The Naked Listener’s top 10 lifehacks for the first-time jobhunter or employee (Part 1)

Thursday 4 August 2011, 3.30am HKT

Next (PART 2) >>

Updated 10 Mar 2014 (broken links fixed)

First time out in the real world? Looking for a job?

Just finished school or maybe uni/college?
Landed your first job, have you?
Back to the workforce after a while away?
Or got kicked out of home?

No worries. The Naked Listener is pleased to divvy up Top 10 Lifehacks for the first-time jobhunter/employee — regardless of the number of years you’ve actually already been working. (Yes, they’re not limited to first-timers.)

This is Part One of a three-part feature. Stay tuned for Parts Two and Three tomorrow (or just later).

* * *

(In no particular order)

1. Carry contact cards at all times.

Quick’s the name, sharp’s the game.

Understand this:— while you are young (or young-at-heart), you are in fact one-up on many older folks (or even most folks).

Opportunity knocks, maybe once in a while, maybe just once in a lifetime.

Don’t fumble your way and having to write out your contact details to Lady Luck  she ain’t the patient type, let’s put it that way.

Put your contact details on a business card. Carry six  you usually don’t need more than six, unless at some sort of party or function, in which case you’ll obviously carry more.

Handwritten cards are okay

Printed cards are desirable, but not essential. Handwritten cards or typewritten are fine enough. As a workforce newbie, you’re generally not expected to have printed contact cards  indeed, printed cards sometimes put across the wrong impression if you ARE new to the workforce.

If you’re of the creative bent or just want something printed, Moo Cards make business cards for as low as US$16 per 200 cards, with an enormous choice of design templates

(Sorry, I don’t do commercial printing. Even as a printer myself, I just farm out my own cards and letterheads to another printer because it’s more cost-effective that way for me.)

What details? Nowadays, it’s enough to have only:

  • your name
  • phone number
  • email address
  • website or blog address (if any)

Mind you, have two other cards that also have your full home address, in case that should be necessary.

2. Save 15% from all your wages for the first three years. No exceptions.

You’re earning your own keep now, sonny boy/dotty girl.

Payday comes and you just want to spend it on that something you’ve got your eye on for the longest time.

The next payday comes and you want to spend it on that OTHER something you’ve also got your eye on for the longest time.

Pretty soon, you’re blowing every paypacket you receive.

Pretty soon too you’re locked in to your shitty job because you’re now gadgetful but moneyless and can’t afford to lose your job — now you couldn’t tell your boss to just shove it.

Pretty soon too you’ll find yourself in debt.

FACT:— Savings during the first three years of your working life actually keeps you in the black for the rest of your life. No kidding.

Decades of established accounting practice have confirmed this lifehack, so don’t argue.

If you’re disciplined and save 15% of your every weekly or monthly pay, you will have quite a tidy sum at the end of those three years. Your creditworthiness with the bank will soar. You can afford to change jobs (or tell the boss to shove it) even after the first year. You’ll be loaded (relatively speaking) while your schoolmates/friends remain deadbeats cashwise. With your own savings, and if you’re a good employee too, your manager will have a harder time keeping you — ergo, he’ll try to keep you with a raise, ergo, more money in the bank. It’s a winning formula.

3. Be punctual 99% of the time.

Be on time for work as well as for finishing work. Let me explain why.

1. Arrive for work 15 minutes early. Always.

Why should I give that bastard/bitch of a boss my free 15 minutes?

You’re forgiven to think like that. We’ve had the same sentiments too; we’ve been there before.

But if you think about this, it makes perfect sense to be habitually early.

Nearly everybody else is going to be one of two things — punctual or late. When you’re nearly always early, you stand out. Your superiors will notice it (even if they seem congenitally blind to you at most other times).

Much more importantly than just standing out from the crowd, those 15 minutes of early will give you a good picture of how your boss gets things done before you guys turn up for work.

Those 15 minutes are worth their weight in gold. Exploit that early time to loll around the workplace quietly and comfortably before The Work actually begins or just make smalltalk with your superiors.

If you’re really ambitious, you could even try 30 minutes early — but only occasionally, not make a habit of it. There is danger too in being too early, as I will explain later.

punctuality untrusted

Earlies can’t be trusted either

Being punctual or early leads to another important benefit for you — frustrating the gossipers.

Gossipers (a.k.a. Big Blab Wolves, backstabbers, etc) have a habit of dreaming up general slander about others the night before, with the intent of using the manufactured ‘facts’ the next morning.

The Big Blab Wolf’s modus operandi (standard operating procedure) is to drop adverse or damaging hints, and let the boss ‘observe’ you in line with those defamatory hints.

When you’re early at work, you stop the slanderers dead in their tracks. They have no choice but to leave their slander at the end of the day or shift. Fortunately, gossipers tend not to stay around after work. By finishing time, most will have forgotten what they wanted to say. Advantage, you.

2. Leave punctually at finishing time.

Alright, now you’re saying, isn’t it established custom to stay in as long as possible to please the boss?

Well, yes — and no.

Staying late has its benefits, which are pretty well-known to everybody already since elementary school, so we not go into that here.

However, staying late has dangers too.

You cannot afford to give the impression that you’re mucking about with company resources or doing ‘unauthorised’ work after hours.

Spies do things like that, for which they got shot, at dawn, very slowly, from the kneecaps up. All it takes is just one slanderer, and you’ll be done for.

4. Work like a model worker. Or pretend to.

No matter how much you hate and detest your job, at the very least pretend to work like a model worker (even if your boss and colleagues have already sussed out that you hate the job).

chick brazzer 0055

Not that kind of model worker…sheesh!

People tend not to blame you for hating the job (since, usually, they also hate the job themselves).

Hating is one thing, but taking the bad with the good shows you have good work sense (or appearance thereof).

“Make them [your employer and colleagues] and yourself
feel like each day you come in is time and effort well spent.”
—  my Adjutant

Most employers really, really appreciate the Soviet military doctrine of “Use your initiative, but do not diverge from the training manual.” In other words, you stay within the rules — but not so much that you project yourself as a drone bee more interested in the tactics of executing a set of orders. Remember, drone bees are the first to get their heads lobbed off by an invading wasp.

(If you know German, the trick is Auftragstaktik rather than Normaltaktik — certainly NOT Befehlstaktik. For English-speakers, it’s mission-type command vs. command-and-control style of operating.)

5. Be ready and willing to do overtime. But go easy.

Don’t be a lamefag: if there’s paid overtime, DO IT!

You’re young. You’re supposed to be stupid. You’re supposed to be full of enthusiasm and full of life. You’re supposed to be skint and need the cash. DO IT, FAGGOT!

Bear with me. There is good reason to do overtime once in a while.

For example, back in the day when I was a very junior infantry lieutenant, most of the other greenhorn lieutenants in my regiment basically bunked off after finishing morning duties or training. It’s always the C.O. and the Adjutant (plus a couple of sergeants) left to inspect the armoured vehicles, the weapons, radiosets and whatnot in the afternoon.

They could have bunked off as well. But it was also part of their aura of ‘master, commander and patris‘ as our senior officers to see to it that everything was ship-shape.

I figured it was ultimately to my own advantage to learn and get to know what the hell these old farts (sergeants included) were doing while the rest of us were messing around in the tennis courts or someplace else with our girlfriends (or boyfriends).

“Questions, young sir!” the C.O. hinted knowingly.

“Umm … err … don’t know what to ask, sir!” said I.

“Show him…,” the CO would say laconically to the Adjutant or sergeant.

You can really learn a lot about armoured personnel carriers and military administration, just by standing around, looking on, doing nothing, not even paying attention, but just keeping those old farts company. It’s no mistake that they’re our senior commanders.

Same difference in the commercial world.

But life is not so simple. There’s always the unpaid overtime. Fine, just do it once in a while, even if it’s under false pretences in order to generate goodwill with management and to advance the ‘model worker’ image. Unpaid overtime once in a while never hurts. Indeed, it teaches you the ropes and tricks of the business — helping you to oust the sodding bugger of a supervisor lording over you lot.

However, limit your unpaid overtime to no more than three or four times a month. Use your judgment; your mileage may vary. Anything more, talk to your boss about “how this relates to my remuneration.” Memorise those words. You’re dropping a hint that all this overtime just has to be reflected in pay, sooner or later, for better or worse, till resignation do us part. If overtime is paid work, it’s a non-issue.

Good, professional managers/bosses have no problem with this. Alas, not all are so understanding. They will challenge you with these age-old empty platitudes (i.e. canned clichés):

  • “You are expected to do your best, regardless of pay.” (Business maxim)
  • “I do lots of OT for which I don’t get paid either.”
  • “Now, hard work never hurt anyone, capsci?”
  • “Lots of people would die to work here, you know.”
  • “This is your principal place of employment, and you will do it, or leave.”

You get the picture. Memorise the drill below. (Note the use of tag questions.)

True, we are all expected to do our best, regardless of pay. I’ve not been late, have done solid work, being nice to customers and agreeable to colleagues, and even put in unpaid overtime in the face of contingencies, haven’t I?

But as an employee, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this issue needs to be addressed as the overtime has been recurring on a fairly regular basis, and looks likely to increase, no?

It’s a question of pay level as to whether the overtime is paid or unpaid, isn’t it?

Then again, you’re the manager and long, regular, unpaid overtime is the mark of — and one of the many prerogatives — of the manager, isn’t it?

Hard work never hurt anyone, true enough. But that wisdom is not what you think it means, I don’t think. Is there something you want to tell me?

Die to work here? For unpaid work? Hehehe, that’s a good one, isn’t it? Gotta use that with my girlfriend/boyfriend. Thanks.

Leave? Please say that again, would you? ** I’m a new employee here and, not to put too fine a point on things, I really don’t know the ropes here, do I? I would like your advice as to how I should go about this, please.

** If the situation looks set to turn ugly soon, add in polite but offensive ‘”Try rephrasing that while you’re at it, please. Did you think I was going to refuse?”

(And then put in papers to sue the corporate hooligan for unfair dismissal if he/she couldn’t present evidence of you working/moonlighting in another job. Yes, you can claim general or pecuniary damages as well as exemplary/punitive damages, depending on the type of litigation taken. That went well, didn’t it?)

* * *


“This is your principal place of employment,
and you will do it, or leave.”

This one was actually said to my face once (from a certain personage called Jeffrey L.). Suffice it to say, I left — notwithstanding the fact that the place was indeed my principal place of employment. Not to put too fine a point on things, no sensible person would want to waste their golden years in that kind of employment. My sentiment to his statement to this very day is still as given in the English libel case of Arkell vs. Pressdram (1971):

alphabet soup

The Arkell vs. Pressdram response

* * *

In the next instalment

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow for lifehacks #6 to #10 in this series.


* * *


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011. Updated 10 March 2014 (fixed broken links).

Images: Savings jar via Phone Cards Today ♦ ‘People who are late’ via Tanmaya’s ♦ Model worker woman via Imagerise ♦ Overtime in Hell via Gukuranman ♦ Comeback graphic via Mother Jones ♦ All other images by the author or in author’s collection.

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