Career Advice

7 Tips To Succeed In Sink Or Swim Job Training Environment  

As a 22-year-old fresh out of college, my first full-time job was as an administrator in a small insurance broking firm. Needless to say, I was beyond excited and mentally prepared myself to learn as much as possible.

However, my first few days of work were surprisingly disappointing. My colleagues simply handed me a stack of documents to read on my own, and when they did assign me work, they provided little to no guidance, directing me to refer to outdated manuals.

Despite my efforts, I made mistakes without proper training, which resulted in a scolding from my boss. Frustrated and feeling incompetent, I resigned from the job after only two months because I felt I didn’t have any contribution to the team. 

Unfortunately, this situation is all too common. Many employees experience a lack of training and misunderstood expectations, leading to disengagement from their work. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, only about 36% of employees feel engaged in their work. The cost of employee disengagement is estimated to be between $450 billion to $550 billion each year, not including the cost of recruiting and training new hires to replace those who leave.

In hindsight, I could have survived my first job longer if I had a proper strategy in place to deal with sink or swim job training environment. First, let’s define what that looks like.

What Is Sink or Swim Job Training?

sink or swim job training

Sink or swim job training is a common approach used by many companies when onboarding new employees. The idea behind this approach is to identify and develop talent quickly by giving new hires real-world experience. 

But sink or swim job training is not easy, and it certainly isn’t right for everyone. If you’re not prepared for the intense pressure and competition that comes with this kind of training, you might find yourself struggling to keep up.

Further, if the job of your dreams turns out to be a new job with no training or support, you’re going to need some survival skills. Keep reading to learn more!

How Do You Overcome Lack of Training?

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to give yourself the best chance to succeed and thrive in this type of work setting. Here are seven tips to keep in mind.

1. Set Clear Expectations

The first step is to set clear expectations with your employer. Make sure you understand what is expected of you and what the consequences are if you don’t meet those expectations. This will help you stay on track and avoid any surprises down the road.

To set clear expectations, you need to:

Communicate with your supervisor on a regular basis

This can help you stay on top of your goals and deadlines, which is crucial in a sink or swim work environment. While communicating make sure to:

  • Be clear about what you need: When asking for help, be as specific as possible about what you need from your supervisor. This will help them understand your situation and give you the best advice possible.
  • Be honest about your progress: If you’re struggling, be honest with your supervisor about your progress. They can’t help you if they don’t know there’s a problem.
  • Stay focused on the big picture: Remember that there’s more to sink or swim job training than just meeting deadlines. While it’s important to stay focused on your work, don’t lose sight of what else is going on in your life.

Ask for feedback – and actually listen to it

Feedback is essential for success in any job, but it’s especially important in a sink or swim environment. Make sure to ask for feedback often and actually listen to what your supervisor has to say.

sink or swim job training

Keep track of deadlines and deliverables

This can help you stay on track and avoid falling behind. For instance, make a note of the due dates for all deliverables, as well as any deadlines set by your supervisor.

Understand the company’s expectations for your performance

This can help you understand the benchmarks for success in your position. If you know what’s expected of you, it’s easier to adjust your work accordingly and give yourself the best chance of success.

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes — understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” — Arianna Huffington

2. Get Organized

If you’re going to succeed in a sink or swim job training environment, you need to be organized. This means keeping track of all your tasks and responsibilities, as well as knowing what’s due when.

To get organized, you should embrace the following tips.

Create a daily/weekly to-do list

This can help you prioritize your tasks and make sure you’re always working on the most important things first.

A to-do list should contain:

  • Your top priorities: Make sure your top priorities are at the top of your to-do list so you can focus on them first.
  • All deadlines: Make sure you’re aware of every deadline for all tasks related to your work responsibilities.
  • The time required for each task: Understand how long you’ll need to complete each task, and make a rough schedule for completing all your work.
  • Any other items: This could be notes about meetings or important details related to a particular project.
work smarter not harder examples

Use a calendar to keep track of deadlines

This is especially important if you have multiple deadlines that are close together. Calendars can help you stay on track, even when your workload is high and things start to get hectic.

Use a simple documentation system

Whether you’re taking notes or using an online tool like Evernote, having a way to track your progress on projects can be invaluable. Documenting your work will allow you to remain updated on your progress, which can be crucial in a sink or swim job environment.

Read More: 14 Tips To Stop Feeling Nervous About Starting A New Job Tomorrow

3. Communicate Regularly with Your Teammates

Communication helps ensure that everyone understands their role and knows what’s expected of them, which will allow the entire team to work together toward a common goal.

Keep a paper trail of your communication

If you’re working on a project with others, don’t assume they’ll remember everything you tell them. Instead, make sure you have notes or emails from all your meetings and conversations so that everyone is always up to date.

Can’t speak in person? Use technology

If you can’t meet in person, use technology to your advantage. Schedule regular video chats or conference calls so that everyone can stay in touch and on the same page.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If you’re ever unsure about something, don’t be afraid to ask questions until you fully understand what’s going on. This will ensure that everyone is working together as a team and making progress toward shared goals.

“No matter what job you have in life, your success will be determined 5% by your academic credentials, 15% by your professional experiences, and 80% by your communication skills” – Unknown

4. Stay Positive

While working in a sink or swim job training environment can be stressful and hectic, it’s important to stay positive. With the right mindset, you’ll be able to overcome any challenges you face and thrive in this type of work setting.

sink or swim job training

Here are some tips for staying positive.

Focus on the big picture

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stress of a sink or swim job environment, especially if you’re working under tight deadlines and high expectations. But if you focus on how your work supports the company’s goals, it can make the pressure a bit more manageable.

Be persistent and disciplined

No matter how difficult things may seem, staying focused and working hard is the best way to succeed in sink or swim job training. By being persistent and disciplined, you’ll be able to weather any challenges that come up along the way.

“The expert in anything was once a beginner.” — Unknown

Take time to relax and recharge

Even if your job is stressful, it’s important to find time every day to take a break and relax. This will help you stay focused and productive when it matters most.

5. Be Flexible

A sink or swim job environment isn’t the time for rigid rules and inflexible schedules. Instead, it’s important to be flexible and adaptable so you can keep up with changing priorities and stay on track in high-pressure situations.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you ever feel overwhelmed or like you’re falling behind in your work, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes it can be hard to admit that we need assistance, but this is often the best way to stay on track and get the support you need to succeed. This is especially true in a new job with no training or support.

sink or swim job training

Learn how to prioritize tasks

Not all tasks are created equal, and in a sink or swim job environment, it’s essential to know how to prioritize your time. Learn which tasks need to be done first and focus on those first whenever possible.

Be willing to make changes

As your work changes, you may also need to change some of the ways you do things. Be open to adapting your approach and trying new things so that you can stay on top of your priorities and maintain productivity.

6. Be Proactive

In a sink or swim job environment, it’s important to be proactive and take initiative whenever possible. This will show your boss that you’re capable of handling more responsibility and that you’re willing to put in the extra work to get ahead.

Use the following tips to stay proactive at work.

Look for ways to improve processes

If you see room for improvement in the way your company does things, don’t be afraid to speak up. Offering suggestions for how things could be done more efficiently can help streamline processes and make everyone’s job easier.

Be a team player

In a sink or swim environment, it’s vital to be a team player and work collaboratively with all your coworkers. This will help build camaraderie and make it easier to achieve your goals as a team.

Stay on top of deadlines

In this type of work setting, missing deadlines can have serious consequences. To stay ahead of the curve and avoid falling behind, be sure to keep track of any upcoming deadlines and start working on projects as soon as possible.

7. Learn from Mistakes and Take Responsibility for Them

Starting a new job can be exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. As a new employee, it’s important to understand that mistakes will happen. However, it’s how you handle those mistakes that will set you apart. Here are some tips on how to learn from your mistakes and take responsibility for them.

Own Your Mistakes

When you make a mistake, it’s important to take ownership of it. Don’t try to shift the blame onto someone else or make excuses. Instead, acknowledge what went wrong and take responsibility for it. This shows that you’re accountable and willing to learn from your mistakes.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Making a mistake can be a valuable learning opportunity. Take the time to reflect on what went wrong and how you can prevent it from happening again in the future. This shows that you’re committed to improving and growing in your role.

sink or swim job training

Move Forward with Confidence

Learning from mistakes and taking responsibility for them can be a challenging process, but it’s important to move forward with confidence. Don’t dwell on your mistakes or let them hold you back. Instead, use them as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow.

Moving forward with confidence also means being proactive and taking initiative. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do or how to improve. Take ownership of your development and seek out opportunities to learn and grow.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein


A sink or swim job environment can be a daunting prospect, but with these 7 tips, you can give yourself the best chance to succeed. From being prepared and organized to taking breaks and staying flexible, there are many ways to set yourself up for success in a new job with no training or support. With some effort and perseverance, you can thrive in a sink or swim job environment. Also, don’t forget that you always have the option to walk away if you don’t feel supported or appreciated.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a “sink or swim” job training environment?

A “sink or swim” job training environment is a culture in which new employees are thrown into the deep end with little or no guidance and left to figure things out on their own.

What are some tips for succeeding in a sink or swim job training environment?

Here are some tips for success in this type of environment: 1. Stay positive and maintain a can-do attitude 2. Seek feedback and constructive criticism from peers and managers 3. Set realistic goals and work towards them 4. Learn from mistakes and take responsibility for them 5. Ask questions when in doubt 6. Build relationships with colleagues and mentors 7. Be flexible and adapt to changes

What are the consequences of a sink or swim approach for employees?

The consequences of a sink or swim approach for employees include high levels of stress, reduced job satisfaction, lower morale, and increased turnover. Some employees may thrive in this type of environment, while others may struggle and even leave the job.

What can job seekers do to determine if a company has a sink or swim culture?

Job seekers can research the company and its culture before applying for a job, read employee reviews and ratings on websites like Glassdoor, and ask questions during the interview process about the company’s training and support programs.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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