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This is from HSK4上 (page 49):

刚开始工作的时候,什么最重要?
刚开始工作的时候,什么最重要?
What is most important when I first started working? (Google Translate)

I'm confused here: I can't tell whether this means:

  1. "when starting work" (perhaps each workday) or
  2. "when entering the workforce" (as in, first day of work, perhaps in my life, or perhaps at a new company).

My impression from context that it has the second meaning (it's related to a passage which begins 年轻人刚开始工作的时候,不要太急着赚钱...), but I don't know how I could figure that out.

Question: Does 刚开始工作的时候... mean "when starting work" (each day) or "when entering the workforce"?

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刚开始工作的时候,什么最重要?

I'd interpret it as when entering the workforce, which is the second meaning you listed.

When someone says 刚开始工作的时候, I'd assume he meant when entering the workforce. If they try to convey when starting work each workday, I'd expect something like: 每天早上开始工作的时候; 每天开始工作的时候; 每天开始工作时; 每天工作开始时.

One could bend that rule/convention sometimes, but it's not hard to figure out what they really mean in a given context anyway.

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If you wrote: "在开始工作的时候什么最重要" the sentence would be ambiguous:

"在开始工作的时候" could mean at the start of your work shift: e.g. "在开始作的时候最重的要是检查安全"(When you start to work, the most important thing is check safety)

It could also mean when you start entering the work force: e.g. "在开始工作的时候最重要的是與同事打好關係" (When you entering the work force, the most important thing is creating a good relationship with colleagues)

Since (在)开始工作的时候最重的要是检查安全 means (每天)开始工作的时候最重的要是检查安全. And you can't replace "每天"(everyday) with "刚" (just), "刚开始工作的时候" should be interpreted as "when first entering the work force"

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Not 'each day', but 'at the beginning'.

刚开始工作的时候,什么最重要?
What's the most important thing when you just start off in a new job?

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