for an organization of this scale and operations. If I were to describe my experience in just 3 words, it would be “rollercoaster learning adventure”. I joined my organization as a graduate trainee and was put on a thorough training program that afforded me the opportunity to engage with and learn from a lot of really intelligent professionals.
In a few weeks, my training rotation will be over and I’ll resume my role. Reflecting on all the lessons learnt and skills acquired, I remember how as a fresh graduate in 2015 I really looked forward to joining the labour market. I read so many articles and attended multiple career development workshops all in the bid to prepare myself for the place of work. I learnt a lot, such as the importance of discipline, hard work and the right attitude. I must say, all the time I invested in gathering that knowledge (and of course thanks to the people who took their time to share the knowledge) there are a lot of mistakes I’ve been able to avoid and opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of.
However, regardless of all that good stuff, there’s still so much I was unprepared for. I guess there are just some things you have to learn from first-hand observation and experience. Today, in the spirit of thankfulness, I’ve decided to pay it forward and try to help other fresh graduates out there by sharing 6 major lessons I’ve learnt as a young millennial working in a Gen X + Baby Boomer dominated workplace:
1. Self-awareness and regulation is key
It’s common knowledge that the world is a very diverse place. However, I didn’t realized how much impact diversity can have when unique people come together for a common purpose until I resumed work at my current company.
There are a lot of unique personalities in the workplace and as a professional, you must learn to respect this and give people room to be themselves. The only way you can do this effectively without losing yourself is by:
- Realizing that you also have your unique personality and perspective
- Embracing your unique personality and perspectives
- Regulating the expressions of your unique personality and perspective.
Do not allow anyone drown you in the ocean of their beliefs/opinions and in the same way do not attempt to drown people in yours.
You are allowed to be yourself. However, being ‘yourself’ is no excuse for ‘bad behaviour’. Ensure that at every point in time you objectively evaluate your thoughts, actions and inactions, make adjustments and call yourself to order where necessary.
2. The workplace is not the Military
You’re not expected to execute instructions dished out to you by management ‘verbatim’. You’re not a zombie. As a professional, you should always weigh every instruction you’re given and use your discretion to filter and choose how to execute.
I was once caught in a web at work where my superior at the time asked me to call out some other partner who wasn’t pulling his weight via mail. Without giving it a second thought, I typed out a mail word for word and clicked send; the receiving partner was not very pleased with this and I guess who had to bear the ‘wrath’? Your homegirl Sims!
Whatever communication comes from you whether it’s in words or writing will always be perceived as your words. Therefore wisdom demands that you always weigh the situation and respond as you deem fit because, in the end, you are completely responsible for what you say and do.
3. Don’t be the pawn.
Back when I was in secondary school, there was a classic scenario that almost always repeated itself every year: 2 best friends have a nasty quarrel, and then split up and find themselves, new friends. Usually, afterwards, some backbiting would happen and the new friends would take their various sides of the divide. Then out of the blue, one day the 2 best friends would settle their misunderstandings and move on, leaving the ‘new friends’ in an awkward position not knowing how to move on from the situation.
This can sometimes happen in the workplace, particularly when dealing with Superiors. Don’t be the ‘new friend’, never allow yourself get sucked in the middle of other people issues. Be sensitive enough to know when something goes deeper than the obvious, and be brave enough to step away and let the concerned parties sort things out themselves.
4. Perception is critical.
No matter what your intentions are, your communication is a function of other people’s perception. I learnt this lesson at a time when I got some shocking feedback. Some colleagues believed that I did something for reasons completely outside of my intentions.
My first reaction was a ‘you guys are crazy’ type one, surely they must be dreaming this stuff up but then upon second thought, I realized that whether or not I agree with them, there must be a gap somewhere.
Remember the communication process?
There are 2 stops between the part where the sender encodes and receiver decodes, within that space anything can happen thereby distorting the message and even at the point of decoding by the receiver, always remember that this will be done based on their own biases, experiences and beliefs.
I know I’ve gone really technical but this is really important. We should communicate with people in a way they will understand, by their standards, not ours. Know your audience.
Don’t just be good; be seen to be good…
Don’t just be humble; be seen to be humble…
Whatever your intentions are, it’s critical for you to be able to tailor your communication to your audience.
5. Seek feedback
This has been really helpful for me. As a new joiner in my workplace, the margin for error extended to me is pretty wide compared to that of a mid-level executive. In simple words, I’m allowed to make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. I realised this pretty early so, from day 1, I came armed with a humble spirit and ears eager for feedback no matter how tough.
If you’re reading this and just like me, you’re at the entry level stages of your career, please understand that this is a gift that doesn’t last very long. Be sure to make all the mistakes you possibly can and learn what needs to be learnt quickly.
P.s: While every feedback is good and should be considered, not every feedback is relevant or objective. When you get feedback that’s bogus, please don’t sweat it. Smile, say thank you and move on.
6. Don’t just learn what to do, learn what not to do.
During these last few months, my number one objective was to learn and then seek to add some value. Lucky for me, I was met with teachers/coaches very willing to pass on their knowledge and expertise. It has been a beautiful mix. However, I learnt very quickly that whilst you should have an open mind, ready to absorb all the lessons, you must filter what you’re taught. Balance out every lesson with your personal style and values.
As you pursue knowledge on what to do, and how to do them, keep your eyes wide open for cues on what not to do and how not to do them.
I hope you find the lessons above helpful or in the least bit entertaining! Are you building a career? What has your experience been like? I would really like to hear from you. Please share your experience, thoughts and feedback in the comment section below.
Xx… Sinmisola NY.