Many young adults say one of the hardest adjustments when starting the first job is simply “not knowing how to do everything.”
You just left an academic system you could manage in your sleep. Now, it’s like you’re learning how to ride a two-wheeler.
With the training wheels on.
In full view of the neighborhood.
In a dorky bike helmet.
Could you feel any more conspicuous?
But hey, you’re right out of school. You may be working in an industry you didn’t even study. This could be your first job ever.
How could you possibly know how to do everything?
Welcome to the world of learning in public
In school, you learned in a classroom, with books, assignments and papers. Learning hurdles were private, and grades were between you and the professor; maybe your parents if you felt generous. Your success, or struggles, were relevant - and visible - only to you.
Now, however, you are learning in public. Everyone in the workplace is observing how the “new kid” is doing. Your success is now closely connected with that of your colleagues. Your struggles might make a public appearance.
Your colleagues will notice what questions you ask, what questions you don’t and how fast you are coming along. They’ll size you up over coffee, and have their own personal insights on your progress. They’ll compare your progress to theirs at that age. They watch your wobbly ride as you pedal for your professional life. And occasionally, they’ll see you fall.
And there’s nothing you can do about any of that.
7 Keys to learning in public
What you can do is to realize that “learning in public” goes with the territory. It may be a difficult part of the transition for you. But if you approach it with the intention of being a student of a different kind, you’ll have more success than frustration. Here are 7 keys you need to learn effectively in public:
1. Humility. You have a lot to learn. Acknowledge this to yourself and others. Visualize learning in public as a key part of your job. Instead of fearing what you don’t know and worrying about looking stupid, focus on what you have to learn, and how you will go about doing that. It is OK to be in learning mode!
2. Willingness. Let others know that you’ve got a learning curve, and that you’re willing to do the footwork to learn what you need. This will make them want to help you.
3. Build relationships. Much of your learning will come from other people at first. Identify the relationships you need to support your learning process. Then start building them. This is so different from college! Get to know the folks you can learn from, buy them coffee, ask good questions, take good notes. Then apply what you learn. This helps others want to invest their time with you.
4. Ask others for help. If you do so in a way that’s empowering and not self-deprecating, you’ll get what you need AND feel confident as you gain knowledge. Most people want to help you, and you will need to learn to ask them to.
5. Ask good questions. Questions help connect the dots and test the knowledge you are acquiring. The wonderful thing about not knowing it all, is just that. You get to bring new eyes to routine situations and generate questions others may not be thinking about.
6. When you fall off the bike — and you will — get back on. It’s likely you’ll make missteps. You’ll say the wrong thing, miss a piece of information, draw a wrong conclusion. When you do so, acknowledge it! Then reflect on the experience, incorporate the new knowledge, and get back on the bike. See point 1.
7. Be a person others want to work with. A recent survey concluded that the ability to get along with others is one of the most valued skills in entry-level employees. If people have a good experience working with you, they will root for your success and help you through the curve.
Think of all this as new ways of learning. No more textbooks and papers. Now you have real life, real people, real experiences as your classroom. And in time, just as with the two-wheeler, you’ll find it hard to believe you ever needed the training wheels.


1. Do something no one else is doing

2. Change the way people do things.


Dr. Gary Chapman

The Five Languages of Appreciation

Communicating appreciation in work-based relationships can be difficult, and ineffective, if you don’t understand the languages and actions that are important to your colleagues.  The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace shows you how to “hit the mark” in encouraging with your coworkers.

Grounded in the conceptual foundations of the NY Times #1 bestselling book by Dr. Chapman, The 5 Love Languages, the ways that appreciation is demonstrated in the workplace can differ significantly from personal relationships. The languages are the same (in name), but their practical application in work-based relationships is quite different. Let us explain each:

Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation. Words, both oral and written, can be used to affirm and encourage those around us. Some people prefer personal one-on-one communication, while others value being praised in front of others (but it is important to know that relatively few people like to receive public affirmation in front of a large group.)

Quality Time

Quality Time. Personal, focused time and attention with their supervisor is highly affirming for some. But others enjoy different types of time — “hanging out” with their coworkers, working together as a team on a project, or just having someone take the time to listen to them. And the type of time desired can differ significantly depending on whether it is with colleagues or with their supervisor.

Acts of Service

Acts of Service. Assisting in getting a task done can be extremely encouraging to a colleague. Helping a teammate “dig out” from being behind, working collaboratively on a project that would be difficult to do alone, or just working alongside with them on a task, are all ways to demonstrate appreciation for their efforts.

Tangible Gifts

Tangible Gifts. The key to an effective gift in the workplace is the “thought,” not the amount of money spent. Taking time to notice what your colleagues enjoy (chocolate, coffee, cashews), observing their hobbies and interests (sports, books, crafts) and buying them a small related gift shows that you are getting to know them as a person and understand what is important to them.

Physical Touch

Appropriate Physical Touch. While we acknowledge that physical touch is less important in work-based relationships, and the potential for abuse exists, we still find that appropriate physical touch is meaningful. Usually, it occurs spontaneously and in the context of celebration — a “high five,” fistbump, slap on the back, or congratulatory handshake. To not touch one another at all often leads to a cold, impersonal environment.


The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace



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