Everybody has to start somewhere. And that place is usually at the bottom. No matter what industry you’re in or what you’ve studied, your career is going to begin on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder. Whether you have to complete a year-long internship before you’re employed full time or you land a permanent contract straight out of university, you will find yourself in a junior position. And you will make mistakes while you’re there.
Of course, it’s important that you make mistakes. It’s how you learn, grow and improve. If you don’t make mistakes at the very beginning, you’ll most likely make them later on when they can do far worse damage to your career. Mistakes are meant to be made. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare yourself to make them.
If you know what to look out for and you can identify the mistakes you’re making while you’re making them, it’ll be easier to bounce back. You’ll learn the lesson quicker and grow faster, which will make your time at the bottom a whole lot more pleasant. So, here are four of the most common mistakes every young professional makes.
Being too sensitive
You’re going to be criticised. In the beginning, you’re going to receive a lot of negative feedback. And the sooner you learn to handle it, the better. You’re not going to get it right from day one. And you’re not meant to. However, that doesn’t mean your incompetence isn’t going to annoy more senior colleagues and your manager. You may be lucky and land up with a mentor who is willing to put in the time and effort to help you grow. But you’re just as likely to end up with a boss who rips apart your work, loudly and in great detail. To be honest, there’s a strong possibility you’ll end up crying on more than one occasion. Just try to hold back the tears until you’re at home. Remember, it’s not personal and everyone goes through it.
Not asking the right questions
You’re going to ask some pretty stupid questions during your first year on the job. And you’ll probably get a few eyerolls, a couple of sighs and at least one death stare. But people will understand and they will give you the answers you need. This is all expected of you. However, there’s a difference between asking stupid questions and asking the wrong questions. You need to know how to frame your questions so that someone who has been in the industry for years and has forgotten what is and isn’t common knowledge can figure out what you need to know. This means you have to think before you speak, research what you can beforehand and have a clear idea of what information you need.
Pretending to know more than you do
This is one of the most common mistakes amongst young professionals and it’s the one that can land you in a lot of hot water. For example, you may have studied business and economics but that doesn’t mean you know anything about agricultural finance. Which means that you can’t start mouthing off in meetings about agricultural farming expenditure just because you read up on it the night before. You’re dealing with people who know exactly what they’re talking about and have indepth knowledge on the subject. Pretending you know more than you do will only irritate those who are actually well-versed on the subject.
And it can also get you in trouble with the people who matter most. On the off chance your boss actually believes you’re somehow already an expert on financing farming equipment, they’re going to expect to see it in your work. And they’re going to be disappointed when you can’t deliver.
Having overly specific expectations of the job
This is a biggie. You can’t walk into your first job thinking you know what role you’re going to be playing. Sure, the job ad may have included a comprehensive list of responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean that’s all you’ll be doing. And it definitely doesn’t mean that your understanding of those responsibilities is correct. You may think you’ll be dealing directly with clients but in reality you have to assist a more senior colleague with preparation and research. You can never be certain of what you’re going to be doing until you’re actually doing it. There’s only one definite: you’re going to be doing a lot of grunt work. That’s what being junior employee is all about.
You’re going to make these mistakes and so many more. Your first few years are going to be littered with errors. That’s how it’s meant to be. But you’ll learn, grow and improve. And then one day you’ll earn that coveted promotion and it will have all been worth it.