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Our first experiences tend to stay with us forever. No one ever forgets their first school, first best friend, first crush, or their first job. There’s something simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking about going through a new experience in life. First impressions can last a lifetime; and this brings me to my belief that having a good work environment at your first job is a critical factor when it comes to building certain characteristics that we end up practicing wherever our career may lead us.
The mind of a first-time employee is like a blank slate, ready to be filled with all the freshly accessible information at the new place of work. Newcomers are easily impressionable; there is an eagerness to prove themselves to family and friends, to show that they can hold their own in the corporate world. I have observed first-hand how newcomers tend to gravitate towards someone they can look up to and emulate, usually a senior team leader or a manager. This likely happens as, quite naturally, they envision themselves in that position of experience and authority some time in the (hopefully near) future. Subconsciously, one starts focusing on them, observing their habits and interactions with colleagues, listening attentively to their opinions, asking them for feedback, and so forth. And slowly, you may begin to agree with everything they say and how they behave in all situations.
Over the course of my career as a manager and trainer, I have had many opportunities to coach colleagues into future junior management positions and have almost always seen that their work attitude is a mirror image of the person or manager to whom they reported when they first joined the organization. While this may seem to be a good thing, as some organizations prefer familiar management styles, there are some drawbacks too – losing originality and unintentionally inculcating habits that may hinder your professional growth. Naturally, we all want to look up to someone or have a role model at the workplace, but this certainly shouldn’t influence us to such an extreme that we lose sight of our own personal values and beliefs. It is good to learn from others, as that is one of the most impactful ways to learn – by observing on the job. But be mindful to not lose yourself in this process, as it is easy to blend in with the crowd. Stick to practices that you have developed over the years; how you interact with others, how efficiently you complete a task, how punctual or tidy your appearance is. These are the things that make you, YOU; and that’s what will help you shine. And you never know, there may be someone who is secretly looking up to you!
- The article was originally published in Career Ahead October 2020 issue.