Navigating the very beginning of your career is a daunting task, especially when it feels like you’re doing everything wrong. Now, I’m no expert—I’m just like you—but there’s a few things I’ve picked up while on my first job.
Overwhelmed at your first job? You’re totally valid. As a fresh grad only months into my own first job, I don’t know how many more silent wails of “I’m just a girl!!!!” I have left in me. Having to deal with a completely new routine, all the crazy pressure, and the lightning-fast speed of work is precarious terrain to be traversed.
I’d also like to preface this article with a disclaimer that first job experiences are not one size-fits-all. I’m fortunate enough to be able to have my job and deal with it in ways that I can, and have the choices that I do. For many, a job is simply something that sustains them. And in this economy, that’s already so difficult. So, this advice may work for you, it may not, but regardless, I hope you’ll find a way to get through it all—fulfilled one way or another.
Something that’s been drilled into my head by social media, my friends, my family, and more recently, one of my bosses, was that your job is not your life. You are not your job. The work you do, love it or not, does not define you. It also isn’t a measure of your worth. But whether you’re working simply to earn money or because you absolutely love what you do, it gets tough. If you have some advice for me, feel free to share it because God knows I need it, but for now, I have some of my own.
First thing to do when faced with something upsetting or overwhelming—take a breather. It works, I can confirm. Pause for a moment and take some time, no matter how little you have, to focus on something else or figure out your next steps, whichever works for you. Often, when we’re dealing with a challenge or when things pile up, we become a panicky mess of jumbled thoughts and feelings. Just take a deep breath, and prepare yourself to move forward.
TRUST THE PROCESS
Here’s the thing—you’re new. You’re green. You’re not a failure. You’ve been thrust into the world of labor and no matter how prepared you or other people think you are, no matter what industry you’re in, it’ll always be a difficult learning curve. You’ll face challenges that everyone faces, and some will be unique to you. You will make mistakes, do things badly, get reprimanded, and fall short of your goals, among many other things. But here’s another thing—you will learn, and you will grow. You’ll get surprised one day that things seem to be easier, you’re getting things done faster. This is your first job! Allow yourself room to breathe and grow.
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Whether they sit beside you in the office or they work in a completely different division, friends in the office will get you through your 9-hour shifts. They can offer moments of reprieve, humor in the hardships, and a shared understanding of your situation. Feel free to laugh, rant, complain, make TikToks, or find peace in company.
It’s important to be smart with your money, no matter how much you earn. But it’s also important to find ways to keep your morale up and give yourself room to enjoy a life outside of work. Those little glimmers of joy you find in your iced coffee halfway through the day, in the first dinner you take your family out to, or even in those shoes that you saved up for—you deserve all the good things after doing your best. Don’t ever think you don’t deserve the good.
DON’T BE ASHAMED TO EXIT WITH GRACE
Trust your gut. Don’t dwell too much on what other people will think if you quit—no matter how long you’ve been at your job. At best, they’ll understand. At worst, you’ll simply have to explain yourself. And if someone thinks of you badly even after you do that, that’s on them.
If something deep within you just isn’t sitting right, don’t be afraid to cut your losses and move on. Whether you had a great time or a terrible time at the job, you most likely will have learned a thing or two—and at least you have that. Onto better things!
BUT DON’T GIVE UP SO EASILY
I am, admittedly, a notorious quitter. I often quit even before I start, convincing myself that I can’t do something so there’s no need to try. And I see so many people—friends, colleagues, strangers on social media—underestimate themselves in similar ways. Expectations placed upon me and the fear of not meeting them makes me go “what if I quit like rn…” almost every week (which is a common experience for sure), but I know that’s not the best decision for me right now. There’s so much more to do, to learn, and to experience.
Just know the road will have its bumps. You’re going to have to do a bit of growing up and make decisions, trust in yourself and the people you work with, and just take it one day at a time. Now let’s see if I can take my own advice. But you and me—we got this.
Continue Reading: 5 Things I Want to Tell My 18-Year Old Self Before She Starts College