How To Successfully Transition To Your First Job
Hey everyone! I'm so excited to continue what I hope is lots of career posts on Keep Calm and Chiffon. This second post with Alyssa (read our first one here!) could not come at a more perfect time because this post is coming about 365 days from the day I received my official offer to join the NYLON team. I've honestly had the most amazing 12 months both in my professional and personal life and feel like I can only go up from here.
Another awesome milestone that happens to align with this post is that I was recently asked back to my alma mater, Barnard College, to participate on a panel of notable professional alums. The purpose of the panel was to provide tips for students on how to succeed in the workplace and to give them insight into our industries. So, that was the coolest day ever.
This time last year I remember feeling both excited and anxious to start work. I'd had part-time jobs before, but I wasn't fully sure what it would be like to have a full-time job. My internship at NYLON had certainly given me some insight into what the job would be like, but there's really no way to know what it'll be like until you're there experiencing the day-to-day of it all. So for this post Alyssa, who is just about to start her first job asks me questions about making the transition. Let's get started!
Want to read Alyssa's post? Click here.
Balancing a schedule
Alyssa: Working a 9-5 (more like 8-6 at some workplaces!) is much different from a college schedule. How do you transition successfully?
Austen: Ah yes, how does one go from taking naps at 2pm and having no classes on Fridays to a full-time job? At NYLON we’re 10-6, and it really ends up being more than that when you add up all of the hours that are spent attending breakfasts with PR companies, events after work, and even clocking hours on some weekends when you have a tight deadline. This definitely isn’t something you can change overnight, but having a job you love definitely makes the transition so much easier!
Alyssa: How do you make time for friends/exercise/etc?
Austen: This definitely does take some planning in advance. If you don’t use Google Calendar, I suggest starting now! If you can, schedule workout classes, drinks/dinners with friends, and other obligations at least a week in advance so you can feel committed to them. It’s easy in college when friends live down the hall, so out in the real world it's important to make the effort to reach out.
Alyssa: How do you prioritize work and social life?
Austen: This is very similar to how you prioritize work and social life in college—if you’re at the office until 9pm, you’re not going to be producing the best work and you’ll be exhausted. Give yourself permission to go grab ice cream with a friend. If you have to leave work early on a Friday to make it to a friend’s wedding out of state, give work a heads up as far in advance as you can. Treat both of them like they’re important, because they both are.
Interacting in the workplace
Alyssa: What is your best advice for giving constructive feedback as a new and young person in the workplace?
Austen: I think that your workplace hired you for a reason, so you should feel comfortable giving your opinions. Usually you’ll be able to tell when there’s an open moment for you to contribute your ideas. If more senior members take control of meetings, emailing your supervisor as a follow-up could be a good way to make sure they know that you’re thinking about projects that everyone is working on.
Alyssa: How do you balance being friends at work while also being effective coworkers?
Austen: It definitely makes the day more bearable if you get along well with your coworkers, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to befriend them. That being said, always think of your job first. If your friend in another department is messaging you on GChat but you have an assignment to finish for your boss, tell them you’ll run out and get coffee with them in a bit! When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of professionalism.
Alyssa: What is the best way to take and address feedback, especially from a peer?
Austen: One of the greatest things in a workplace is the ability to work with peers to create something. As a writer, it’s really helpful to have a second (and third, and fourth!) set of eyes on writing. I know that when my peers give me suggestions, it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad writer, but it means that there’s room for improvement. If a peer gives you a suggestion that you don’t like, you can ask them to explain it further and then express your point of view as well to reach a compromise.
Alyssa: How do you set work goals for yourself?
Austen: I have separate lists of immediate tasks and bigger tasks that contribute to my goals. I make a list of 5-7 small tasks at the beginning of each day that I’ll aim to finish by the end of the day. On the other hand, I have a longer list of what I need to get done for each issue. Sometimes big tasks can seem daunting (interview a curator for the art page) but by making progress on them each day (email the museum, make a list of questions, schedule a phone call) it makes it much easier to manage. All of this contributes to larger more long-term goals like “improve the fashion news section” or “interview three curators over the course of the year.”
Alyssa: What habits can you develop in college that will serve you well in the workplace?
Austen: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. One of the biggest misconceptions is that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I know my boss would much rather I give her a heads up like, “In order to get this done by Friday, I think we’re going to need to split it between two people” rather than try to tackle it all myself and end up with a subpar assignment. Another thing that really helps me is setting pseudo deadlines. If you have something due on a Friday morning, set out to finish it by Thursday afternoon.
Alyssa: How can you ensure that you are delivering what you need to and that you are making the best use of your time?
Austen: Ask lots of questions when you get an assignment or a project to make sure that what’s expected of you is clear. I also try to get an example, so when I took over editing a section of the magazine, reviewing previous issues gave me an idea of how many words it should be and what kind of format it should follow. If lots of tasks are getting thrown at you at once, you can totally reach out to your boss and ask, “What should I prioritize today?” You’ll be glad you asked before you spend time on something that isn’t as urgent as another thing.
Alyssa: What was your biggest surprise when going from intern to full-time?
Austen: My biggest surprise is how much I enjoy my full-time job and the real world! As a college student, I hadn’t had any scheduled programming on Fridays for about three years, so I wasn’t sure how I would adjust to a full-time job, but everyday I walk into the office feeling excited to work, and excited to learn as much as I can about what it takes to make a magazine. Not every job is going to be a dream job, but focus on the parts you really enjoy and it will serve you well in the long run.
What is the best advice you've received when transitioning to your first job?
Austen (and Alyssa!)