by Brian Tibbs and the Youth Services team at DuPage County Workforce Development
If you followed our advice for job applications and resumes, and our advice for job interviews, hopefully you’ve landed a job – congratulations!
However, once you get a job there are still things you need know to make sure you keep that job and keep getting that paycheck!
Obviously, keeping your job and collecting a paycheck are good things. When you’re earning money, you can buy things you need, pay your bills, have a place to live, and start living your life. But, you need to think about more than just that.
You need to make sure you’re an employee that the company will view as an asset and want to invest in. You need the employer to offer you opportunities for growth, so you can be promoted into a better job.
You need to think about starting yourself on a career path!
When you get your first job, here are some things you can do to be a valuable employee, and help start your career.
Stick to the Work Schedule
Show up every day that you are scheduled to work.
- The employer is depending on you to be there, and when you don’t show up that creates problems for your supervisor and for the company.
- If you’re really sick and won’t be able to go to work, call your boss or supervisor immediately to let them know.
Always be on time. Always. No exceptions.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get to work.
- Make an effort to get there a little early—the boss will be impressed!
- If something unexpected happens, like a traffic jam or an accident, call your boss saying that you’ll be late and give the reason why.
Dress Appropriately for the Job
Your appearance is the most visible way to prove to your boss that you “get it.” But if you’re going way over the top (or way under the radar), you’ll seem out of sync. That’s not good!
- Your employer should tell you what the dress code is, and what is or is not appropriate for the job. If they don’t tell you, be sure to ask!
- If your job is in a warehouse or in manufacturing, you may be able to wear jeans and a t-shirt. But be careful with t-shirts – don’t wear anything that your boss or coworkers could find offensive. It’s safest to wear a plain colored t-shirt.
- If you’ll be working in an office environment, you’ll be expected to dress more professionally.
- Some jobs may require a certain colors of pants or shirts, and sometimes the employer may provide shirts they want you to wear.
- Piercings and/or tattoos could be a problem, depending on the job. Pierced ears might be all you’re allowed, and even multiple ear piercings could be inappropriate for some work environments. Tattoos might have to be covered with long pants or long sleeves.
Stay Off Your Phone
You may be on your phone all the time at home or with your friends, but you can’t do that at work!
- You’re there to earn your paycheck, not to call, text or chat with friends, or play games on your phone! If your boss sees you on your phone, they’ll think you’re not working and that’s not good.
- If you get a call or text about a family emergency, let your supervisor know that you need to make a phone call, and be sure to tell them why.
Be Friendly and Courteous.
- Be courteous and polite. Say hello to your coworkers and your supervisor.
- Don’t swear or make inappropriate jokes or comments.
- Ignore gossip if you want it to ignore you. Workplace gossip hurts others and comes back to haunt you. Remember: what goes around comes around.
- Keep private company issues away from social media. Even if you don’t name names, discussing workplace politics on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Reddit can get you in trouble. Save any venting for in-person gatherings with friends!
Be Productive and Reliable
- Your supervisor should make your job duties clear, so follow their instructions and get the work done. Don’t wait to be asked to do your job. If you know what you’re supposed to be doing, then do it. If you don’t know, then ask you supervisor!
- Don’t complain about your job. Jobs are a fact of adult life, and sometimes you’ll be asked to do something that isn’t fun, but you’ll be glad when you get your paycheck!
- Don’t give your boss a reason to fire you by sitting around and doing nothing. If work is slow, don’t get on your phone or sit and chat with the person next to you. Ask your supervisor what you should be doing.
- Try your best and work hard. Always finish an assignment, no matter how much you would rather be doing something else.
- Look for opportunities to serve customers and help coworkers. Those who would be leaders must learn how to serve!
Learn How to Do Your Job
Every job in the world requires some learning. You’ll have to learn how to do it, and how to do it right. Sometimes, it’s about learning the particular way that company does things.
- Learning a new job can sometimes feel overwhelming. You’ll be learning a lot of things, and it’s normal to feel frustrated. Don’t let your frustration get the best of you. That’s just part of starting a new job, and everyone goes through it!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your boss doesn’t expect you to know everything, and they’d prefer that you ask a question rather than just guess and get it wrong!
Show Interest in Learning New Things
- Show your boss you are interested in learning. Asking questions is a great way to show that you are interested in learning more about your job or about the company.
- Once you’ve been in your job for a little while and know how to do it, start asking about future opportunities at the company. Be willing to learn, and develop new skills.
- If the company offers training to pick up a new skill, take it! Skills are important, and will help ensure your success, and help start your career,
Keeping Your Job
According to many employers, the main reasons that people get fired are that they don’t show for work, they don’t show initiative, they don’t want to learn, and they have a poor attitude – a big part of success is having the right attitude.
Be a team player and show you that have the initiative do amazing things. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to prove to others that you have what it takes. When you succeed at your job, you’ll have the respect of others, as well as self-respect!
And, remember what it’s like to be unemployed and be thankful that you have a job and a paycheck.
It’s Not Just a Job, It’s Your Career
Yes, a job and a steady paycheck are important, but those are just the first steps. You have to start building your future.
That’s why it’s so important to change your thinking from job-think to career-think. A job is for now, but a career is for the rest of your life.
What you do on your job, today and every day, determines your future opportunities, it helps create a path so you can start your career. Your first job may not be the type of job you have want forever, but it’s where you’ll get the skills and experience you need to build a career that will last long after!
Note: this article is the fourth in a series of articles aimed at helping young people start and manage their careers. The last article was How to Succeed in Your First Job Interview.
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