Nothing can prepare you completely for the working environment. Not school, not university, not job shadowing at a firm you wish to work at. You will not be treated as an employee until you are, in fact, an employee.

Starting a new job doesn’t only mean getting to know a new set of company policies and procedures – it also means adapting to a new company culture. Much like each family has its own traditions, each company has its own culture – and it is the people in the company who create this culture.

For this reason, starting your first job is challenging on several levels. You are entering a professional world where you are likely to encounter strict rules, a new level of personal relationships, and industry terminology you’ve never even heard of.

Luckily, there are ways of preparing yourself for the challenge:

Adapt to the culture

As we’ve already mentioned, each company has its own traditions, values, politics, and relationships. You don’t need to immerse yourself in the politics (in fact, it’s better if you avoid it), but you need to learn how the relationships and values influence the work that needs to be done. Be careful not to get too caught up in the drama of interpersonal relationships, but do observe the values.

Also pay attention to people’s habits: When do they take their coffee breaks? Which managers do they react to very quickly? How do they talk to each other? What do they joke about? Failing to adapt to the culture will not only make it emotionally difficult for you to come to work every day, but it will also influence your ability to excel at your responsibilities. Whether you like it or not, you need the co-operation of your colleagues to do your job. No man is an island.

Be pleasant to work with

Some new employees start their first jobs with the attitude that they are entitled to be where they are. Don’t make yourself guilty of this – stay humble, learn as much as you can, and work hard on any assignment given to you. This way, your colleagues will start seeing you as someone who is reliable and able to get things done.

Make yourself valuable

Keep an eye on what your department or company needs, and find a way to fill that need. This will help you to stand out, and to start building a good reputation for yourself. Also actively look for ways to do things better and/or faster, as this will increase productivity and help you demonstrate your value to your employer.

Ask for feedback and clarification

Your manager might be a busy person, but part of his or her responsibilities is to ensure that you have all the tools you need to do your job. You don’t need to wait for a performance review to ask your manager for feedback on your performance, or for clarification on your responsibilities. Ask for a monthly meeting. Discuss what you have been doing right, where you have gone wrong, and what you can do differently in the future.

Ask your manager for regular feedback on your performance

Go the extra mile

You may have been hearing this cliché since you were in primary school, but it’s no less true now than it was then. You will start to notice that the people who do only what is expected of them rarely advance in their professional lives. They will stay stuck where they are. Do more than what is expected of you, put in the extra hours, think beyond the simple task given to you, and you will eventually grow and move up in the company.

Be yourself

You don’t need to meet your new best friend at work, but you generally do spend more time in the office than you do at home. So allow your colleagues to get to know your personality. That way, they will understand why you react in a certain way toward a situation, or why you’re emotional at certain times.

Companies have started to realise that happy employees make for successful employees, which means you don’t need to completely separate your professional life from your personal life anymore. You are allowed to experience emotions and establish friendships at work, as long as you do not allow those relationships to negatively influence your work. If you can’t be yourself at the office, then it might be that the company isn’t the best fit for you. Keep in mind that you will need to grow and develop yourself throughout your professional life if you ever wish to be successful.

Have you just started a new job? If so, do you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share with us?