After college, I was fortunate enough to ease into entering the workforce... well sorta. During undergrad, I started working as a work-study and started planning and preparing for events. Slowly the few hour job increased in number of days per week, then number of hours per day. Then, in a blink of an eye, college was over and I had a full time job! Before I knew it, I was clocking in at 9:30AM and clocking out at 5:30PM six days a week.
Initially it was all very exciting. I had my own office; the new job was a dream! I was finally adulating. I loved both my co-workers and clients. Everyday felt like something new and exciting until one day it felt like my worst nightmare. Maybe it was the adrenaline wearing off and reality setting in. anyways, I quickly realized that 9-5 life wasn’t what I dreamt it up to be. All of the warnings I ignored about the “real world” were truer than I could imagine, and left me wishing I’d been a little more prepared before entering the workforce after college.
So here’ s what I learnt after entering the workforce:
You will be exhausted: if you think you were exhausted in college with assignments and a part-time job, you have no idea what you are in for! Get ready to learn anything you can about time management! If you want to maintain a personal life in addition to a professional life you are going to need to manage your time well. Internships don’t give you the real world work experience 100%. My role as an intern was more or less always the same. However, the pressure of actually having a paycheck that I could lose at any moment, or the shame that comes with getting fired, is a different level of anxiety and stress on its own. Plus while I thought I was “doing the job” as an intern, I really wasn’t. There is so much that employers wont trust you with until you actually have skin in the game. Most interns don’t experience the roller coaster of late night calls, emails, and general stress at how quick things can change in the workplace.
Make your mornings count: Let me start this by saying, I am not a morning person. If you know me, I am two to four cups of coffee gal, and then maybe you can talk to me. But, here’s a thing when you have an employer and work 9-5, you basically give your day to someone else. By the time you get home it will be like six or seven, if you have a long commute, and you have done nothing for yourself. I repeat it will be six or seven and you have done nothing for yourself, five days a week! Take advantage of your mornings and make them count! Do something tat fuels your soul and take a moment for yourself. You have to prioritize you while adulting otherwise you simply wont have time for yourself.
Your boss is human too: Bosses make mistakes, have flaws, and are imperfect. As much as you think you have on your plate, they have more. Next time you want to bitch about your boss, remember there is something to learn from them. If they want you to stay late, that sucks and it’s okay to be totally annoyed. However; keep in mind that’s something you never want to do to someone when you are in you boss’ position, every moment is a teachable moment. It’s a lesson in stamina, patience, and gratitude (because if your boss is making you stay late, let’s just take a moment to imagine how miserable they are in their personal lives).
Feed your soul (and your belly) during lunch: Whether you work in a fast or slow paced environment, it’s easy to just want to work through lunch and try to get out ASAP. Resist the urge! Most companies put it in your employment agreement that you have to take lunch. Labor laws in other words, you really cannot leave early in HR’s eyes if you skipped your lunch. This is also usually the first step on the road to burn out. Since you are required to take a lunch, take it! If it only takes you five minutes to eat, great! Use that time to do something else like read, walk, and get some vitamin D. there really is no excuse when you have so much at your fingertips. Thanks to modern technology!
Ask for help: You are not expected to know everything. Let your perfectionist drive go and embrace not knowing all the things. This is one of the few times in your career where it’s just okay to not know. Most of us are coming from fairly competitive mindsets in the academic world. Let that go, now is the time to learn how to be a team player. Of course healthy competition is needed for excelling in your corner, but not at the expense of others. Also, if you don’t learn how to work well with others and ask for help, show a little vulnerability, your paranoia and anxiety will probably shoot through the roof and you will end up self- sabotaging your success and feel isolated in your work place. On a slightly related tangent, ask questions too if you can’t think of a question to ask then take note. It could be a sign that you are not going to be interested in this type of work for very long. In my experience, I have a million questions when I am interested in something. Even if I 100% understand the information that was just presented to me, I think of ways to up level it and break into the next level of my career, I want to understand how all the things work at all levels of a project or organization. If I am not asking questions about how things work, higher up or to the bottom, which makes easier to understand things better, then that’s concerning to me too. I will probably loose interest soon.
Keep your personal life, personal: I know its tempting to have work besties, but once you break that personal boundary with one person at work, it’s easier and easier to lean on others for emotional support during office hours. Play that tape forward and you will be probably labeled as “emotional” or “drama” throughout the workplace. It’s like “breaking the seal” and letting the flood gates flow a little too freely. Better to check your personal life at the door by putting your phone on airplane mode (if you can) while working. In dire situations talk directly to your boss and excuse yourself for the day or a time period to get your emotions and things in life together before returning to the workplace.
Stay away from gossips: It might be a negative comment, it might be telling other people’s business, it might be witnessing a rant from someone having a bad day and then telling someone else to stay away since they are having a rough day. All of that is gossip. Try to get in the mindset that any negative commentary outside of your work (e.g. someone didn’t get you the document you needed to get your job done), is gossip. Again the exception is if someone didn’t do their job and it impacted your ability to get yours done, otherwise, avoid all negativity at any cost.
It will all be worth it: regardless of your experience with an employer, whether it’s good or bad, it will be worth it. But only if you make it worth it. Every opportunity or experience we are presented in life is an opportunity to learn and grow. The jobs that have been the most painful for me, whether emotionally or physically, have taught me something about myself, the world, and others. They have shaped me and provided invaluable insight into my future.
If you have been around this article for a minute, you know my career hasn’t been linear. In fact, it has been all over the place at times. However, it wouldn’t have been the same without the experiences I have had in my career and I wouldn’t want it any other way.