Lessons learned since uni

This is an article by Katy Jameson.
You could write for Behind the Spin too. Find out how here.

1. Your degree will only get you so far

Education was a monumental mountain to climb and you arrived! You graduated (finally); wore the gown; got the picture; the certificate and the fab job.

Congrats! So what now?

Actually, now the hard part begins. There’s no longer a syllabus to guide you or a fixed checklist of assignments to get through – there is a constant stream of new and un-encountered challenges and you’re being paid to get it all done to a high standard.

You are no longer the sole beneficiary of your efforts. Now, if you don’t finish your work at the end of the day, your team, your boss and your client all suffer as a result.

It’s a sad misconception of many a student that your degree will be the winning ticket to a successful career and a shed-load of cash. No: unfortunately, you’ll soon realise it’s just the ticket that gets you in the door. So wise up now and the realisation won’t hit so hard!

2. It’s ok to make mistakes

Whilst I’ve always thought of this as a cardinal sin, I’ve learnt that everyone expects you, as a junior member of the team, to mess up sometimes. They won’t look down on you, or shout at you – trust me!

The key here is to acknowledge your error, work with the rest of the team to rectify it and make sure you learn from it. We’re all learning all the time, no matter how junior or senior the role – and if you get to a place where you have nothing left to learn, it’s probably time to move on!

3. The best of times is the worst of times

Whilst it doesn’t feel like it, your toughest work days represent the most valuable opportunities. Times of crisis are when you’ll not only learn the most, but you’ll find yourself bonding with your team and be in a great position to show what you’re really made of.

I really believe that there’s no better time to see what someone is really like than when they’re having a bad day. It’s easy to be a nice, polite and calm colleague when work is going well – but don’t let it slip when it’s not, as your colleagues will remember it!

So don’t be disheartened if you are working on a challenging project or with an unsupportive team – instead, use this as an opportunity to pick up the slack, work harder and achieve more.

In my opinion, the most valuable team members are those you know you can count on when it all falls apart.

4. Your personality is a valuable commodity

You are made up of a catalogue of unique experiences and opinions – so use this to your advantage. Express your opinion, as it’s always valuable to consider different perspectives and you’ll find that your colleagues will respect you more for sharing yours.

If you’re in the right organisation, all your colleagues will also want to know who you are, so let your individuality shine. People respond best to those that interact on a human level with them, rather than a corporate level.

So start making friends and influencing people!

5. Keep ahead of the game

One of the most helpful things you can do when working in a team is to keep everyone up to date on your progress. This not only raises your profile, demonstrating how much work you’re getting through, but it actually makes everyone else’s lives easier because they don’t have to remember to keep checking on you.

As a junior member of the team, your managers will need to support and oversee you but they don’t always have time. Help them out by ensuring you’re one step ahead and they don’t even need to ask you. However, remember to use your good sense with this and don’t abuse it. There’s a fine line between keeping a team well-informed and raising your profile; and bashing your colleagues over the head with how good you think you are!

6. Tea can make it all better

Be a helpful person by noticing when other colleagues are drowning. It happens to the best of us but it takes a switched-on person to notice and act.

Your colleagues will value you eternally if you offer to help them out during a difficult afternoon. This can be as simple as offering to divert their calls while they get their work done, or just bringing them a cup of tea.

They will remember it and it will pay dividends in your favour.

7. Monica is, in fact, the best Friend of all

Katy Jameson (centre), and friends

Ever played the ‘who’s-your-favourite’ game with the characters from Friends?

A popular choice is Joey or Phoebe. But in fact, you’ll soon learn Monica is the fairest of them all when you get to work.

Monica is the queen of organisation – loving her files, folders, lists and notepads. Laugh though you may, it’s the smartest thing you can do at the office.

Get yourself as hyper-organised as you can bear; keep records of your activities; log the time you spend on projects; take messages and remember to pass them on and keep an up-to-date to-do list.

It’s not geeky. It’s cool. And you know it.

8. Keep a Happy Folder!

You will find, as talented and tenacious individuals, you will begin to build up a number of delightful emails that sing your praises and thank you for a job well done.

My advice is to keep these emails and sling them into a folder in your inbox.

You can then refer to your Happy Folder if you’re having a bad day, to cheer yourself up and remind yourself that you do get it right most of the time!

But furthermore, you will have a stack of emails that record your progress and successes throughout your time at the company, which could prove a handy tool in negotiating a promotion or bonus, should the opportunity arise to prove your worth.

You never know, especially given the recession, so it’s always good to have.

9. Get yourself a mentor

Whilst you will have a line manager, consider asking another trusted colleague to become your mentor too. They don’t even have to be part of your organisation, although sometimes this can help.

You can use them to sense-check ideas, talk through your concerns or challenges, and share your successes and frustrations with them. You’ll find it really beneficial to be able to talk about it all to an understanding individual and because they are a mentor rather than a manager, it won’t go any further.

10. Share and share alike

Just as I have here, remember to share your pearls of wisdom with others as you acquire them. It’s good to share and can really benefit others… So get sharing with colleagues, friends and students as you never know what they may share in return.


  1. Here’s a comment for your Happy Folder, Katy.

    You always work to very high standards – but I’m especially pleased with this piece because the style is so relaxed and informal.

    I’m sure that point 2 (‘it’s OK to make mistakes’) is a key lesson you’ve had to learn, and I’ll be using point 1 (‘your degree will only get you so far’) with future students who view graduation as the end of a journey rather than the beginning of a longer, harder, less certain one.

    Valuable advice.

  2. Jenny Jameson says:

    Wow, you are so wise, and many of those lessons I am only just learning now (after many years in the workplace). – Will you be my mentor?

  3. Fantastic post with some great advice!

    I’m starting to realise some of these things myself while on placement at the moment!

  4. Thank you! I’m currently taking my A Levels, going to uni in September and this has helped a lot. Great advice that will definitely help me in the future.

Speak Your Mind