And Everything In Between: A lifetime of wisdom in half a year of work

What I have learned after 6 months of work?
(I still feel like the little girl in the above picture, for one!)

It is up to you to love it.

When I meet new people, or catch up with old faces, I have taken to asking:

Do you enjoy what you do?”

And the reaction is always mixed. People often shrug their shoulders, give an offhand, non-descript answer, or say words to the effect of ‘There’s a reason they call it work, not enjoyment, because it is work’. I love talking to people who say they love their job.

I’ve spent too long as an unpaid intern to not love what I do. Don’t get me wrong, some days feel more exciting than others (let’s not gild the lily here!), but I value experiences more than money now that I am earning. I wouldn’t pour my money into the bin, but I feel I have earned the joy I feel in my current job. I am empowered to save money towards my various goals; it gives me a refreshing sense of independence. Employment was a huge personal and societal validation for me, after 14 months of unpaid work. That was a valuable life-changing experience.

My story has become less exceptional – a LOT of people are struggling to find jobs in the industry they are qualified in – the unemployment rate remains at a high of 6.3% nationally  in Australia, with the labour force participation rate sitting  at 64.8% – so approximately 6 out of every 10 Australians is working (as of 6th January 2015).

Everyone will have a similar set of work experiences, but in a different order, much like a shuffled deck of cards:

  • The ‘Honeymoon’ period – This period is essentially where you are learning the ropes, but are immune from accountability. This is not a realistic period – you will be corrected, but not reprimanded. Take a lot of notes and ask questions – no question is too silly to ask! But remember to never stop asking questions, if you are tentative in this phase it will come back to bite you.
  • Your first Performance Review (industry dependent) – I had mine after a month, then a probationary review meeting at three months. These are valuable avenues through which you can discover your strengths, and receive constructive feedback.
  • Your first lot of constructive feedback – This either comes in your first performance review, or will come more spontaneously. It’s not fun, but remember it is normal. Everyone at some point has received unsolicited feedback; it is rarely a personal attack. The fact your boss has taken you aside to give you this feedback proves they care about you and your career progression, they want to see you do your absolute best.

My Advice? Accept the feedback, take it calmly; ask how you can improve, write the main points down and keep it on you, and work smarter not faster (there is a difference!!). Ask for feedback after a short time, to ensure you are on the right track. This shows dedication, initiative, a proactive attitude and character. Use it as a motivator, don’t ‘wallow’!

  • Applying and Interviewing for a higher position in your workplace – Be ambitious. If you want to progress in your workplace, or have your eyes on a ‘dream job’, then apply for the experience. This is a great opportunity, for those interested:
  1. To get more interview experience
  2. The interview will help you discover desirable attributes for your ‘dream job’
  3. It shows enthusiasm, ambition and willingness to stay/progress; never hurts to ‘throw your hat in the ring’.
  4. It is an opportunity to get feedback so you can be a kick-ass employee, and keep working towards your ‘dream job’
  5. Alternately, you might discover that you might be better suited in another industry/position; you are sure to be asked where you see yourself in ‘x’ amount of years!

I am currently a Level 1 employee, and I interviewed recently for a Level 4/5 position for the experience. I didn’t get the position, but I managed to achieve more than just interview experience. One of my two interviewers was impressed by me and has offered to help me tweak my resume, and I approached the other interviewer for feedback  and they gave me some excellent pointers about answering questions, and advised me to keep a diary of my achievement in my current role so I can more easily recall them in future interviews.

All this in time for a Level 2/3 (potentially more attainable) position that will become available in the near future.

#Winning!

  • The effect of Fashion (industry dependent, gender neutral) – They way you present yourself says who you are before you open your mouth; the truth is people do notice and will bestow some level of judgement on you. It’s not about being ‘fashionable’ it’s about neat presentation in the form of clean, pressed clothes that fit you correctly , neat hair (if your hair is out, it is brushed, or it is tied up) and a firm handshake. I work in a particularly formal environment, and when I am not in my working uniform, (anywhere from 1-3 days a week, depending on the month) I dress in office/smart casual attire. The contrast from my monochrome work uniform to my coloured and patterned collection of skirts, dresses and pants is quite stark, so I have to ensure it is still appropriate and meets with my workplace’s uniform policy.

If you aren’t sure what you should be wearing, look at what your superiors wear, or ask them .Presenting well makes you more approachable, and make you more memorable. It does make a huge difference, regardless of age.

Coco Chanel nails it:

coco

  • Finding satisfaction – I made my own happiness in my job. Yes I had the benefit of working somewhere I am very stimulated. You get that, working in a Parliament House; it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been, or will go. It’s valuable to dress well, but intelligence (life and book smarts) and awareness are what get you over the line.
    You are not a ‘Suit’ or a ‘Skirt’, you are thinking and reacting human.

Don’t be complacent. When you think you know everything that means there is more to learn. Don’t just ‘go through the motions’. Engage with your colleagues or Boss and say you want to learn something new. Satisfaction is a result of self-determination, you have to want it – self-entitlement is dangerous.

You don’t deserve anything, you earn everything.

I am looking forward to the next 6 months. And the rest of my working life. I’m sure I’ll still be learning, years from now.

Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing,

A x

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