Note to my past self, there’s no need to rush when it comes to getting that first job.
Once you finish school, the world is technically your oyster as you’re free to do anything you want. And for many people, that (sadly) means entering the dreaded job hunt. Getting a job is the goal that nearly every segment of our lives has been pushing us to do. But while it’s one thing to enter and navigate a stressful and tough job market, it’s another to say yes to a job and enter the workforce. Going from being part of the unemployment statistic to the employed statistic can be a world shift that comes with a set of challenges that many may not prepared for.
I should know as I still remember how excited and terrified I was signing my first contract. Little did I know that my life was low-key about to change, for better and worse. Years later, I’ve learned some things that probably would have made the younger me have an easier time at work and maybe as well as the fresh grads who are entering the workforce for the first time.
YOU (PROBABLY) WON’T HAVE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Jobs can come in a variety of opportunities, from office jobs to freelance gigs. In my case, I work a 10-to-7 with a hybrid office setup from Monday to Friday. But regardless of what kind of job you have, one thing I learned is how much time it takes away from you. Unless you have flexible hours, your job sucks up so much of your time you barely have free time for yourself.
You’re either too busy getting ready for work in the morning or too tired once your shift is done. It then leaves you with the weekend for your free time, but we all know those two days go by in a snap of a finger.
THERE’S NO NEED TO RUSH
I graduated in May 2020, the first batch of the pandemic generation. Understandably, I put off finding a job for the rest of the year as I, and the rest of the world, dealt with the initial onslaught of COVID-19. But looking back, I wish I didn’t jump so soon into getting my first job at the start of 2021.
I understand the job market these days can be brutal, but you shouldn’t feel the need to move on from one point of your life to the next so quickly. Hustle culture has made us think that not keeping busy is a sign of laziness, but it’s not. Whether you’re taking your time to find the job that’s right for you or just want to enjoy your free time, savor that lull before you enter the workforce.
MONEY CAN GO BY FAST
I still remember the first time I got my first paycheck. As the lockdown kept me at home for most of 2021 and the money came pouring in, I was over the moon seeing my savings grow. That is, until, the lockdown lifted and I was spending faster than the price of gas was going up. Saving money? In this economy? With how expensive everything is these days, I sadly didn’t realize that I was spending more than I was earning, which is why I wished my younger self took saving money seriously.
Unless you make six figures or live off generational wealth, money can deplete fast. As early as your first paychecks, make it a habit to keep track of your spending and set aside a set amount per payday to an emergency fund.
YES, THERE CAN BE WORKPLACE DRAMA
I thought that after I graduated high school, all that petty drama I experienced would be left in the past. But the corporate and professional worlds can be high-stress environments where egos meet ambitions. Sadly, that means some people may look down on you just because they feel that they’re better than you or that you don’t deserve to be where you are.
I unfortunately had to deal with that petty drama that made me feel like I was back in high school. TBH, it can be demoralizing. But at the end of the day, you have a job to do, and you shouldn’t let what other people think about you stop you from doing what you do best.
THE FIRST JOB IS JUST THE START OF YOUR CAREER
I feel blessed with the fact that my job is in a field I’ve always dreamed of being a part of. But everyone has their journey to finding their calling. And one thing I learned was that the first job is just the first chapter of your career. Of course, it would be nice to have your first job be your dream job and stick with it for the years to come. But the reality is that things don’t always work out the way you want.
Whether it’s because you dislike your co-workers, feel that you can grow in other opportunities, or the work sucks, don’t feel discouraged from resigning and seeking another job that’s more fit for you. Also, if you’re having a bad day at work, don’t beat yourself too much about it. You’re just starting out, it’s ok if you don’t know everything.
YOUR JOB SHOULDN’T BE YOUR WHOLE LIFE
If I could go back in time and tattoo this statement on the forehead of my 2021 self, I would. In my desire to do my responsibilities and prove myself as a valuable team member, I would often spend so much of my time dedicated to my job, even when I was done with my shift. I attached myself so much to my output at work to the point where if it wasn’t received well, I would take it personally. My physical, mental, and emotional health was draining because I was so preoccupied with my work.
While it’s okay if you want to prove yourself at your job or organize your professional endeavors, there’s a danger to attaching your purpose in life solely to your occupation. There should be a clear divide between what you do at work and who you are as a person because people, myself included, fall into the trap that self-worth is determined by our job, which should not be the case. I almost quit my dream job because of how much of myself I was giving to it and feeling like I was getting nothing in return. At the end of the day, what you do professionally is just a part of who you are, not the whole picture.