Work is a very different world than anything you’ve ever been exposed to. Hopefully the following will save you from future pain and headache.
Don’t Expect it to Be Like School
It’s like night and day. Very simply, when you go to school, you pay someone to put up with you. When you go to work, someone has to pay you to put up with you. Get the point?
Maybe 5% of What You Learned in School Will be Applied to the Workplace
Remember the point I made earlier about those job listings and what you learned at school? Well, the converse is true as well. You will find that much of the on-the-job training has nothing to do with what you learned in school. You likely will forget 95% of it, anyway.
It’s also sad to say that employers are becoming increasingly wary about hiring new college grads.
Grades in School Rarely Matter
More often than not, it’s how you perform at work that matters. Usually you’re asked what your last job was rather than how you scored in English Literature 101 a few years ago. It only matters when applying for a teaching job or going for higher education.
To Save Your Job, Justify Making Your Employer at Least 3-4 Times What You’re Getting Paid
It’s all about business when working in a business. An employer hires you for money so that you can somehow make him more money. If you are costing the employer money, then you are a liability to the company, not an asset.
A sad reality is when you sometimes need to justify your job when a company is downsizing due to an economic recession.
Be Young, Single, and Even Less Educated When Starting Out
Let’s face it: Employers want someone without experience to be able to be pushed around. While you shouldn’t every put yourself in that position, it helps to make the employer think that if he wants to, he can do so. The way to do so is to start working for minimum wage, or interning for no pay, while being young, single and still waiting to get your degree. Employers LOVE getting more work for less pay.
Small Mistakes are Big. Consider the Consequences
At work, when you make mistakes you may perceive as minor, they may actually be major when you consider the consequences. For example, a downed computer server means that many people, not just one, cannot do their job when their work is stored there. When you open an “incident” or “case” with a 3rd-party provider, remember that the company is paying money for that. Also, every second somehow magically feels like a minute or hour when the effects of the mistake are being realized.
As someone once mentioned, “50 attaboys (pats on the back) doesn’t amount to 1 oh-s**t.”
Micromanaging Generally Means a Company is Losing Money
When a company is micromanaging an employee’s work, it’s trying to analyze if/why an employee is costing the company money. Generally such an employee’s days are numbered and one of the main reasons an employer is doing such an exercise is to make sure that your replacement doesn’t exhibit the same mistakes as s/he thinks you are making.
Most Bosses are Pressure-Cookers
Nobody’s happy with their boss. There’s a reason why saying somebody’s “acting bossy” is not a good thing. The most commonly-used way to get employees to make money is to apply pressure – tons of it – to produce results.
Prepare to be fired, laid off and embarrassed moreso than promoted. I still remember being fired from my first paid internship after 4 days, and while I moved on, it left a very bitter taste in my mouth. It was a traumatic experience. Sadly I found myself out of other various positions for different reasons. Some were because I “wasn’t technically up to par,” “lacked confidence,” “didn’t fit in,” that the “company was going bankrupt” or that it simply was an “at will” decision. In one case it had to do with my taking off for a religious holiday while I was within the first three months and they completely forgot about my religious requirements! And there are a million other ways or reasons why someone would get fired or laid off.
If you have a great place to work without any of these issues, consider yourself lucky (for now).
Promotions and Raises Aren’t for the Faint of Feart
Many people stay at their same salaries simply because they are afraid to ask for more money. It’s tough to ask for more money for doing the same job you were doing until now. Unless the demand for your job goes up overall, expect to stay at the same pay rate until you take on a new role, and even then…
Also, from past experience, salaries aren’t always directly proportional to the person’s skillset, rather, the balls one has when asking for money.
The only ways to negotiate a raise is (and this is a sample):
1. Justify your past performance and accomplishments, as well as hours/week spent in the office
2. Show that you are ready to grow in terms of past work experience and updated educational/certificate achievements
3. Look for another job, get a higher offer, and see if your current employer can match it (note: this may lead to getting fired within the next 3 months, so be absolutely sure you are ready to leave).
Sometimes it may be out of your control. Family/health circumstances can change a lot of things in a heartbeat.
However, if you do get that raise, expect to work much harder than before.
To Make Significantly More Money, Apply to Another Company
Drawing on the previous tidbit, in terms of a raise you will only get so much. In a normal job, 4% is standard, and a 6%-8% increase is considered a “good” raise. Unless you are able to do items 1-3 in the previous point, expect to only make so much while working for someone else.
Beware of Nepotism
Most companies as a rule don’t allow hiring family members in order to separate business from personal. However, it’s inevitable when a boss at a small company is trying to help out a family member who cannot otherwise get a job elsewhere. What’s frightening is when one soon realizes why the person had a hard time with previous jobs (personality, performance, etc.).
Nepotism can come in many different forms. For example, you might get passed over for a promotion in favor of the boss’ cousin. On the other hand, the other person can be a real disturbance but can never get fired, while a small screw-up by you can land you in unemployment by tomorrow. It’s a tough situation where there’s really no sound advice other than to be firm and do what you can to boost yourself irrespective of the company or such employees.
Don’t Think, Unless You Are Paid To
Unless you are in a position of power to make and argue decisions, your role is to follow orders in order to maintain the flow of the organization. People that second-guess their managers/superiors which disrupt the work flow are forever deemed as troublemakers ready for the chopping block. If you feel that your opinion is to be voiced, either schedule a 5-10 minute meeting TOPS to pass on suggestions, or send an email. Emails today are the least intrusive option to send messages without disturbing someone’s work schedule.
Most Full-Time Employees Will Earn and Top Out Between $25k-$60k
Unless you are a top executive at a company, or at a company destined to fail, expect yourself to earn between $25k-$60k/year. A surprising very few individuals earn more than that. People don’t like to think about that and would like to earn more, but that’s one reason why one’s salary is very personal. Another reason why ones salary is personal is because everybody wants to make more than the next person – that’s human nature. If person A hears that person B is making more than him, person A will be brimming with jealousy. Believe me, that’s what it is.