Your first job: Survival tips for fresh grads

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We asked several working professionals on the advice they wish they were given before they entered the workforce. For fresh grads, this is free advice on handling working life. For those already working, they’re good reminders when things get a little crazy in the office. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Career talks and seminars often focus on landing a job. They teach you how to make a winner resume, what questions to prepare for at interviews, and how to exude confidence and self-assurance to potential employers. But what happens after? Once you’ve landed your first job, nothing really prepares you for the reality of immersing yourself in something completely foreign. At school, you mostly learn the technical skills, but what’s navigating the “real world,” really like? And what can a newbie do to survive the workplace?

We asked several working professionals on the advice they wish they were given before they entered the workforce. For fresh grads, this is free advice on handling working life. For those already working, they’re good reminders when things get a little crazy in the office.


Angela Carreon, junior architect

“Before I started working, I wish someone told me these three things: have a strategy when it comes to saving money, choose a company with good benefits, and know that there will be days when you won’t be getting a lot of sleep, so savor it while you still can.”

Erica Cruz, relationship manager (banking)

“When you start, it’s not about grades anymore. Because at work, whatever you do or however you perform has a real effect on your company and on other people’s lives. It’s not just about making a living and thinking solely about yourself. With school, all you really have to care about is how your own performance affects you.”

Glenn Hu, sales director (pharmaceutical company)

“Don't be scared to fail. In school, I was programmed into believing that passing is the only way to succeed and grow, but in reality, failure is what transforms you into who you are supposed to be in your career, and most importantly, in your life.”

Joy Santos, store operations officer (retail)

“It’s important to set goals while in the company, but don’t rush to get to the top. Take the time to learn the “why” in the tasks given to you. The bigger picture is important, but you have to learn to appreciate the details to be able to grow.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re not fit for a role, it’s often because you are unequipped for the position; but always remember that attitude trumps skills. You can either look at a challenge as a hindrance towards your goal or see it as an opportunity to grow. You always have a choice.”

Janvic Garcia, business analyst (OLX Philippines)

“Don't be afraid to take risks. When a good opportunity to advance your career comes, take it! Even if you don't feel like you're ready, it's still a learning experience that will help you grow. This applies especially to startups, because they’re very fast-paced environments.”

Yuki Tansengco, fashion entrepreneur

“Being a fashion entrepreneur and style blogger, I have been blessed to be able to work out my own hours. I have experience in both the corporate life and freelance life, so something I wish someone told me earlier is that it is okay to say no. It is okay to decline some opportunities, cherry pick the ones that you think will be beneficial at the end, and treat time like money. Being in the digital industry involves a lot of x-deal and freebies but work is work. It is okay to turn some opportunities down to keep your head focused on things that keep you on track towards your goal.”

Jenelle Chua, marketing manager (FMCG)

“1. There will always be politics in the office, so learn to manage it.
2. Don’t take things personally. It’s just a job and not your life.
3. Not everyone will work as hard as you, but don’t let that affect the way you work.
4. You won’t always be on target even if you gave 110 percent because some things are out of your control.
5. It’s okay to ask for help because you won’t know everything and can’t do everything all the time.”

Adrienne Go, marketing manager (food and beverage)

“The reality is that you are hired to fulfill a role in a company. Sometimes you don't get into a company that listens to input or values career development. The bureaucracy is real and it's understandable if you can't stomach that. But learn to hunker down and be humble enough to do even the most menial of tasks. You can't be an effective leader in the future if you don't learn how to do the little things now.”

Hallie Grace Francisco, operations coordinator (retail pharmacy)

“Don’t be a martyr at work. I used to think that maybe if I worked extra hours, my company would see how committed I was, even if I wasn’t getting paid. But one of my coworkers told me that not having a life outside of work would just burn me out more easily. Now I do my best to end my shift on time. And if I don’t finish the work for the day, I’ll just get back to it tomorrow.”

Matthew Lee, food & wedding photographer

“I wish someone had told me you'd have to deal with all types of personalities, and that there will be those who are beyond reasoning. But when you find people who are like-minded and share the same hunger and dreams as you, that's the best thing about your work.”

Steph Ycasiano, producer (video production)

“A lot of the things I learned in production, I learned the hard way. Accept that you will make mistakes but also take note of them so that you don’t do it again. I think the only advice that would’ve helped me before taking this job is just to toughen up and learn to think on your feet because bad things can and will happen no matter how much you prepare.”