7 Things I Wish I Knew About Work Before I Started

7 Things I Wish I Knew About Work Before I Started


I have been working now, as a volunteer and as a paid employee, for a little over 15 years. I still remember how terrified I was at my first work experience placement—at the Hawthorn Football Club no less! (I am slightly obsessed with football)—the nerves when applying for my first casual job after school AND the overwhelming first time when I stepped into a city office.

All three experiences were different, sure, but I have found that there are a bunch of things that have helped me throughout my working life that I wish I could share with my 16 year old self.

Interested? Fantastic, I was hoping so. Read on for my 7 tips to guide you on your way to (hopefully) living a happy working life.

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1. Be yourself AND be professional.

I always thought I had to “change” who I was to be professional. Don’t. Keep your individuality, but make sure you stick to a few basics, like arriving on time (always!), dressing appropriately for the environment, using suitable language, and being respectful of everyone around you.

2. Keep work and play separate.

Your manager has a job to do — yes you can and should have a nice, friendly, respectful relationship and in many instances you will make friends at work — however, you’re number one priority should be your job because that’s where your manager’s mindset will most likely be.

3. Enterprise skills are boss.

The world of working is changing, rapidly — the robots are coming, Airbnb is here to stay, and globalisation is totally, um, global. Making your way through this requires having a set of enterprise skills that are transferable across jobs and industries. Check out this article we wrote to find out how you can prepare.

4. Keep off the Book.

Yes, I mean Facebook. When I started working Facebook didn’t even exist (say what?!). It does now, and whilst providing hours of fun it is also very, very distracting! And isn’t a good look. Unless your boss says otherwise, you should only use social media outside of work or when you’re on your break. Sorry Zucky B.

5. Look after your body.

Literally. You are what you eat, drink, sleep, and do. It’s pretty hard to be effective at work when you haven’t got the energy to do anything, let alone think about being effective.

DO: get enough and consistent amounts of sleep; eat healthy food with protein (e.g. fruit, nuts, vegetables, meat/legumes); exercise regularly (combine heart rate stuff like running or a pump class with brain focusing stuff like yoga or meditation).

DON’T: hit the snooze button; eat lots of daytime sugar or drink excessive amounts of coffee; overdo it on the screen time.

6. “Sickies on Saturday” (or Mondays…) are predictable.

Sick leave is there to be used when you are actually sick. Wild, I know. Managers are clever people, that’s why they’re managers. They’ll know you’ve had a big night if you’re calling in sick regularly, so buckle up and face the music, yo!

7. Figure out what you love doing and do more of it.

A wise person once told me “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Now whilst this isn’t always possible, it’s definitely worth striving for. FYA’s recent research shows that the skills needed for jobs are more connected than we have been told. Which means that you can start building the skills you need for your dream job by working in a job that is related, then taking those skills (maybe with some slight retraining) across to another field.

All in all, start by asking yourself, “what world do I want to create?” The more we think about our work contributing to a better society, the better. And the more you can be yourself, have fun, and be professional whilst doing it, even better!

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Young people are some of the most vulnerable members of the workforce. Not having the right knowledge or experience means we’re more likely to have our rights exploited in the workplace. We decided to help change that. Educating Young Workers is a series we created with the good folks over at the Fair Work Ombudsman to share facts, help others understand their rights, and resolve issues. 


Need more help understanding your rights at work?

The Fair Work Ombudsman exist to help you understand your rights and responsibilities at work. If you've got questions about your entitlements, head on over to their website.

Fair Work Website