Career

4 Good Habits That Are Critical to Form When You’re in Your First Job

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Joanne Poh

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Few people can say their first job is their dream job. When you’re paid peanuts and your duties could be performed by a trained monkey, it’s easy to act like a jackass in the knowledge that you’ll be out of there the moment you find a new job.

Perhaps what you’re doing at work right now isn’t even remotely related to your dream job or what you hope to be doing in future. No matter how dire the situation at the moment, here are 4 good habits you should cultivate. Even if you do claw your way into a better job later on, you’ll be glad you’ve mastered the following.

 

Determine how much to save, no matter how little

There’s a high chance your first job will have you earning one of the lowest salaries you’ll experience in your career. There’s hence also a high chance you’ll end up telling yourself that it’s impossible to save money, and that you’ll do so when you find a new job or get a raise. Unfortunately, you’ll soon realise that when you’re older, your salary might be higher but so will be your expenses.

At this point in your life, you probably have as few liabilities are you’ll ever have. Hence, learn how to save now before your obligations start piling up. Examine your monthly expenses and commit to saving a particular amount, no matter how small. If you manage to become a disciplined saver, you’ll benefit from it no matter what job you move on to in future.

 

Brainstorm ways to improve at your job and raise your salary

Working life, as you’ll soon learn, isn’t just a matter of shutting up and doing whatever your boss throws at you. In order to do well financially, you’ll have to be strategic about when you switch jobs, ask for raises and perform at work.

The sooner you start thinking about work in terms of strategy, the sooner you’ll save yourself from years of disillusionment as your salary remains stagnant. Take a leaf out of Larry’s book and learn to  be proactive about your own career development. In this first job, brainstorm to find ways to improve on the job rather than just passively living out your days behind your desk. When you’ve been there for a while, it’s also time to start thinking about how you can raise your salary, perhaps by transitioning into a new role or taking on new responsibilities and then asking for a raise.

 

Learn how to work efficiently

Singaporeans suffer from famously poor work-life balance, as the many office workers who stay at work late into the night will tell you. However, not everyone who stays late at work is really working all that hard. In fact, if you observe the people around you, you’ll discover that many are just blatantly inefficient, whiling away the mornings and afternoons gossiping with the other employees or quietly surfing Facebook on their computers.

Make a promise never to fall into that pattern, and learn how to work as efficiently as possible. Even if your workload is heavy, never stop innovating ways to get the job done more quickly and more efficiently. This might mean committing certain information to memory so you don’t have to waste time looking for it when you need it, grouping certain tasks together or simply doing more demanding work when your energy is at its peak.

 

Always be acquiring skills or training that you can carry over into your next job

Unless your current job involves your sitting in a dark room pressing a button nonstop all day long, there should be some skills you can pick up or training you can go through that will be useful, even if only indirectly, in a future job. For instance, young lawyers can often ask to be sent for courses and seminars conducted by the Law Society, which can then be useful to them even if they move on to roles in banks or companies in other industries.

Think of yourself as a sponge, ready to soak up any knowledge that could be useful to you in life. Even if your job is a complete bore, there must be something you can learn. Your role might suck, but perhaps one of your colleagues in a more interesting role would be willing to share some tips and tricks. Keep an open mind and you’ll see there’s more you can get out of your job than just free stationery.

What good habits did you form in your first job? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.