Transitioning from a college environment into the workplace is an immense change. Therefore, as a young person preparation is necessary for the workplace.

The following are 10 tips that a young person starting in the workplace should consider:

  • Willingness to learn
  • Recall Names
  • Attention to details
  • Avoid conflicts
  • Develop communication skills
  • Punctuality
  • Attendance
  • Do not follow seasoned employees
  • Listen Carefully
  • Take Initiative

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Willingness to learn

There is a well-known quotation by Sir Francis Bacon that dates back to 1597 which states that ‘knowledge is power’. So learn as much as possible about the business operations and the industry.

Don’t only wait to up-skill when there is in-house job training. Ultimately, the responsibility for your professional development lies in your hands, not the company.

Many organisations today have their own online learning portals. Some even have their own online universities. Maximise the use of these if they are available.

In the event that you company does not have these training systems, consider using online learning websites.

Udemy is a platform where you can purchase courses in a wide range of fields. There are a wide range of free and budget friendly websites where you can acquire skills in almost every field.

Complete job shadows wherever possible. Remember even if the knowledge you gain does not lead to a promotion or pay increase, it can assist you in your career growth. Therefore, learn as much as you can.

Recall names

This advice was given to me by the human resource manager at my first job. I was 18 years old. I have seen the value of recalling people’s names in building effective relationship with colleagues and stakeholders.

Attention to details

Develop a keen eye so that you can recall details of transactions with customers and stakeholders. This is critical if your role has responsibilities where you have to manage large amounts of transactional details.

Roles such as a bank teller or inventory control officer require a high level of attention to details.  

This trait will assist you in the event that there are errors and end of day balancing issues. Also, take your time and develop routines in terms of how you complete tasks.

Try as much possible to keep the same order. This consistency could assist greatly in reducing the possibility of making errors.

Avoid conflicts

Most work environments tend to have some level of office politics. Avoid getting in the middle of drama wherever possible. Do everything in your power to maintain a cordial working relationship with each colleague.

Nelson Mandela shared an example of this in his autobiography- Long Walk to Freedom when he just started to work at a law firm in Johannesburg. Mandela stated that one of the secretaries told him that there were 2 new cups allocated to him and his colleague for tea.

He related this information to his colleague, Gaur Radebe who later became his political mentor. At tea time, Gaur did the opposite and drank from the older cups. Mandela chose not to offend either his colleague or the secretary as he was just starting out. He indicated that he was not thirsty.

Mandela described this experience in the following quotation below:

“For a moment I was in a quandary. I neither wanted to offend the secretaries nor alienate my new colleague, so I settled on what seemed to me the most prudent course of action: I declined to have any tea at all. I said I was not thirsty, I was then just twenty- three years old, and just finding my feet as a man, as a resident of Johannesburg and as an employee of a white firm, and I saw the middle path as the best and most reasonable one” (p.83).

Develop communication skills

Communication skills both orally and written is necessary for the workplace. Most organisations today work with emails and therefore a large portion of your communication could be via this medium.

When creating emails be aware of the tone of what you are writing. Using abbreviations such as those used in WhatsApp communication is not usually accepted in the workplace.

Avoid communicating when you are upset. If you received an email that got you on your nerve, leave it and respond to it when you are in a better mood. Writing an email when you are upset will reflect in the tone of your writing.


Being late does not send the right signal to your manager. Therefore ensure and be on time for work and meetings. This is critical especially during your first 90 days in the business.

Punctuality shows that you are efficient at time management and enthusiastic about your role in the organisation. In the event that something comes up, be sure and inform your manager in a timely manner.

The great leader Nelson Mandela paid particular attention to being on time. He shared in his autobiography- Long Walk to Freedom an instance where he refused to go back to his room to get a raincoat.

Despite the cold weather, he opted to attend a meeting with then Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher without his coat.

Mandela explained this scenario and stated:

“I am a stickler about punctuality, not only because I think it is a sign of respect to the person you are meeting but in order to combat the western stereotype of Africans as being notoriously tardy”(p. 700).


Ensure and attend work regularly. If is not acceptable to miss a considerable number of days especially when you are just starting out. Employers view absenteeism as a major red flag especially during your first 90 days on the job.

If for any reason you require to be absent because of a prior commitment, it is best to inform the employer before accepting the job offer.

Do not follow seasoned employees

When you are new to an environment, you may observe that there are other colleagues who do not follow the company rules as stated. As an example, you may notice that a colleague takes extra time at lunch. It is prudent that as you are just starting out not to follow these examples.

That other employee may be receiving these privileges for a number of reasons that you know nothing about. Therefore, follow the guidelines laid out by the company as the newcomer.

Listen carefully

Listening will allow you to hear and understand your new environment a lot better. It is amazing what you can uncover by just sitting and observing your colleagues and environment.

This can provide tremendous insight on the company culture.

Take initiative

Managers love employees whose hands they do not have to hold to accomplish every task. Therefore, feel free to ask if you can present suggestions on aspects relating to your role.

Implementing strategic techniques or new ideas which add value will give you an edge during your first job review.

Final Thoughts

Being a newcomer in a different environment could be challenging but it is all part of life. Hope these tips prepare you to excel as a young person starting in the workplace.

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10 Best Tips For A Young Person Starting In The Workplace

1 comment on “10 Tips for Young Persons Starting in the Workplace”

  1. Joanna Charles says:

    Thanks much needed advice.

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