What I Wished Someone Told Me About the Working World

Aug 06, 2021 1 Min Read
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Source:Photo from https://xframe.io
The things you Wished you Knew Before Stepping into the Dreaded (shhh) Working World

DISCLAIMER: I would like to preface that these views are but a fraction of the many facets of the working world. Every company has their own goals and values, and your experience will vary accordingly. 

Ultimately, my advice to you is to ensure your goals and values align with the company’s and that you are at least slightly interested in your job. I say ‘slightly’ because I understand that not all have the privilege of being selective with their employment prospects.

From the start of my undergraduate journey, ‘the internship’ has always been the final checkpoint. Fortunately for me, I was given a fair amount of opportunities and exposure during my three months in Leaderonomics. That said, there are some things that I wished I’d known before entering the working world. Listed below are insights that I managed to gather from my fellow interns as well as some of my personal opinions - hopefully you’ll be slightly more prepared than I was!

1. A Good First Impression Goes a Long Way

There are a few stages when it comes to preparing and going through the process of job-hunting, starting with your resume. One tip that my intern team and I got from Connie, our Leaderonomics Youth Head, was to customise your resume to the position you’re applying for. 

That means placing relevant past experiences at the top. Employers take approximately six seconds to scan through your resume and decide whether or not to pursue a potential working relationship with you. This ensures that when employers give your application a once-over, these relevant experiences catch their eye. 

That said, more often than not, the truly defining moment is your performance during the interview. I once heard a friend say something that has remained with me until today:

Your grades and resume get you the interview, but your character and personality gets you the job

Congratulations on making it to the next step: HR has reached out to schedule a call with you. Now it's time to prepare for the interview itself. This is the part where employers want to see beyond what's written in your resume. 

Try and find out everything you can about the job position that you are applying for. Google will be your best bet at finding this information. This gives interviewers the impression that you are genuinely interested and knowledgeable about the role that you wish to apply for. Another thing you can do to prepare for the interview is to have a good self-introduction. As mentioned, during the interview session, employers are looking to see what’s beyond your resume. Therefore, try to talk about something that isn’t already written down. 

Essentially, a self-introduction is your opportunity to persuade the employers to choose you over every other candidate in approximately one minute. Something I’ve noticed is that as Asians, we do not sell ourselves enough. We have been groomed to think that being vocal to employers may come off as boastful, perhaps even narcissistic. That needs to stop! Allow yourself to tell others what you’re good at without being labelled as boastful. 

2. Doing Menial Tasks as an Intern

As interns you’ll be doing the work that nobody wants to do”. I asked some of my fellow intern colleagues for their thoughts on this matter and let's just say there were mixed feelings. 
On one end, there were some of us that agreed that companies allow them to perform more meaningful tasks. A study by Lynne Sebille-White stated that there has, over the years, been a shift in the notion that interns are only meant to do the grunt work. Employers have begun giving interns more substantial tasks - ones that have actual impact. 

However, on the other end of the spectrum, people have also expressed the view that as interns, they are still given what some call ‘cheerleader work’, which really is just a nicer way of saying ‘coffee runner’. What this means is essentially utilising interns to do work that requires a lot of energy yet has little to no return of investment to the company. An intern once said this causes interns to feel bored out, instead of being burnt out. 

3. Set Boundaries 

Especially in a time when we’re working from home, the lines between personal space and work have definitely been blurred. Therefore it’s important for you to intentionally draw the boundaries between your work life & your personal life. Understand your rights as an employee, and as a human. It's okay to say no - stand up for yourself. 

As you step into the working world, make a habit of reading and understanding your employment contract. Let’s face it, our fingers have been conditioned to immediately check ‘I agree’ before even reading the first sentence of the T&C when it comes to software updates and app downloads. Please don’t act this way with your working contract; ALWAYS READ THROUGH YOUR CONTRACT. Ask as many questions as you need to be sure of and clear about what you’re expected to do, and what is expected of you.

That includes understanding the culture of the company or even country (in the event that you’re working overseas). Besides that, having transparency between you and your immediate superior on your working/learning styles and preferences is crucial for organising and planning your workloads and deliverables. It boils down to managing expectations on both ends without jeopardizing the quality of your work and well-being.

The boundary-setting does not stop at the offer letter stage - it's an intentional decision you have to make for yourself every day. Setting boundaries for yourself in the workplace includes declining tasks when your existing workload is full or close to. While employers encourage proactivity at work, there is a fine line between proactivity and overworking, and part of stepping into the world of employment is to figure that out. One article that articulates this point well is one by Tamara, where she distinguishes between tasks that are important versus a priority. Something important is not necessarily so urgent that it needs to be completed immediately. That's where prioritisation comes into play.

Leaderonomics co-founder Hui Ming gave my intern team and I some words of wisdom:

Don’t sell your soul to the company.

The art of setting boundaries is a lifelong process that gets better as time goes on. 

4. Get Ready to be Pushed Out of Your Comfort Zone. 

Personally, I believe that whatever situation you’re put into, there’s always a lesson to be learned. Friends of mine in the midst of their internship have shared how they were given tasks that did not match their skill sets or expectations. Depending on how you look at it, this can be a pro or a con. To the optimist, these situations can serve as exposure to new experiences that can enhance your transferable skills. On the flipside, one can say that it is cheap labour or grunt work and how it does not serve them any purpose. 

The term ‘pushed out of your comfort zone’ reminds me of baby birds learning to fly. Fun fact: mother birds push their chicks out of their nests while young for them to learn how to fly on their own. The mother bird does not leave them to fall to their death if her babies are not capable of flying. During an internship, I personally felt like that baby bird. Thankfully, I was blessed to be in an organisation where my superiors were ‘mother birds’. They empowered and encouraged me to try new things while ensuring that I had the resources and were ever-ready to jump in to assist whenever I struggled. Being pushed out of your comfort zone is not easy, but then again, change never is. That’s why it’s the best opportunity to grow as a person and face adversities in life. 

Entering the working world is like stepping into a new universe. It takes a lot of assimilation and adapting to the new environment, just like Thor from The Avengers. He was banished from his world to Earth and had to adapt to living on a new planet. He went through a lot of adversities, having to fight different things before ultimately being worthy of lifting the great hammer Mjolnir. Stepping into the working world is no different, specifically as an intern. There will be compulsory tasks that you deem insignificant. There will be big projects with remarkable returns on investment. Ultimately, try to reframe your mind into seeing the learning outcomes of each task given. Don’t let stereotypes and societal opinions shape the way you view work given to you. You’ll never know when it will come in handy.

The composition was super insightful and helpful, wasn't it? Why not watch this testimonial video by our previous intern:

If you are looking for a great company to work for, I can only recommend the best, Leaderonomics. To find out on roles at Leaderonomics available today, click here or email people@leaderonomics.com

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Esther Tee is a superstar psychologist who is having fun at Leaderonomics. She has deep understanding of people behaviour and why we constantly act in irrational ways. She is looking forward to "transforming organisations" one leader at a time.

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