Your first job: expectations vs. reality

Congratulations, you survived the first year at your new job. If you could go back in time and tell your former self how everything turned out, you’d say that he was in for the ride of a lifetime.

Work life

PHOTO: Ingimage

Congratulations, you survived the first year at your new job. If you could go back in time and tell your former self how everything turned out, you’d say that he was in for the ride of a lifetime. A ride filled with unpredictable work hours, canteen-induced food poisoning, and a boss whose personality fluctuates between Strawberry Shortcake and Darth Vader.

The job wasn’t too bad, but some elements were rather unexpected, given the impression you got from the interview and from your early fantasies about having a career.  Starting with…

Expectation: You will save money by waking up a little earlier to take public transportation (or even a bike!) to work.

Reality: You’ll have the cab company on speed dial within six months

Once you start cabbing to work, there’s no going back. When your alarm’s ringing off the hook at 6:30 am, spending an extra S$10-15 dollars seems totally justifiable if it means less time commuting and more time in bed. Our suggestion? Save money while getting some shut-eye by learning how to sleep on the bus.

Expectation: You’ll strut into the office rocking a Vogue-worthy ensemble carefully picked out from your “career girl” wardrobe

Reality: You will wear thick sweaters, long trousers, and flats every day because you’re lazy and the office is cold.

If you work in banking, sales, public relations, or anything that requires you to be in front of a camera, then you’re exempt from this rule. You probably dress like a character from Mad Men. But if you’re anything like us, you own one pair of pumps and a pantsuit that you haven’t worn since you interviewed for the job. While it’s okay to tone down your wardrobe over the course of the year, show some self-respect by taking care of your appearance. The easy solution is to keep one nice jacket and a pair of heels in the office so that you can suit up before meetings or going to lunch.

Expectation: You and your colleagues will hit up glamorous bars for happy hour specials after work

Reality: You and your colleagues will order a bucket of KFC at 10pm while working overtime

If you’re lucky, someone will have a few cans of beer under his desk to pass around after the clock strikes midnight. Hey, at least it beats drinking alone at your desk while the rest of your colleagues pack up to go home.

Expectation: You will work from 9-6 pm, five days a week

Reality: Your boss will text you at 10pm on a Friday night asking you to come in the next morning to handle some kind of crisis with a ridiculous client.

Those hours are a guideline, not a rule. Prepare to work late nights, weekends, public holidays, and even early mornings. Hate coffee? You’re going to love it by the end of this year. While most bosses will tell you that you have fixed working hours, those “SOS” texts you receive at odd hours would suggest otherwise. But don’t worry, you have choices: suck it up, learn to say no, or find a new job altogether.

Expectation: You will faithfully attend yoga classes after knocking off from work

Reality: Exercise? Who has time for that? You will work so late that the only thing open is 7-Eleven. You take home one of their refrigerated sandwiches, telling yourself you’ll do a couple of stretches after eating, only to doze off on the couch while waiting for your food to finish toasting.

The last thing anyone wants to do after slogging through a 9-to-6 is work out. But exercise is extremely important when you spend 60 hours a week sitting inside a cubicle. If you can’t bring yourself to do it after work, try and find a gym near your office so that you can go during lunch.

Expectation: You will spend Saturday mornings going for fancy brunches with all your cool friends!

Reality: Who needs formal brunches when there’s such a thing as McDonald’s hotcakes delivery?

Ah, the joy of rolling around all day in your pajamas. The exquisiteness of having nothing on your agenda except for a full season of an unwatched Korean drama. While some people choose to slog at their work seven days a week, as much as possible, try keeping a window of time open on the weekends for pure, unadulterated leisure. Spend some time alone to reevaluate how the week went and what you can do better. Don’t feel bad being a little sluggish. And don’t think that weekends need to be super-packed in order to count. Sometimes that precious off-day is exactly what we need to perform better the following week. 

Expectation: You will see and talk to your colleagues only during work hours

Reality: Not only do you eat dinner with your colleagues, you chat with them online after work almost every night.

You entered the workplace with your shields up, prepared for cliques, backstabbing colleagues, and ultra-competitive teammates. But despite what workplace dramas told you, you actually made some friends. Every workplace will be populated by people whom you either don’t like, or who don’t have good intentions toward others. You can’t really avoid people like that, so the best thing you can do is befriend trustworthy colleagues who will have your back if things go awry.

Expectation: Your boss will be a sociopath

Reality: Your boss will be an ordinary person who has to juggle an extraordinary amount of responsibilities

All right, so some bosses are jerks. But the majority of tough bosses aren’t evil, they just have high expectations and no patience for mistakes. You might not agree with your boss’s harsh methods, but the closer you get to recognising him a regular, flawed person –  rather than a raging psychopath – the better you’ll become at relating to him. And the more you can relate to your boss, the more equipped you will be to understand his moods, his methodology, and how to make him happy.

Expectation: That interview was a TRAP. The terms of your contract are too good to be true! You’ll start looking for another job one week into your current one.

Reality: You’re more perseverant than you thin. As hard as things get, it won’t be easy for you to throw in the towel before working toward a solution.

Unless your job is truly, truly terrible (or unless you suddenly get a better offer), the odds are that you’ll give your career a fighting chance before moving to greener pastures. Every job has some growing pains and no workplace is perfect. The last thing you want to do when building a career is to develop a reputation as a quitter. Commit yourself to your workplace. Give your colleagues time to warm up to you, your boss time to acknowledge you, and yourself room to learn from your mistakes. 

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