Graduate careers: My first memo was not very popular

The Working Week
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Name: Jo Butler

Age: 22

Education: Just graduated with a degree (2.2) in land management from Reading University

Mission: First week as graduate development manager for Laing Homes

Monday: The first morning, and immediately I stopped feeling quite so pleased with myself for having been accepted for the job just before I did my finals. Great timing, I'd thought at the time, and had felt quite proud and settled ever since. I had visited the office before for my second and third interviews, so I had some idea of the environment I was to be working in. But now, I just felt apprehensive. I'd done work experience before and knew roughly what to expect but now I was getting paid. That meant expectations.

The first person I met was Clive, the manager. Seemed nice but I knew I wouldn't stand a chance of remembering all the sites for homes that he told me our department was currently working on. Started to panic. Similar problem with Fiona, who introduced me to everyone in the office. Rule number one, I decided, was not to risk calling anyone by a name for the first week.

By 11am, I started to relax very slightly as I realised everyone was in fact nice and incredibly willing to tell me exactly what their role was - if not their name again. I asked a lot of questions for good measure. Next stage was actual work - looking through documents and attempting to understand what I'd be doing, ie dealing with architects, planning and technical side of sites before passing info through to commercial and construction ready for next stage of building homes. I felt tired already.

Lunch was welcome. Everyone sits around and chats. Good chance to spot potential friends and socialites since I'd just moved to the office base in Berkshire from my home in London.

Afternoon was spent shadowing people and then going round building sites. Was shown the sites where there had been no ground work done at all as well as sites where there were already show homes in place. The development - which was, after all, to be my job - started to make proper sense. Went home at five o'clock (yes, people actually do leave at 5pm here) feeling huge relief but also extreme exhaustion.

Tuesday: Less joy today when I was shown the computer systems. Can that many spreadsheets really exist? Be slow and calm, I told myself. I have a habit of wanting to work fast and without asking too many questions and, in a new job, that's not always wise. Wasn't too popular when I sent a memo in a completely different format than anyone was used to but it was a good lesson in finally accepting guidance. This became even more useful when I started on the more complex work.

Wednesday: By now I realised my previous work experience bore no resemblance to this office. I'd been working in big companies in a big city but now my future was in a cosy office. Completely different ball-game but, I thought with a smile, nicer and definitely more relaxed and surprisingly few office politics. Not an hour went by without someone asking if I was OK.

Suddenly recognised, however, that professionalism was alien to me. At university, everyone talks to everyone else in the same manner - even the lecturers. But here, planning consultants, engineers, architects etc - who I'd be dealing with a lot - want to have a professional rapport. Must work on that, I decided, especially when I attended my first meeting. Big feeling of involvement at this point, especially when I was told I'd be holding my own meeting in a couple of weeks.

Thursday: Today was the day I stopped feeling paranoid about having to ask people for stuff to do if I'd run out. I was getting into a pattern of responsible work, although having to photocopy 2,000 drawing issues brought me back to earth.

Friday: Lunch was the highlight of the week because it was spent at the pub. It symbolised the huge hurdle of getting through week one. Could hardly believe I'd done it.

Interview By Kate Hilpern

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