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No one warns you about this, but your first job or at least your very few first jobs, will be somewhat of a walk through a maze. Academic excellence alone will not adequately equip you for it and no doubt; you will spend most of your time pretending to know what you’re doing. You will feel frustrated; after all, you went to school and achieved the right qualifications – yet here you are feeling lost. You may even begin to doubt yourself. Because how is it possible to be this qualified AND clueless? This happens because success in the workplace depends on a lot more than our qualifications. Here are five tips that will help you navigate the workplace landscape as a young professional.

  1. You don’t always have to say something

You know the feeling. You are in a meeting and everybody around you seems to know what they are doing. Facts roll off their tongues and even their opinions – their opinions always make sense. So here you are, now under pressure to make them see that you know, or at least have some idea of what you should be doing. You suddenly have an uncontrollable need to contribute, even though you are unknowing.

Don’t fall into this trap.

The start of your career is a good time to ask a lot of questions. It is also a good time to listen. A good organization will understand that there will be times when you, as a young professional, don’t know. By all means, make suggestions and bring ideas to the table when you have them, but do not be afraid to say, “Let me do some research and get back to you.” What’s that saying? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

  1. Manage your time… You will NOT do it later

So you have just come out of university where you had lectures three hours a day only three days a week. You could postpone everything to later, and it worked. Well, I have bad news for you. In your full time job, this approach will not work. At the start of a new job, it will seem like you have A LOT of time on your hands. You will probably start by getting comparatively less work than your peers, because you are still learning but before you know it more and more work will begin coming your way. If you aren’t in the habit of managing your time well, you will soon lose grip. You will miss a lot of deadlines, and you will begin to look ineffective. No one likes colleagues like this.

You will find yourself working more hours than you need to, simply because of poor time management. So do not leave anything until later, do it when you can.

  1. Find a mentor. And find a good one

Find someone who has been where you are to give you advice when you are at your wits end. A mentor will help you to avoid making silly mistakes and will (if they are a good one) offer you quick tips, advice and support as you’re growing in your career. Do not just choose a mentor based on their professional success. Find someone you have a connection with, maybe even a friendship. Your mentor has to have a genuine and personal desire to see you succeed. If they do not, they will almost never have time for you. Be mindful not to make the relationship one-sided, only benefitting you. Mentors, even good ones, are people too. They will notice and appreciate it when you reciprocate in that relationship, even if it is by way of small tokens of appreciation.

  1. Sharpen your political intelligence

Have you ever heard of political intelligence? No? Well, if it’s any consolation I didn’t know much about it till I started researching for this article. What is political intelligence? These guys define political intelligence as the achievement of organisational and/or personal goals by using appropriate skills, behaviours and strategies, not only an awareness of the political landscape, but more specifically, the skills to manoeuvre through political minefields. This is quite important. You will need to know who you are dealing with, and how to deal with them. Ever heard the saying, don’t offend the wrong person.” Well don’t. When you start your new job at that organisation you were dreaming of joining, you will then need to know who the wrong people are and what offends them, and then avoid that.

You might think, well, I will never get involved in office politics. It is noble to stay neutral. You must, however, know when to pick sides and whose side to pick and when to stay neutral.

  1. People have different personalities – Learn them

People will react to situations differently. Knowing this will help you to realise when to engage and when to disengage. It will help you to pick your battles wisely and then spend your energy on the issues that really matter. Most importantly, it will help you to realise that most of the time how people behave towards you actually has nothing to do with you. Once you have grasped this, you will be able to manage your professional relationships better

It is very common to feel overwhelmed, anxious and confused at the start of your career. Why? It’s new territory. While it is important to make good impressions, do not burn yourself out trying to impress. In the long run, you will be too tired to perform at your best. If you spend all your day worrying about NOT making mistakes, you will end up tired enough to make mistakes all day. Take time out for yourself, relax and reboot. When you hit a brick wall, do not be afraid to ask for help. Remember, you do not get an additional lifetime to invest into your career. Your job IS part of your life. You have to enjoy it too!

By: Redeem Govathson

Co-Editor & Zimbabwe Correspondent of The Corporate Canvas


Redeem Govathson

Living in Harare, Zimbabwe, Redeem is an ambitious millennial woman with a dream to see women empowered to better their lives. She is on a mission to provide a platform where women can share ideas on how to establish themselves and become financially independent. With a Law and Business degree from Coventry University (UK) and a Masters degree in Corporate Governance & Financial Regulation from Warwick University (UK), Redeem has a vision to see women making their mark in leadership in Corporate Zimbabwe.