It’s a new year, and perhaps you’re starting a new job.

If you are, you have beaten the odds, and my hat is off to you!

But when you start a new job, particularly if you’re fresh out of school, how do you “do a good job” and yet not exhaust yourself?

It’s always tough when you have to move to a typical 9-5 work day when you’re not used to it.

My first memory of a new job

was when I was just out of high school.

I was a substitute teacher at the school my mom taught at for decades. I was a third grade “class teacher” (what you folks would call a homeroom teacher).

The regular teacher was ill with jaundice and the principal of the school was very fond of me (had seen me since I was a kid) and offered me a job.

You could do things like that in India in those days.

Fyi, most schools in India are not broken into grade, junior high, etc. – they’re K-12 – so this is a HUGE school.

School hours were from 7:45 am – 1:15 pm. I used to be an early riser, so getting up/ready early was not a problem, and I was very familiar with it since I was in and out because of my mom anyway.

Off we went.

I had no idea what I was in for.

When we got home, around 1:45 or so, I was physically in so much pain from yelling at the kids, going up and down stairs, and up and down stairs …

I remember collapsing on the couch, looking at my mother and saying, “How do you do this every day?!”

I also learned that when a third-grader calls another one a “basket,” it has nothing whatsoever to do with handicrafts, Moses or gathering flowers.

I got used to it after a while and loved it, probably because teaching has run in my family for generations and I genuinely like being around young people.

I learned a lot of lessons from those little boys (it’s a boys’ school).

1. Get a handle on your time.

Like many of you reading this, I have a tendency to work all hours/put in overtime whether I’m being paid for it or not to get the job done.

But if you don’t get a handle on it soon, it will be bad for you in two ways.

First, your boss will begin to assume this is “regular” for you, and may keep overloading you with work.

Second, you will burn out sooner rather than later (burnout almost always happens in agencies, that’s why people leave) and you may even start being resentful of the work/hours you’re putting in.

Which will be rather sad.

2. Maximizing opportunities v. being taken advantage of.

If your first job out of school is at a small (PR) agency, you might get a lot of opportunities you wouldn’t have found at a larger agency.

Are you taking full advantage of them? Great!


If you’re an intern, there are legal limits to what your employer can task you with.

And if you’re a full-time, but junior, employee, read your job description carefully and pay attention to what you are and are not paid to do.

Even if you are in the phase of having to “prove yourself,” you have to balance showing your employer how great you are with what is good for you as well.

In other words, be very careful of getting dumped on.

3. Pace yourself.

If you are given a job to do, give your supervisor a realistic deadline as to when they can expect it back.

If you are a fast worker (I am), add in some buffer time to give yourself breathing room.

This is not to encourage you to lie. Far from it.

But often times, when people say they need things “yesterday,” they don’t really; so use your judgment as to what is really urgent and what’s not.

4. Don’t let your social media activity die.

Clearly, your new employer might have guidelines as to when you can get online and on social networks and when you can’t.

So I understand not being able to be active on SM during work hours.

However, more and more, young professionals are being hired for their your online smarts.

If that is the case, then it stands to reason you have to keep that up, right?

Even more important, you need to continue to build and maintain your networks.

Hopefully all will go well with your new employer; but if it doesn’t, you don’t want to have to start from scratch.

5. Make sure you take lunch breaks.

It’s easy to get stuck eating at one’s desk.

I’m a poor example, but every time I did this, I felt much better.

Get out of the office, go sit in a park or somewhere else – get out of that closed environment.

Your body and mind need it.

If you’ve recently started a new job, what tips would you add? Or, if you remember what your first job was like, would you do anything differently? Do share via a comment.

Image: Magnus Forrester-Barker via Flickr, Creative Commons