“How To Go To Work” is your survival guide to entering the world of employment

Published by Penguin Books, 2020

When I got my first full-time job there was so much I didn’t understand and was not prepared for. Having now had over a year’s experience of full-time work, there’s still a lot I never learnt or fully understood. And I know there are many my age or younger who are in a similar position.

Lucy Clayton and Steven Haines recognised this disconnect between young people leaving education and the world of work, and they wrote the instruction manual on beginning your career. Whether you’ve never had a job before or if you’re still in the early years of your career, How To Go To Work is a helpful read.

Post-introduction, the books kicks off with busting some myths about careers advice. By starting with dispelling the common myths we’ve all heard, it’s clear from the get-go that pragmatic optimism is the intended takeaway from the book. You will be successful and you can find the job you want. It’s a feeling that radiates with every section and is precisely what I felt when I turned the final page.

Going to work is an enormous, life-changing thing. You’ll never be the same again. You begin knowing nothing and then, very quickly, you can never unknow what it’s like to be bone tired from a fourteen-hour shift or the exhilaration of receiving your first pay slip. The experiences you are about to have will change you forever. And yet, no one is really preparing you for them.

As a sneak peek, you can watch the authors bust these myths in this video.

From starting out and getting into a job, to talking you through your first day and what to expect every day after, the book is structured chronologically with self-contained sections. Every chapter is so well-signposted that you don’t have to sift through sections that are now irrelevant to you. If you’re in work, you can skip how to build your LinkedIn profile and get straight to how to tackle the bad days. But rather than a dissection of each section, I thought I’d list a select few chapter headings that give you an idea of what to expect:

  • “Social Media and Public Profile: The Power and the Pitfalls”
  • “How to Demonstrate Leadership When You are Not the Leader”
  • “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll in the Workplace”
  • “When It All Goes Wrong”
  • “Crying in the Loos and Other Hideous Realities”
  • “How to Create Opportunities Where There are None”

My copy came with a loose page that happened to be dedicated entirely to writing an Out of Office email. I still remember feeling stupid for not understanding how to setup my OOO (and being too embarrassed to ask!), despite being in the job for months at this stage. That page now sticks out from the rest, which means it’ll be an easy find when I inevitably refer back to it in my next job.

The book is to-the-point and honest, giving you as much information as you need, no little and no less. But the writing is never blunt, patronising or vague. Reading feels more like listening to someone converse with you but is so precise in their speech that each word is worth listening to. It’s also peppered with anecdotes and well-placed humour that makes for easy reading, even though the subject makes most of us feel anything but easy.

This book has offered me some comfort in my unemployment, giving me smidgens of hope and optimism for my future where none could be found elsewhere. It’s a book that won’t stay on my shelf forever because it will live in my drawer at the desk of my next job. Regardless of the industry in which you wish to work, this is a how-to that has something for you.

You are the most diverse and connected generation in history (…) You are not lazy or too late. You’re bang on time and you’re ready.

If you’ve read this and wondered if this book is for you but are still unsure, check out their podcast on Spotify (or wherever else you listen to podcasts) where they talk to people across several industries about the start of their careers.

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