The first day on the job is as clear as daylight even after some years. As with many “firsts” in life, it also leaves a lasting impact. I was not someone confident enough to withstand scrutinizing eyes or harsh words, and I put myself into something where these two come like the air I had to breathe.
I was 18 when I threw myself for that junior reporter post. I kind of love the sound of the job title, until the editor, without much orientation and niceties, said there is a deadline to catch for the weekend issue. It was late in the afternoon of Thursday and the task should be accomplished first thing in the morning. I had to interview a local official who eluded the media frenzy the entire week. My knees started to tremble and I was secretly crying inside, asking what I got myself into.
That was not the only moment I asked myself the question.
As scary as it has been on countless occasions, there are 5 things I learned from my first job:
- You just have to go figure things out. Since it was my first job, I really didn’t know everything. I was an editor for our school magazine but the real world is just too harsh. Despite falling short on gathering my courage to run after an interviewee and shot the questions, I did it anyway and later replayed all the blunders on my head. I surprised myself for a good number of times. No one in the bureau seemed to really care about how hard it was to get the story. Even the regulars got reproached for breakfast, so I felt I had no right to say I can’t interview Mr. X or get an appointment with Ms. Y. You just really have to force yourself to figure things out.
- As much as possible, do not take things personally. Working in the press can be full of new experiences that include dealing with a difficult boss who often seem to lose temper. There are also a good number of people who may have the scoop I was looking for yet arm themselves with snobbishness and haughtiness. I learned to not take things personally and dwell on the harsh words. I always treated them with respect and not burn the bridges. I realized later on that it is a good thing to not be too sensitive to avoid the drama and of course, to keep a relevant individual for my job hunting references.
- Pay attention to even the smallest of details. As every word is crucial, it is also wise to take note of the small details. While on my stint, I learned that directly quoting the person can save one from being put into hot water or get caught in the conflict. A minor error can be taken as a diversion or partiality and thus costs one’s credibility. When people say something, look them in the eye, mind their gestures, remember their tone, and recall their facial expressions. It is quite easy to just leave out the small details as not getting the job done. One of the editors was fired when he missed one letter on the headline of the banner story. While he meant “PUBLIC APPEARANCE”, he forgot the letter L and lost his job. The most minor of the mistakes can cause a total blunder.
- Always do more than what’s expected of you. Nothing can be frustrating than a lazy colleague who seems to count every single lift of the finger he has to do extra. Some people may be good at faking the way they perform their jobs and deliver only the bare minimum. The same people seem to get themselves stuck in the same routine work and get burned out quite easily. When you perform well without the fear of taking new responsibilities, you are bound to reach new heights. I see the importance of getting to work early, helping out on things, and taking new responsibilities. You will not only stand out among the employees but you are bound to not get weary coasting through your job.
- Associate with the right people. It is quite easy for me to gain new friends but I learned to be truly careful with who I associate myself into. As I was working with some junior reporters, I found it quite a must to hang out with them during breaks or free time. They talk quite eloquently and are confident, something which I would fancy. One day, the boss shouted at them as they were caught playing computer games and failed to notice he has arrived. I was helping the administrative staff arrange some leaflets as the voice reverberated around us. She later told me I need to distance myself from these people who might associate me with their issues. I learned to rather be independent than get looped in the wrong crowd.
A year after I earned my degree in communication, I left the job and taught English to foreign students. Later, I realized that the job in the press isn’t for me. I found my peace and happiness teaching people and learning along the way. I pursued further studies and took units in education, taught in higher education, managed a preschool, and later earn my master’s degree. It has been rewarding doing the job for the last 7 years.
Despite not finding bliss in the media, the work ethics it taught me goes a long way.
And oh, that first assignment I had from the first job landed as a banner story.
What was your first job? What have you learned from it?