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First Job, First Mistakes, First Lessons


First jobs are killer, good and bad.

When I got my first job four years ago, I did what I’d long done as a student: my homework. I interviewed everyone I respected about how to be a good worker, how to fit in, add value, etc. I got very good advice. “Work hard.” “Develop a good relationship with your boss.”

But, having never held a job, I didn’t know how to apply that advice. Plus, much of it seemed too subjective, too hard to pin down. Does work hard just mean put in long hours? Produce stellar results? Or both?

I started my job with all of my ambition and best intentions, and almost immediately, I started making mistakes, mistakes that then turned into lessons learned, which I’ve since shared with coworkers and friends as they dive into their first jobs.

In these four fast and furious years, I’ve experienced highs and lows, happy bosses and unhappy ones, and I’m here to tell you: first jobs are killer, good and bad. So, if you’re in your first job, or about to begin your first job, my experience may benefit you. Here’s three things I learned that might help to make your first work experience a success, not only for you, but for your company.

1. Uncover Your Network of Mentors

When you’re new at a job, become a human sponge. Learn everything you can, and learn from everyone you can. At Workday, I was one of the youngest people on my team and part of Generation Workday, a program that’s uniquely designed to nurture, develop, and challenge future leaders, straight out of college.

I found that everyone on my team wanted to help me and they were expected to do that because I was brand new. I even got a formal mentor, which is a best practice at Workday. At first, I met with my mentor daily, then weekly, and I peppered that mentor with questions about my job, my role, expectations, etc. But then I ran out of things to ask him because I didn’t know what kinds of help I needed. He’d ask me about what I needed, but because I hadn’t thought about it, I couldn’t tell him. Soon, he started canceling our meetings. I realized that I wasn’t taking advantage of a valuable resource because I didn’t know how to. So I asked around, and realized I needed to form goals and discuss these with my mentor to make use of his time and this opportunity for me. Not everyone has the opportunity to learn from a formal mentor. At first, I didn’t even think I needed one but he turned out to the best resource possible.

Even if you don’t have a formal mentor, there are probably all kinds of them sitting right next to you.

I learned to watch everyone at work, managers and coworkers alike, and identify those that have what you want, whether it is an actual title or career path or simply a way of being in the workplace. Look for the value that each person offers, and what you can learn from them. There is only so much you can do by yourself, and so much more you can do by leveraging the knowledge and skills of others. The more you put into your relationships, the more you can get out of them.


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