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Take care of yourself

You're at the beginning of your career, and you naturally want to get off to the best start possible. Both to keep your job, and to fulfil your own ambitions. It's a good idea to remember that you're in a learning process, and nobody is expecting you to be capable of the same things as your colleagues who have been employed for several years.

Recognise your colleagues' experience

It's a good idea to bring a little humility with you to work. Not so much in terms of your own abilities; there's no need to put a lampshade over your lamp, so to speak. Instead, in terms of your colleagues' efforts, it's good to recognise acknowledge their methods, professionalism, and experience, even if you think something could be done better.

Also, be kind and friendly to receptionists, office assistants, and secretaries. Not only because they're your colleagues, but also because they contribute to the image people have of you in the organisation. Your reputation in the organisation, in other words, is key to your future.

Make use of your professional role

When you go to work, you step into a professional role. One way you can do that is by putting on a kind of uniform, whereby you also protect the private you. For example, there might be some clothing you only wear to work. That gives you a concrete way that you can quite literally take your job off and set it aside when you come home. You don't have to be someone other than yourself at work, but you should consider what aspects and how much of yourself you want to display while at work. If you have no filter when talking about your personal life, this may come across to your colleagues as excessive or intrusive.

Be aware of values and habits

While most organisations have developed some kind of values statement, their actual values and habits are often very difficult to specify. They are borne through unspoken knowledge, expressed instead through phrases like "here's how we do it" or "we've tried that before, but it didn't work out". Make the most of the fact that you're new, and ask about things you don't understand. If, in the long term, you don't identify with the values and the culture, that might be a sign that you need to be honest with yourself about whether your workplace is right for you.

Remember to take care of yourself

It's a good idea to remember that you are new, and in the middle of a learning process. So, while it might be satisfying to say yes to every task you can — and then some — you have to rein in the tendency to take on too many responsibilities. If you don't find a good balance from the start, it can become a problem in the long term. Here are a few tips for keeping a handle on things.

Things you can ask your employer about

Introduction to the job, your tasks, and your workplace
All kinds of things: How do I prepare a project description? How do I prioritise this task? Do I need to make copies myself? Where is the dining area?

Mentor / supervisor / professional coach
Who can I ask if I'm not sure how to solve a problem? What am I responsible for, and what needs to be approved by others? At what point in a process can I expect feedback on a task?

Clear goals and well-defined tasks
What do you expect, and what does your employer expect? Who is ultimately responsible for different tasks?

Follow-up
How has your initial time in the workplace gone? Talk with both colleagues and management. Is there something you weren't aware of, or that they weren't aware of? What can both sides do better? Have you had sufficient guidance?

Things you can do yourself

  • Accept that you are in a learning process. You don't need to be perfect
  • Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself. You aren't, and don't need to be, capable of the same things as a colleague who has worked there for several years
  • If your ambitions mean you feel like you have to be Superman, tone them down a bit
  • Clarify expectations. Communicate with management
  • Talk with colleagues, your union representative, and your boss. Be open with your colleagues and boss about how you feel about your work
  • Be aware of your own limitations, and don't be afraid to speak up.

What is not acceptable?

A good working environment makes for good employees. If your employer puts too much pressure on you, the benefits will soon vanish as you run out of energy.

Things that are not acceptable:

  • staying at work until 8 P.M. every evening
  • thinking about work all the time
  • being unable to sleep at night
  • being completely exhausted
  • avoiding family and friends because you lack the energy to interact with them

How can DM help you?

  • Checking your contract before you say yes to a job
  • Ensuring you have good working conditions through your contract
  • Preparing you to negotiate your contract with a potential private-sector employer
  • Handling negotiations with public-sector employers for you
  • Offering you feedback before things go wrong

Be certain of your responsibilities

Management is responsible for managing and distributing work. That means that your employer is also responsible for your health and well-being to the extent that they are linked to your work. Decentralising responsibility by assigning it to individual employees can seem democratic, but it can also easily lead you to feel that the entire burden lies on your shoulders when the going gets tough. Management is legally responsible for ensuring that you can perform your work without becoming ill.

But there's something you're responsible for, too: every employee is responsible for saying no and asking for help. So, figure out which responsibilities and tasks are yours, and which are your colleagues' and bosses'. The relationship between resources and requirements should be fairly even. Both under- and overstimulation can result in stress.

Take time off the right way

Often, a stimulating job with many challenges can cause your personal life to fade away. This is especially true in situations with high pressure and stringent requirements. The many opportunities now available to work remotely mean that you may find yourself "on" 24 hours a day. On the other hand, that flexibility can be practical and serve as a kind of support cushion if you have small children, or if your personal life is otherwise demanding. However, be clear about your flexibility and manage it cautiously so that your work doesn't consume your entire life.

These can be overwhelming things to think about when getting ready for your career as a new graduate. All the same, it's essential to harmoniously balance your work and personal life if you want to have a good, long career. With that in mind, be careful not to let those long workdays — that began as a sign of satisfaction and curiosity — take over entirely down the road. You are the one in charge of your career and your life.