What they didn't tell you – the first job

Sunday, June 16, 2019

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IF you're lucky, you will get a job right out of school. And if you're like most people, you may have to wait a few months. And then some. What few people will tell you is that your first job will not likely come immediately or be 'the right one'. Chances are, it won't even be good enough for right now, but you will be told to make it work because many others would love to have a job.

But let's get real. Too many of us have been taught that if our jobs are not what we expected, then perhaps we are not making the best of the situation. The job you get out of school will teach you many things, including how you work with others, respond to a difficult work environment (and people), and whether the field you are in is right for you. You can expect to learn some pretty harsh truths rather quickly.

Let's use a for instance. When my cohorts and I left the Caribbean Institute (now School) of Media and Communication (Carimac) about a decade ago, we thought we were at the forefront of a new wave of journalists that would be the best thing to happen in the field since local television stopped signing off. Cut to less than a year later when most of us realised journalism is not exactly what we were prepared for or what we expected. Covering press conferences, rewriting releases, and wading through numbers to make sense of business financials and economic performance were not what we had signed up for. And to top it off, it generally paid poorly. Like the Jews leaving Egypt, there was a frantic exodus as the majority of us moved on to somewhat related but better-paying posts in Marketing, Communications and Public Relations. It was a rude awakening.

While our jobs initial jobs left a lot to be desired, many of our employers had a similar sense of letdown when they realised we were inexperienced and were not able to turn it out as fast, and in some cases, as well as our more practiced colleagues. Imagine that?!

It can be quite the disheartening feeling to find out that the career you chose did not choose you and despite trying to make our square pegs of determination and desire to prove ourselves worthy fit into the round hole of job functions and expectations, it was just not meant to be for many of us.

These were stark insights and they came hard, fast and constantly. Much of what you will be required to do when you start out will not be glamourous. If it was given to you, it is fair to assume no one else wanted to do it. These tasks will not likely require any of the knowledge or skills you spent years of internships and study honing, because you are a “Banga Mary” in a sea of Little Ochi snapper. These functions are needed but not crucial, and for much of your stint as a beginner in the world of work, this is how you will also be viewed.

Be prepared to unlearn a lot of what you were taught. It got you the degree but will not get you off probation. You will be forced to adapt to the style of those around you, to find tactful ways to present original ideas as theirs that you are simply cosigning and do more than is actually asked of you. Completing what you are tasked with is a start, going above and beyond to show your true value is the endgame.

Take 'and all other duties as assigned' to mean just that. You are not yet in a position to say no, not if you hope to progress beyond the minor nature of your role. Job growth, like personal growth, takes time and effort. We have all had moments when shedding a couple tears of frustration in the bathroom seem like a viable option, and some of us have taken them. The truth about work is that regardless of how good you are at it and how long you do it; there will always be bad days. Gratitude for the process and trust in your capabilities positively influencing the eventual outcome will sometimes be all you have. Believe me, that can mean a lot!

Paul Allen


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