Life Lessons Our Employees Wish They Knew Before Their First Job

Posted in: Business

Despite what your teachers or parents may tell you throughout your college years, there is only so much that school can teach when it comes to finding success in the work world.

Sure, college can teach you the fundamentals that will help you become a solid employee, and you can learn the tools that will bring you success in the workplace. But, it’s not until you are thrown into your first day on the job or you make your first big mistake that you will begin to learn your biggest lessons. And while these lessons may not result in an A+, a pass or fail, or a gold star, they are the lessons that will truly shape you as an employee (and even as a person) and will help you succeed at whatever it is you are passionate about.

This week, we sat down with a few Hello Innovation employees who have had many twists and turns throughout their careers in order to learn the invaluable life lessons they follow to this day. Many were even generous enough to pass along some of the most important lessons they have learned since beginning their careers! Hopefully their advice saves you a couple of wrong turns and starts you off on the right foot.


Rochelle Rietow – Director of Marketing

“Trust but verify. Just because people (employees, vendors, partners, etc.) may understand that they are supposed to do something, it doesn’t always mean they will or that they will do it right. So always make sure to verify everything that you are ultimately accountable for. Yes, you will be accountable for the work and actions of others. And at the end of the day, when it’s your project and your a*$ on the line, their excuse doesn’t matter.

“Remember, anything is possible. Keep your eye on the end goal and do whatever it takes to get there. Don’t wait for step-by-step directions, someone to hand you the perfect solution, or just take the easy way out. If you don’t know the answer to a problem along the way, don’t be discouraged. Look at it instead as an exciting challenge and figure it out. And if you hit a wall on your way, get back up and push yourself harder. You’ll  be surprised by what you can achieve. ”

Vorrel Prendergast – Director of Design

“Learn how to critique your own work. Try not to fall in love with your first idea or your first attempt. Instead, push yourself to look at a problem from every single angle. Try different approaches. It’s better to start with hundreds of ideas and then pair down from there. It’s like sculpting with clay — you start off with a big block of clay and begin to strip away what is unnecessary until you are left with a form you want to work with. From there, it’s all about shaping the details to get a finished piece.

Never stop designing. Never stop learning. Take every opportunity to learn something from every person or project you encounter.”

Ignacio Giri (aka Nacho) – Art Director

“Be collaborative. I bought my first computer when I was 19, but before that, I spent pretty much my entire childhood fighting with my older brother because he didn’t want to share his PC. While I spent my first 7 years of computer freedom alone in my room working, learning and playing, it wasn’t until I decided to leave the room and join a team that my life changed forever. My work had an impact like never before, all because I had gotten better and better after learning from my peers. I reached goals that I never would have otherwise if I was working on my own.”

Juliana Schnack – Product Manager

“Experience can teach you what college can’t. I wish I would have known early on to take advantage of the knowledge of those around me. When you first get out of school, you think you are the young employee that will change everything, so you often ignore your co-worker’s experiences. However, it’s more important to learn how to be a good listener. Similarly, when you are in a position of power in the workplace, be a great coach. Help your team grow with you and hire people that are better than you. Don’t be afraid or intimidated to have team members who are as good (or better) than you. Instead, prepare those people to be leaders in the future, and they will help to support your growth as well.

“When you are in college, you are very curious, stubborn, restless, or striving for perfection on everything. Never lose these attributes. Never let go of the feeling of always trying to be the best at your job, or trying to find the best solution to the problem. Always improve and always look for a better way to approach a problem and find answers. Keep thinking differently about the problems that everyone else looks at the same way.”

Rilee Chastain – Content Marketing Manager

“Look for inspiration far and wide — on your commute home, at the grocery store, in your Twitter feed, absolutely everywhere. Never turn your mind off to opportunity or learning. (For instance, don’t let your brain go into “weekend mode” when you leave the office.) Instead, constantly be on your game and looking for the next bolt of inspiration. And, at the same time, never trust yourself to hold all of these ideas to memory. Jot down notes, bookmark helpful articles, create a Pinterest board for work… never give yourself a chance to be out of ideas!

“Also, be sure to seek out inspiration and advice from the people around you. College gives you the unique opportunity to be surrounded by experts in your future industry (professors), your future industry co-workers (your classmates), and many other people who are a wealth of knowledge. Take every opportunity to learn from these people and make connections. After all, the world is a very small place, and you never know who you’ll wish to know in the future.”

Martim Schnack – Director of Production

“It’s okay to make mistakes and be wrong. Mistakes are simply opportunities for learning in disguise. It’s these mistakes that will provide you with an amazing chance to evaluate what went wrong, how the problem occurred, and, most importantly, how to make sure that the mistake never happens again. Great people are not right 100% of the time, but they do recognize when they are wrong and they make the proper adjustments. This allows them to keep going and learn what mistakes to avoid in the future.

“Also, if you made a mess, clean it up. While making mistakes is a huge part of life and is allowed in the workplace, no one likes someone who doesn’t pick up after their own mess.”

If you are looking for more helpful career advice before you jump into the work world, be sure to check out our CEO’s recent blog posts on sustaining innovation in the workplace and re-upping your work routine.

If you are a seasoned pro yourself, what life lesson do you wish you had learned before first entering the workplace? Be sure to share your most valuable lessons with us in the comments below!

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