10 years after graduation: Here’s what I’ve learned

10 years after graduation

Unlike many people say, I don’t feel like my graduation was ‘just yesterday’ or that the ‘time has flown by’.  It truly feels like 10 years have gone by.  Although it’s been ages since my graduation from university, I still remember how I felt when school was over, how I got my first job and many other significant and not-so-significant things that have happened to me work-wise in that time.  In this article, I’m going to share 10 things that have helped me get through the last 10 years in the workplace with relatively little drama and a little bit of success.  Here are those 10 things in no particular order:

1.Do more than is expected of you.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll be paid more but it means that you’ll be remembered for something good and you never know when that will pay off.

2.Have a life outside work.

Sometimes, you have a great job, one that you can’t wait to get to when you wake up in the morning but for many people, their job is just that – a job, that thing they do to pay bills.  If you feel that way about your work, you’re not going to be happy to be there.  In cases like that, you’ll be glad you have things you enjoy doing outside work.  Those things give you something to look forward to and ironically make your job a little easier to handle.

3.Be nice.

I am a big believer in being nice especially in the workplace.  This is because being known as a nice person means people will to want to work with you and if people want to work with you, that will lead to more opportunities.  If you’re good at your job and are nice, you will go far in your career.

4.Get to work early (or leave late).

This has little to do with pleasing the boss although of course doing this would probably put you in their good books.  The reason I am a fan of getting to work early or leaving late is because it gives you time to plan your day (and even your life) before the madness of the work day begins or after it ends.  It gives you time to do little things that will help you in your career, things you can’t do during business hours, for example, in those quiet moments before work starts or after the close of business, you can read articles or books that will help you develop your career, you can learn a new skill like how to use Photoshop or you can send emails to prospective clients if you’re building a business along with your day job.  The opportunities that using that extra time before or after work give you are endless.  Don’t waste those moments.

5.Leave politics to the politicians.

I can’t handle being two-faced and that seems to be a requirement for expert office politicians.  My way of dealing with office politics is to not get involved and it has worked for me.  If you’re new to an office environment and are wondering how best to deal with office politics, my advice is don’t.  Be the best at your job, be nice and you will get where you want to go.

6.Have a plan

My brother once told me that it was important to have a plan for your life.  He said life wouldn’t always go according to your plan but at least, if you were going down a path that wasn’t taking you to your goal, you would know and take steps to get back onto the right path.  It’s like something I read a long time ago – it said when you’re sailing, the waves move you off course but you, as the captain of the ship, have to keep adjusting the sails to make sure you stay on course and get to your destination.  Life and your career are like that.  Have a plan and stay on course.

7.Save (and spend)

For me, saving is a bit like dieting.  If you deny yourself of all the yummy things you want to eat, one day, you’ll break down and have an entire packet of biscuits and several soft drinks in one go.  I’ve found that saving without spending at all results in me one day thinking ‘What the hell?’ and blowing the budget to buy a single pair of shoes.  On the other hand, when I save and also put a little aside for (necessary) frivolities, I don’t feel deprived.  Plus when I actually spend my ‘frivolities money’, I feel good.

8.Invest in your friends

This is definitely one of the most important things I’ve learnt.  I had a friend who I hung out with a lot and because I had more money at the time, I often offered to pay for our lunches and would pay more than half or for both of us (when she allowed me).  As time went by, she started earning more than me and for my birthday one year, she bought me a TV which I really wanted.  I couldn’t believe it and was touched.  Another friend told me she was moving abroad to study and before she did, paid for us to have lunch at an expensive restaurant.  Once again, I felt very lucky.  Yet another friend when I told her I was looking for a job sent me job vacancies every week for months.  She sent me more vacancies than I found myself!  I will always be grateful for my friends but what I have noticed is that you can’t reap where you haven’t sown.  Be good to your friends simply because they are your friends and you won’t believe the wonderful ways in which they will pay you back.

9.Listen more than you talk

I associate this with ‘always ask questions’ which is the advice a much older colleague gave me when I was doing an internship in university.  It’s only by asking questions and listening attentively that you’ll learn.  Also, be patient.  Sometimes, when I’m in a meeting, a question starts nagging at me and just before I ask it, the person giving the presentation or someone else in the meeting unwittingly answers my question.  An added bonus of asking questions and listening is that doing so tends to flatter the person being asked the question or the person speaking.  To top it all off, that person usually winds up thinking you’re intelligent.  It always happens.  When you make someone feel wonderful, they make you feel wonderful in return.

10.Speak up

Be bold.  If you have an idea (think it through first), then share it – not with the entire organisation but with the people that matter, the people who will appreciate it or the people who can help put the plan into action.  Once in a while, you share your idea and someone steals it and promotes it as theirs.  If possible, make it clear you came up with the idea (“It’s interesting you should say that Jimi.  When I shared that with you earlier, I felt it was a strong idea but what I think would make it even better would be XYZ.”)  If that isn’t possible, forget about it, you’ll come up with several other great ideas.  And as the person who is always coming up with (good, relevant, do-able) ideas, you will be remembered.


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