Lessons I Learned In My First Real Job

When I graduated from University in the Summer of 2016, I set my sights on a career in HR. A challenge unknowing to me, that it would be difficult to even get into. I thought that as a graduate, employers would be snapping up to train my able and eager self. Yeah, that definitely wasn’t the case.

I have never experienced so much competition and if I’m perfectly honest, doubt, in my capabilities as I did during this first year. I was always told that I was likeable and did well in interviews, but someone who already had a year or two experience beat me to it. It was a catch 22 situation; how would I get any experience if no one was willing to give me a shot? Was I good enough to be hired? How could I stand out? It felt as if that the only thing my (expensive) degree was good for, were roles where I would have to sell my soul for a pittance. Nonetheless, determined to get some apparently valuable administration experience, I took on a couple temporary administration based roles. I say “apparently” as it seems that’s the one thing in an office that everyone wants to get away from, but unfortunately pushes onto the junior roles. One role I had as an “office administrator” where administration seemed to a be loose job description as I was utilised in every domain; from marketing, finances, reception work, PA work, post and to my delight HR (finally!) Overall, it was very worth it and it gave me a tiny step in the right direction that I needed, as well as showing me some areas that I did not want to work in!

Shortly after this in June 2017, I finally landed my first job as a HR Administrator. Hurray! Although this wasn’t until a year since I had graduated from University, someone finally gave me the chance I needed to prove myself. Now fast forward to the present day, it’s a been a year since I have been working in HR and I have learned some pretty interesting things a long the way, which I’m going to share with you lovely readers.

1. Check your CV

The number one thing that I must stress is that when you apply for a job, proof check, spell check and fact check your CV. The irony rings true when a candidate states that they have an eye for detail but there are numerous typos in their CV. Word to the wise this definitely will cost you an interview.

2. Working in HR you have to be good at multitasking

It is a regular occurrence that all of a sudden everything becomes an urgent task. Learning how to prioritise and how to meet deadlines is a skill that I have consistently been improving since I began my role. I’ve learnt to work well under pressure and be realistic of my expectations.

3. Data entry doesn’t have to be boring

Someone once said to me “Why do you want to work in HR? It’s just boring spreadsheets.” Yes, I do use excel on a daily basis, but you’re dealing with real life changes. Those numbers are people’s wages or are representatives to changes in laws. There is also something so satisfying in making all those numbers add up when checking payroll figures or running reports. If someone told me I would say that I enjoyed processing data when I was 16, I would have laughed!

4. You get the opportunity to implement change and have real responsibility

There are so many opportunities to show you using your initiative, to be able to grow, learn from past mistakes or improving already instilled processes. This is something that I craved when I came from my purely administrative and retail background. It is very rewarding to see your ideas being taken on board.

5. Understanding the organisation culture

Working in HR has made me learn about the organisation I work for in such an indepth way. I have had the opportunity to understand the structure, be on the ball with upcoming staff moves, see how the business model will be incorporated, understand how areas such as staff training is valuable to an individual’s career to name a few. HR gives you a unique insight to manage performance and development; areas which really speak to the psychologist in me!

6. Learning new programs

I’ve learned how to use new software and the processes involved from recruitment to retirement.

7. It’s challenging (in a good way!)

Working in an international organisation means that it never gets boring. I’ve learned about international laws and how pay differs in different countries. You pick up new cultures, behaviours and may even have the opportunity to travel. However having staff abroad is a big challenge, but it’s a great learning curve to cultivate relationships with stuff overseas. Moreover the operational experience is very valuable and will be a good basis should I decide to get CIPD qualified.

8. International recruitment

On that note international recruitment is a completely different ball game. Using agencies is a bonus, as it can be difficult when recruiting across Africa, Asia and the Pacific area; good job I’m always up for a challenge! If you’re solely interested in recruiting people to match their skills into the right jobs, it’s such a massive sector that there will always be work.

9. Everyday is different

I love variety! As much as routine helps your day go smoothly, I enjoy things being shaken up a bit, as long as there is a bit of planning involved in there…I’m only somewhat spontaneous!

10. It is people focused

Now to what most people assume HR is all about- forming relationships with people. In HR you are constantly dealing with others, either directly or indirectly, making decisions which will impact them. However you also need to be thick skinned to deal with people, as there are less pleasant duties include disciplinaries and redundancies.

Nonetheless throughout my first year in HR, I’ve learned that time goes so quick and the people you work with and for can really make it. If you too are in your early career, my top 10 bonus pieces of advice are:

  1. Be nice, it costs nothing and can take you far
  2. Be ready to learn
  3. Listen
  4. Be easy to teach
  5. Be grateful
  6. Be yourself
  7. Enjoy what you do
  8. Absorb information like a sponge
  9. Ask questions, it’s a great way to learn!
  10. Take away as much as you can from the experience, so that you can build upon your skills in your next role

What did you learn in your first job? Let me know!

9 responses to “Lessons I Learned In My First Real Job”

  1. I enjoyed your post and to answer your question, I started my career as a secretary and what I learned was how little I knew! I later worked as a temp secretary in a law firm wirh 60 lawyers. Over a six-year period, the firm doubled in size to 120 attorneys and I evolved into the job of personnel manager. If there was such a thing as HR back then, it certainly was unknown to me! I was super fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time and SO SO blessed to have had the experience. It was the high point of my life and I loved every minute of it. I wish you the same good fortune and many good wishes as you evolve throughout your career.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this! I’ve been working in digital marketing the past two years and have learnt a lot from being in the office, but HR sounds really interesting! Love the international aspects too xx


    • Working in an office is such a different experience isn’t it, it’s like a social experiment seeing how people interact! Thanks, it’s a really interesting sector especially in an international organisation. Thanks for reading! X


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