Work - What is it all about?

Starting out in the world of work

Pam Goodison

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Man walking towards a Train going to work

It’s a distant memory for those of us who started our careers many years ago. Although industry and technology have developed over the years, the principles of preparing for work, after leaving school or university, broadly remain the same.


As I write, the vast majority of workers will be carrying out their roles from home due to lockdown measures; however, there are many jobs that still require employees to work from their employers’ premises or other sites, such as within the manufacturing and construction industries.


When preparing for work, there are some considerations to take into account that might make life a little less stressful. So, if you have a friend or relative who is starting work for the first time, feel free to pass these tips on.

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Person writing into a planner

Person writing into a planner

Plan ahead


Think about where you need to travel to. How long will the journey take and how will you get there? Think about a contingency plan, too—what if the bus doesn’t turn up? Your boss will not be happy if you’re continually late for work. I suggest a test run; I used to do this whenever I changed jobs. It meant I didn’t panic on my first day—I knew where I was going and I woke up in plenty of time.


Think about what you will wear. Is there a uniform provided with your role? Do you need specialist equipment, such as PPE? There’s nothing worse than turning up in the wrong outfit. Not only do you risk feeling physically uncomfortable, the wrong attire may also cause you to feel even more awkward than you may already feel on your first day.

A group paying attention to a teacher

A group paying attention to a teacher

Be keen to learn


Buddy up with a work colleague or ask for a mentor—someone who can show you the ropes and offer support, particularly if you’re scared of addressing the boss yourself. A word of warning here, though: do not fall in with the ‘wrong crowd’ or partner with the office clown. Your chances of promotion may diminish as a result.


Keep an open mind to new learning opportunities as well as constructive criticism. In the past I’ve made many mistakes, but I’ve viewed each one as an opportunity to learn something. I’m still gathering new skills and knowledge, even after thirty-two years in the workplace. As the saying goes, you’re never too old to learn.


Be patient


Stick with it. Sometimes it can take a while to adapt to a new situation. Some people are more resilient than others; this is certainly a skill to hone. We are creatures of habit and most of us do not like change. When I started my first job in a bank, I admit, I absolutely hated it. I spent almost four months just filing dividend vouchers; I honestly thought I wouldn’t last.


Twenty-eight years later, I’ve experienced some of the best jobs ever. I’ve had to work hard, though, to prove my worth and climb onto the next step of the career ladder.


If all else fails and you really cannot take to your job or your boss, find something else to do—even if it means working for yourself. A great boss can boost your career and your self-worth; a bad boss can destroy these things fairly quickly. Life is just too short.


How much does it cost you to earn a wage?


Finally, think about your finances. How much money will you take home after factoring in tax, national insurance and expenses, such as travel and food? When you get paid, look at how long that money has to last until your next pay day, and work out what you have to pay that month and how much will be left. Then, think about saving something for the future—whether this will be for a house, pension, car or holiday. This will help you to stay within budget and not get massively into debt.


Many young starters don’t even think about saving for their retirement; however, it’s likely that, by the time they do come to retire, there will be no state pension for them to claim. If you do not want to be working well into your seventies, start saving from the outset. The earlier you start, the better equipped you will be.


For example, someone investing £50 every month over the last thirty years would now be sitting on approximately £94,450, according to the Association of Investment Companies. If you start saving as soon as you begin work, you won’t miss this portion of your wage.


It’s a big step, staring your very first job, but with a bit of planning and forethought, it needn’t be stressful.

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