20 Lessons Learnt From My First Year Of Working

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At the end of every year, I set aside some time for reflection. It is in these moments of tranquillity and silence when I critically explore a plethora of experiences and thoughts. This mental retreat to align my thoughts enables me to refocus and set realistic personal goals for the coming days, months and year as a whole.

For the first time in 23 years, I was able to reflect on lessons that I had learnt outside of the classroom and as a working class, tax paying citizen. In more hubris terms, I was able to reflect on my first year as a management consultant…

Instead of being reticent, I believe that it would be extremely value-adding to elucidate on a few of the lessons that I had reflected on in this post. The underlying logic for this post comes from my belief that young people and leaders should share ideas and lessons learnt with one another. It is from this that we can ask the right questions and learn together. For example, are the lessons that I learnt specific to management consulting? What have we overlooked? What important discussions should we have?

With that being said, the list below includes 20 of the lessons that I have learnt this year:

  1. Be hungry to learn. Never underestimate the lessons that can be learnt during a project, piece of advice or even task.
  2. Understand what type of person you are and communicate this to your manager. (For starters, I would suggest taking a free, online Myers Briggs test)
  3. NEVER react to challenges, comments and stress , emotionally. Emotional reactions to challenges shows weakness. A person who cannot control his words and emotions shows that he cannot control himself. Your managers and colleagues will see this. Apply logic and emotional intelligence to all situations.
  4. Forget about money and status. Rather, I believe that you should immerse yourself in your work and the learning process both emotionally, mentally and physically. The following quote has largely driven this belief:“You must engrave deeply in your mind and never forget: your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated into your work.

    If you go at your work with half a heart, it will show in the lackluster results and in the laggard way in which you reach the end.If you are doing something primarily for money and without a real emotional commitment, it will translate into something that lacks a soul and that has no connection to you.

    You may not see this, but you can be sure that the public will feel it and that they will receive your work in the same lackluster spirit it was created in.

    If you are excited and obsessive in the hunt, it will show in the details. If your work comes from a place deep within, its authenticity will be communicated.”

  5. Smile as often as possible.
  6. Treat everybody with the respect that they deserve. This includes the tea lady, security guard etc.
  7. If someone has a nametag, greet them enthusiastically by their name or language. ( Social intelligence)
  8. Never eat lunch alone. Network and forge relationships with your peers/clients during lunch time.
  9. Identify the right mentors quickly and meet them regularly.
  10. Avoid blanket statements!!! Give opinions that are fact and logic based. Do not generalise and state them as facts.
  11. Ask clarifying questions when kicking off a project or task. You need to have a robust understanding upfront what is expected of you and what frameworks or resources will enable you to do this task more efficiently. This will save time later. (Pareto’s 80/20 combined with the concept of opportunity cost)
  12. Understand comparative advantage and team dynamics upfront in order to effectively utilise the resources available to you.
  13. Practice top-down communication when dealing with your superiors or clients. ( I suggest reading Barbara Minto: The Pyramid Principle)
  14. Practice cultural intelligence by learning different languages and cultural subtleties. (I use this every single day)
  15. “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” When people do great work, acknowledge them, honestly.
  16. Push back when you have too much on your plate. Do this only if you can logically back it up. The ability to push back when necessary, shows character.
  17. Apply the 80/20 principle to identify which tasks and problems should be prioritised when applying your mind to a task or problem within the workstream that you’ve been assigned to.
  18. Send concise and structured agendas when setting up meetings. You don’t want to be seen as wasting people’s time when sending meeting requests.
  19. When you make a mistake, apologise honestly and present practical solutions to fix it as soon as you can.
  20. If your job enables you to travel or work extensive hours, do it.

You would have noticed that the aforementioned list is in no particular order, nor is it exhaustive. I have purposefully not granulated on certain points. This was done not because I don’t think that it is important, but because I could write an excessive amount of pages on each point. Perhaps I will revisit some of the pertinent topics in different posts. Perhaps not.

For now though, I believe the question should be, what have you learnt over the last year?

About the Author

Carlos Baeta
Proudly South African. Masters student at Fordham University in New York. Entrepreneur, young leader, coffee addict and an avid Liverpool fan. Let's change the world.

7 Comments on "20 Lessons Learnt From My First Year Of Working"

  1. You’ve done it again for me Carlos, the lessons you pointed out in their entirety I will admit I agree with insofar as I can’t actually single out anyone of them as being more important than the other. This is simply because I want to avoid people taking just one or two that appeal to them most whereas all those lessons used simultaneously will earn you the correct kind of recognition in the workplace and also enable you to be an asset to be fought over.

    Thanks Carlito

  2. Well done I like it and it is definitely the way to go. Sharing learning and having a balance in your life contributes to success.

  3. Thanks Carlos for a great read. I also agree with point number 3, with regards to emotional reactions. However what if you are emotionally connected to something at work perhaps a certain case study and something has gone your way and you want to show your colleagues and bosses how emotionally divested and passionate you are about a certain thing? In the context of south Africa it could even be a situation that might involve race or gender.

  4. Hi Carlos,

    I love this article! So insightful.

  5. Great read indeed Carlos! Looking forward to our coffee session 🙂

  6. Great article – very well written and the points you make are so true.

  7. Good not great, can do better 🙂

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