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As many of you know, I started my first “real” job in March 2014. And by real, I mean 8:30-5, Monday through Friday, full benefits, and related to my college degree. Wow. I got lucky and landed it just before all the fresh grads got out for “summer break.”
It hasn’t been easy though. I thought I knew more than I did (what a surprise…), I got knocked down a few notches, and I had at least three mental/emotional breakdowns in my first month of employment. Not what I would call a solid start. Then, I came across this article.
If you don’t follow Relevant Magazine yet, you need to. I don’t care what your religious views are, it’s a solid magazine/website dedicated to helping millennials. The article, “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Full-time Job,” offered huge insight to someone who thought they had it all figured out (a.k.a. me). So much that, I have felt the need to share it with everyone I know who is starting a new job or on the job hunt.
Here are the 10 things, and my responses/additions to them.
#1 You Can’t Be Anything You Want To Be.
I bought into the lie that I could do anything I wanted. I had big dreams, and I went to college in Maine for a year to pursue them. I swore up and down that I would work with the orcas at SeaWorld. I would be a performer, entertaining young and old, diving off the nose of a massive killer whale. Yes, believe it or not, this was my dream.
Then I went to get my scuba certification, a universal requirement for a marine mammal trainer. That was when my dreams started unraveling. I passed my certification test, yet every dive was a struggle. My ears did not want to equalize with the new pressure.
Fact: You must pass your certification test at thirty feet below the surface. Good news: I’m pretty darn good at thirty feet. Bad news: It’s also my limit. When I try to dive deeper, my body starts resisting. My head and ears scream at the pain of the pressure. Fact: The minimum an orca trainer must dive: 50 feet (without air). I could almost see my dreams sinking to the bottom of the lake that day. Fact: Even if I had attained my dream of working at Seaworld, I wouldn’t have been able to perform with the whales because they don’t do that anymore. Alas, it was never meant to be.
The author’s point here is that you aren’t always going to succeed in your dreams. She restates, you can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be everything you were meant to be. That is solid advice. I wish I had thought of it before!
#2 Everyone is Winging it Just Like You.
I remind myself of this tidbit when I feel lost and confused in my work. The author says you can feel like a fraud because you’re making a lot of it up as you go. I feel this almost every day at my job. When I started, I was not given an official position title. I made up my own, based on the work I do. I am a content creator. I’m also a link builder. I work in SEO. PR and marketing girl? That’s me too because that’s what I went to school for. HA! The irony of it all? College taught me nothing in relation to my current “PR” tasks. College taught me how to communicate effectively and think critically.
DON’T THINK THAT COLLEGE WILL PREPARE YOU FOR A CAREER BECAUSE IT WON’T. I’m not saying college is a waste of time. You need a degree. However, if you’re attending a liberal arts college and not planning on being a teacher, it really doesn’t matter what you major in. It’s the internships and outside work you do that will land you the job. The degree will open the door.
The main point here: Don’t let OCD (obsessive comparison disorder) affect your work. Almost everyone is flying by the seat of their pants, including management.
#3 Mission Fit Matters More Than Job Fit.
This one hits a little harder each day. Currently, I work for a Christian company that sells appliances and furniture online. That’s a far cry from my original dream job. I love working for someone with similar beliefs, but eventually, I want to work somewhere that fuels my passion. I don’t know about you, but it’s tough for me to get fired up about the latest Maytag laundry pair.
If your beliefs or passion don’t align with their mission, it’s never going to work. You’ll be able to hang on for a while, but eventually, you’ll have to move on, unless you want to live in misery for the rest of your days.
#4 Live to Work, but the Right Way.
This is a huge struggle for me because I’m up to my neck in student loans and I need money NOW. Where’s J.G. Wentworth when I need him? I work because I need the money. Work was meant to be meaningful. I believe every job is purposeful and that humans were made for work. It fulfills a base need wired deep within our core.
Living to work is a good thing, and it’s easier to desire work when you have #3 (mission or passion). Just don’t let the job overtake your life. Workaholics are usually fueled by pride, greed, or vanity. If your mission in life is just to make money, maybe a priority check is due.
#5 Staying Late is Overrated.
I never stay late because my job doesn’t require it, yet I still see co-workers stay past their schedule, unpaid, to do more work. It’s one thing to finish a task; it’s another to let work consume your life. Is it worth it? Not to me. I refuse to let a job steal valuable time from the people and things I love.
#6 Be Entrepreneurial.
This is tough, especially if you are introverted and lack confidence. According to the author, you should never assume a passive role in your first job. I agree with that statement 68 percent. The other 32% is me saying, it’s okay to be passive if the purpose of the job is to gain skills. Is it ideal? Probably not. Will it kill your future career? Unlikely.
For those in the entrepreneurial mindset… awesome! Get out there and start pitching those ideas! For those of us just brave enough to make eye contact with the sales rep. downstairs, listening and learning is plenty for now. Take it in strides.
#7 Tedious Tasks are Meaningful.
Just because it sucks doesn’t mean it’s pointless. I can say that with recent experience. Last week, I saw one of my most hated tasks come to fruition. You could call this particular task the bane of my entire position. For over a month, I had been researching and pitching story ideas to people all over St. Louis and the web, to no avail. I thought this is such a waste of time. Nobody cares about this! But I pressed on because my supervisor made me (and predicted the following result).
Sure enough, out of the blue, a guy I had emailed several weeks prior wanted to publish our story on their site THE FOLLOWING DAY. Talk about a quick deadline! I was a chicken with my head cut off pulling the necessary details together. Was it worth it? You betcha! Do I still dread continuing on with this task? You betcha! Point: The annoying jobs matter.
#8 It’s Okay to Leave Before the One Year Mark.
There is a lot of debate on this idea, but I don’t think there is one right way here. Leaving a job you’ve grown out of before a year is up is fine, in my opinion. It doesn’t become an issue until it becomes a trend in your career history. You do not want to be seen as a job hopper. If there’s a better opportunity out there that aligns with your mission, go for it! That’s where you’ll grow the most.
#9 The Grass Will Always Be Greener.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s always going to be something better out there. Chasing every awesome opportunity is a recipe for failure. It’s good to stick to your guns. If your job is sucking the life out of you, find something better, but don’t leave just because you can. Think long and hard before you move onto those greener pastures. You want to be prepared. Find a company you will value and identify with.
#10 The Real World Is Better Than College.
Some won’t agree with this, but I believe the real world is better than college because there are new freedoms. You trade college freedom for graduate freedom. Even when the real world sucks and knocks you down, there’s a feeling of accomplishment there. You’re making money and relying on yourself. It’s terrifying and beautiful. The worst part about the real world is that your debt isn’t imaginary anymore. It’s real and won’t wait to be paid. Still yet, the real world is full of surprises and worth it all in the end.
What about you? What do you wish you had known about your first “real” job?