Crushing Your First Job: The Ultimate Handbook For Young Professionals

Crushing Your First Job: The Ultimate Handbook For Young Professionals

It is exciting to start your first job after graduation, but it also comes with new challenges and responsibilities. Some of these challenges include knowing your tax obligations, figuring out your medical aid options, changing your bank account, and understanding salary deductions, just to name a few. 

This article will share insight into these things to help you seamlessly enter the professional world.


Important stuff to know when starting your first job.


1. Do you need a tax number for your first job?

Tax is a percentage deduction from your salary paid to SARS. Having a tax number is not necessary for recent graduates to get a job, and you have to earn a minimum salary before you need one. 

When starting your first job, speak with your employer, HR or the accounts department and find out if they can assist you to obtain a tax number.

Read more in our article: Do I need a tax number to be employed for the first time?


Side note: Tax returns

Note that if you are registered for tax, you must complete an annual tax return declaring the tax you earned to SARS. Your employer will issue you with an IRP5 document, which you will need to complete your tax returns via SARS E-filing. Many tax consultants can assist with this process for a small fee, or you can do it yourself for free.


2. Do you have medical aid?

You may or may not have had medical aid while studying. If your salary allows, consider getting medical aid. 

If you did have medical aid, you may still assume that you are covered by your parent's or guardian’s medical aid, but did you know that you are only covered as a dependent up to the age of twenty-one years old, or until you have finished studying? That often comes as a huge shock to many young adults.

In case of any emergencies, try to invest in medical aid or see if your employer offers it as a benefit. An individual who has medical aid will be admitted to most private hospitals. 

If your budget does not allow for full, comprehensive cover, consider a more affordable option like a hospital plan.


3. Understanding your first payslip

There is a lot of important information on your payslip. It is helpful to have a record of your income and deductions. It is also proof that you are employed. A payslip can be used for many important things, such as:

  • Applying for credit, for example, a phone contract or a car loan.
  • Negotiating your salary with a potential employer in the future.
  • Rental agreements require proof of income.

On every payslip, there are compulsory deductions that are dependent on your total salary:

A line item you may notice that is payable by your employer is the SDL (skills development levy). This is a levy that an employer must pay to promote learning and development in South Africa.

Benefit deductions, like pension, medical aid, life insurance, and income protection, are usually optional, but depending on your employer's contract, they may be compulsory.

Lastly, you will notice your leave accumulation. These are the leave days available to you. You may need to review your contract concerning when you can take that leave and how many days you will receive each year.


4. Get your bank account set up for your first job

As a student, your bank account is set up for that. Talk to your bank about switching to an account that is set up for young professionals. It is worth looking into because many banks offer lower fees for professionals under thirty years old

In the meantime, time your debit orders so that they match the date that your salary will arrive in your account. 

While you are streamlining your banking, make sure you set limits on withdrawals, keep your passwords up to date, and use all the safety features to stop banking fraud.


Other important stuff to know


Although the following advice is not critical to your first job, it will go a long way in getting you ahead as a respected young professional.


1. Phone etiquette

Make sure your phone is on and that you answer it when it rings; it may be a recruiter (if you are applying for jobs) or your employer.  

WhatsApp and voice notes are inappropriate unless your employer or recruiter initiates them.


2. Dress code

Make sure you dress professionally. If you are unsure of the dress code - ask. If you are working remotely, make sure you are dressed professionally and neatly when visible on camera during online meetings or interviews.

Read: What is the best attire to wear to a job interview.


3. Take responsibility for your actions

Set your alarm, giving yourself ample time to get ready for work. If you are commuting, factor in additional time for any unexpected delays. If you are working remotely, you should still set your alarm; your employer may need you for something urgent first thing when work starts, and you don’t want to be in the shower if that happens.

When employed remotely, you need to be ready to jump onto an online call at any moment. Make sure you look presentable at all times and that you are available during working hours. If you need to step away from your desk for whatever reason, communicate this with your supervisor or line manager.

Ensure your laptop and cellphone are ready and charged each morning; your employer will not accept the excuse that your battery is about to die at ten o’clock in the morning and you have loadshedding.

If you are working remotely, ensure your internet is suitable. If your internet is down or you are experiencing loadshedding and have no backup, it is your responsibility to find another location to work.




Going into adulthood and starting your first job is an exciting time; it need not be daunting if you are well prepared. When you are prepared, it relieves you of a lot of uncertainty. And if all else fails - ask. Your employer, colleague, and even your recruiter will be only too happy to guide you through the process.

RecruitAGraduate is here for you as you transition from graduation to your first job, and we look to place our graduates into careers where they will thrive. Register with RecruitAGraduate here if you have not already done so.

Wishing you all the best! Follow us on LinkedIn for information and new job notifications. 

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