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Coffee runs or diving in: what to expect at your graduate job

It can be more than a little nerve-racking – but also incredibly exciting – preparing for the first weeks of your graduate job.

As you sort out your work wardrobe, and adjust your mind to the idea of working full-time in a professional gig, you might also be wondering just how much your new bosses are going to expect of you from the get-go.

Will you be instantly expected to know what you’re doing, and take on large amounts of responsibility? Or at the other extreme, will you find yourself relegated to coffee runs, and more mundane tasks such as filing and photocopying?

Reality vs expectations

For Aleksandar Prodanovic, who began working as a finance graduate at international property and infrastructure group Lendlease in early February of 2020, the reality was a ‘stark contrast’ to his initial expectations.

‘When I first started, I expected to be bombarded with tasks that required immediate attention and was expecting to take a “learn on the job” approach,’ says Prodanovic, who graduated from a Deakin Masters of Commerce in 2019.

‘I expected a lot less support than I got from my colleagues. They were more than happy to lend a hand or explain anything I was unsure about.’

It also helped that his manager invited him to breakfast two weeks before he started, giving Prodanovic the chance to meet his new team in advance.

‘I asked as many questions as I could, and that’s how I was able to form some sort of picture of what work might look like.’

Week one of your new job

The first week in a new job is always a steep learning curve, and for an excited Prodanovic, the first few days flew by.

‘I wasn’t really nervous; I was just really keen to see what it would be like in within a global corporation. It was really great to interact with professionals who have a wealth of experience in finance, and to be honest it seemed like they were eager to meet me as well.’

Initially he was doing different bits and pieces, trying to understand how everything tied into the business. But his manager soon had the confidence to start entrusting him with some important department responsibilities.

'I expected a lot less support than I got from my colleagues. They were more than happy to lend a hand or explain anything I was unsure about.'

Aleksandar Prodanovic,
Graduate, Deakin University

Week two

By week two, hopefully you’ll be starting to get the lay of the land – or at least be able to remember more of your colleagues’ names.

For Prodanovic, who describes himself as pretty laidback, his second week involved altering his approach a little.

‘I had to create the habit of having a professional posture when speaking to my colleagues, especially senior management,’ he says. ‘While there is a time to relax, and enjoy each other’s company in the office, there are definitely many situations in which you need to maintain a professional posture and appearance.’

How to prepare for a job

Of course, every graduate job will differ, depending on the industry or company you work in, and how supportive your new boss and workmates are.

So, based on his experiences so far, what advice did Prodanovic have for others?

He says being open to feedback is key, as is making the most of any one-on-one time with whoever you are learning from.

If you can gain some experience before you land a graduate role, that will also really help, Prodanovic says.

‘It doesn’t matter at what stage you are in your degree, look for internships to get as much experience as possible before applying for the grad roles,’ he says. ‘Personally, I attended the resume workshops at Deakin and I even went through an internship program at Deakin, which resulted in a casual role (as a research assistant) relevant to my field.’

He believes many graduates make the mistake of going into their first job believing their managers expect them to magically know everything. ‘The reality is they don’t, and they will support you when you make your mistakes, and help you learn from them.’

Prodanovic says no one ever walks into their role knowing everything.

‘It’s quite a daunting prospect to enter a job without any practical experience in doing it. We fear the unknown,’ he says.

‘Having said that, don’t be afraid to learn. Everyone in your workplace knows you’re “the grad” and are well aware that they will need to help you until you can adapt.’

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