Got Your First Job? Here’s How You Can Take Ownership & Start Winning!

It’s hard for a fresh hire to break in, and most of the time, people tend to view new hires with a mix of uncertainty and distance. I don’t blame them: They’re de-risking an unknown quantity. The onus, then, falls on the new hire to turn that ambivalence into certainty and proximity. While there are multiple factors to being able to create your own operating space, openness and talent require a certain level of initiative in order to shine brightly. That means taking ownership of your job. But how exactly does a fresh hire do it?


Singaporeans in general are allergic to the word “Volunteer” when it comes to the workplace. If there’s a new initiative, I can guarantee you that most people in the office will be hoping it doesn’t land on their lap. Avoiding responsibility is so common that the word “Arrow” is used whenever a manager assigns new work to an unwilling person.

Here’s where you can shine as a new hire. Take the initiative to say “Ok I’ll do it,” then do your absolute best to execute with the resources you have. 

There are going to be haters, and there are going to be posers. People who will ask you why you need to volunteer, or people that say you’re “spoiling the market”. All I have to tell you is this: You can be like the rest, or you can do your absolute best. CHOOSE WISELY.

Ask: “What else should I be doing?”

Before anyone else asks: I’m not asking you to doubt yourself.

Instead, realise that if you want to perform to the next level, you’ll need to start questioning your output before it reaches anyone else. Remember that if you want to be good at what you do, you need to ask yourself the questions that others will ask, before they even ask them.

This is part of a perspective shift, and requires a specific amount of forward thinking to achieve. Instead of putting the onus on your manager to pick out any problems, take the initiative and start thinking about the work from the perspective of a boss, client or stakeholder. The quality of your work will increase as you gain more and more perspective.

Care for your Colleagues

At the workplace, it’s often easier for people to dehumanise each other and simply focus on the work. After all, work is already complex enough, so why add in the possibility of more complexity?

Well, think about it this way: You’re spending almost 40 hours of your week with your colleagues, and you see them as much or even more than your own family. It’s in your interest to encourage workplace cohesion.

But cohesion isn’t about going out for meals or doing company activities. Cohesion is built when people have a common struggle. You might think it’s difficult to find that commonality, but I found that a simple way to start, is to pick up on clues in the work week. Did they have a difficult time with a client? Perhaps they’re struggling with a project? Are they hitting a wall with a sale? Ask them about it and find out a little more about their struggles, let them talk and tell you more about the problem. NEXT, ask them the magic question to open the door:

“Ok, How can I help?”

By asking this question, you’re sharing this struggle with them, and what used to just be their own struggle is now a collective problem to be solved. Now all you need to do is watch as your relationships with people in the workplace grow.

Understand “Lateral Leadership”


Lateral Leadership is the ability to take the lead from any position, and be able to connect across functions to drive projects. But before you can understand “Lateral Leadership”, you have to recognise that every company in the world needs people to lead from every position.

Why? Well, things are moving way too fast for a traditional top-down approach. Forward-thinking Managers, Directors and CEOs tend to lean on delegating out to the rest of the team, and trusting them to make decisions and execute against the objective.

If you understand that and want to succeed, then you will recognise that you need to step up and assume responsibility for the task, project, initiative and company, in that order.

Inspire Your Peers

You can work for yourself, or you can work with your team. But if you’re working with your team, it’s important to understand the concept of Moral Elevation. Put simply, Moral Elevation is a state of mind individuals get into after they see a virtuous act. The person who experiences this elevation is then highly likely to act in a positive manner, thereby kickstarting a virtuous cycle.

It might sound lofty, but it is actually easy to start. If you ever had a moment where people praised the work done by your team and you, you’ve had a chance to practise Moral Elevation. The next time someone says the work is good, say

“Thanks! [This part] was actually really well done by [this person]”

“[This person] did really deep research for the project”

The effect you’re creating on giving very specific, honest credit to your peers won’t be immediately obvious, but do this enough, and you’ll see them start to catch the kindness contagion and start connecting better with you.

This will take time!

Don’t expect overnight success here. There are going to be times when hierarchy and ego get in the way. All you need to remember to do is to do your absolute best in your capacity, and keep chipping away at the problem. Be patient, and remember to keep seeking your greatness!

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