Are You Ready for the Workplace?

For law graduates who have just landed their first job, it is important to hit the ground running. Here, we share some wisdom to help graduates find their feet in the professional world.

Congratulations, you have survived the interview and been offered a job – now is the time to kick-start your legal career. Moving into the world of work may seem daunting; this might be your first ‘proper’ job since you graduated. Here are six top tips to ensure you are workplace ready, courtesy of Francine Ryan, senior lecturer in law and member of the Open Justice Centre at The Open University.

Make a good first impression

Will Rogers said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So in the first few weeks of your new job, it is important to make a good impression. You need to present yourself as professional, dress appropriately, smile and have a positive attitude. Treat everyone with courtesy and politeness, remember and use people’s names. You will be given lots of different tasks to do, no matter how big or small the task is, make sure you do it to the best of your ability the rest of your team will be relying on you to be conscientious and diligent.

Get organised

It is important to demonstrate you are reliable – be organised, be on time and meet deadlines. If you are someone who struggles with organisation, make sure you write everything down or make the most of free apps like Evernote or Post-it. Keep your diary up to date, check it each morning so you know if there are meetings planned for that day. Your time will not always be your own; you need to be flexible and be prepared to respond quickly if you are asked to work on a new matter.

Ask questions, but also listen!

If you are not sure about anything ask for clarification. Sometimes people feel nervous about asking questions, but it is much better to ask than to make assumptions and it will save you a lot of time in the long run. It is also important to listen! You need to concentrate on what is being said rather than passively hearing the message. Make notes to help you remember, as this will help you avoid any miscommunication and the need to ask unnecessary follow-up questions.

You never stop learning

All through your professional life you will be learning, but never more so than in your first job. You have to learn how to manage your time, work with new colleagues, understand the IT system and the culture of the organisation. There may also be opportunities to further your education make sure you take advantage of any additional training. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming when you start a new job, but don’t worry, as you get used to the job you will start to feel more comfortable and the feeling will pass.

Make the most of constructive criticism

It is very likely that your work is going to be corrected and you are going to receive both positive and negative feedback. It is part of the learning process you are not going to get it right every time. It is never easy to take criticism, but don’t be defensive and try not to take it personally. Remember that the purpose of constructive feedback is to help you improve. Listen, take notes and respond positively.

Working from the office, or maybe from home

COVID-19 has led to many people working remotely and in the future more of us could be working from home on a permanent basis. Technology is driving communication and work processes – employees are often contributing to projects from different locations and across different time zones, meaning there is a need to collaborate virtually. Working as part of a virtual team can create challenges, especially when you are new to an organisation. If you are not seeing your work colleagues in person, your ability to communicate effectively virtually is critical. Think carefully about what you write in emails, in conversations on platforms such as Microsoft Teams. What you write can be open to interpretation and you don’t want to create the wrong impression. If you are attending online meetings from home, think about what your colleagues will see in the background if you have your camera on. You want to be projecting a professional image, so even if you are working at home you should think about what you are wearing and the impression that will be create.

There is a lot to take in when you start a new job, so it is understandable if you feel a bit apprehensive, but embrace the opportunities, learn from others and enjoy the challenge. This is just the start of what hopefully will be a rewarding legal career.

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