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A year at work

This week (yesterday, to be more precise) was my 1-year anniversary at my job. This isn’t my first legit job, or the first one to take up full-time hours, but it is my first legit and full-time job.

I consider myself pretty fortunate. I didn’t have to work in high school other than odd jobs like tutoring and babysitting. I worked in college, but usually only part-time with hours that worked around my classes — and I was compensated in scholarship funds, which made school a lot more affordable (because scholarships aren’t taxed, every penny you earn actually goes toward tuition). After college, I nannied for a wonderful family part-time while I saved up and then hunted for a full-time gig. My first real adulting job is actually in my field. A lot of other folks can only say a couple of those things, if any.

No matter where you’re at on the job/career spectrum, you’ve probably got quite a bit left to learn (I definitely do). And you’ve probably learned quite a bit already (I definitely have).

So in honor of a year at my job, here are some of the things I’ve learned that I’d like to bring with me in my future career path and share with anyone else who might find it helpful:

  • Don’t sell yourself short. Is this my first proper, adult job? Yup. Was I underqualified when I was hired? Absolutely not. I actually exceeded all the requirements (i.e. 7 years of experience instead of the 2 years asked for). A lot of the experience was in an academic setting or not for pay, but it meant I could do the job. I had never officially worked in marketing before, but had still done the tasks in a variety of other contexts. Own your skills, experience, and qualities, and ask for what you deserve.
  • “I don’t know” is a legitimate answer. You want to stand out from the crowd? Admit when you don’t know something, and follow it up with steps you could take to learn whatever it is you don’t know. I spent too much time believing people when they told me “I don’t know” isn’t a real answer, and it messed me up. Be humble, and then grow knowledge where you can.
  • Tact is good. Hedging is not. This is especially prominent among women in the workforce, but happens with men as well. Please, please be thoughtful and intentional about how you interact with coworkers or clients — whether that’s  raising an idea, disagreeing, etc. But don’t undercut your input by over-cushioning anything you say. I talk more about it in this post, and this article has some more advice on that front.
  • Make friends. I have a whole separate post on this, but the gist is that — especially if you moved to a new area for work — your coworkers are going to be your de facto social nexus purely based on the hours you spend working. If you’re willing, strike up conversations at appropriate times or join in on activities outside the workplace. For example, I regularly ask coworkers about things they’ve mentioned in their personal lives, and joined the office softball team for a social opportunity even though it is not my sport.
  • Ask for feedback. In the past year, there have been times I felt like I was totally underperforming, but my colleagues actually thought I was doing great. There have also been times when I thought I had an assignment handled and made big mistakes. The best way to gauge how you’re doing is to literally ask. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your manager/boss right now, ask a coworker who sees the actual work you do.
  • Identify where you want to grow. You don’t have to know where you’ll be in 5 years or 10 years or what your dream job is. But you should know how you want to improve, what you want to learn, and what loose trajectory you want to aim toward. Achievable goals should be able to be measured in some form, and have a method of accountability (that could be a timeline, someone to check up on you, or something else entirely).
  • Remember the basics. Be nice, work hard, listen well, pay attention. General good employee stuff.
  • Your job is not your life. If you live in the U.S. (or another high-productivity focused nation like Japan or the U.K.), we tend to lose sight of this one. If your job is also your passion, that’s awesome. It still shouldn’t be your whole life. I limit this by not having my work email on my phone (I do have Slack), and trying really hard to set clear boundaries between my work life and the rest of my life. Unplug when you get home if you can. Take a vacation when you can. Set time limits for doing or talking about work if you need to. This doesn’t mean not to work hard, but simply a reminder to live outside of work.

I really enjoy my job, but know I likely won’t be doing it forever (as of 2016, Millennials were reported to change career-type jobs an average of 4 times in their first decade after college). But it’s a good fit for now, and I’m looking forward to what I’ll learn in my second year.

What has your first big job taught you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because the camera angles at my desk are not prime.)

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So long 2018

2018 ended fairly similar to how it started: not the way I had envisioned. Of course, this time it was alone on my couch instead of asleep too early on a friend’s bedroom floor, but you get the picture. Actually, not what I’d envisioned sums up the whole year pretty well.

The last year has included some of my most treasured memories and proudest achievements — getting engaged to the person I love more than anything, moving out and starting my first full-time job, surprising my little sister for her 10th birthday and my family for Christmas, my first tattoo, a phenomenal trip to Europe, getting my writing accepted for publication, and so many wonderful moments with loved ones.

But I have to be honest. Between those gems, the rest of the year has felt like a slog and sometimes worse. Not that I ever expect life to be easy, but this year was the most difficult one I’ve been through, period. It both dragged on and raced past, and was always ready to dole out another hit as soon as I got back up (sometimes before). The stuff that happened a year or even 6 months ago feels as blurry as things that happened several years ago.

Some of it I don’t care to remember. Some of it will never leave. Some of it is far from over. It has been a constant struggle to stay tender-hearted enough to avoid apathy or resignation, and to stay strong enough that every new thing life sends my way isn’t completely overwhelming.

Still, there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’ve learned and grown and have been incredibly fortunate in a lot of regards. But if all the things that have happened in the last year — good and bad — have one collective lesson to offer, it’s this: There will always be pain and there will always be beauty, and all you can control is how you respond to them. The world is a wonderful, meaningful, screwed up place. People are capable of unfathomable good and unimaginable malice. Life doesn’t stop or slow down, no matter how much to want it to — whether it’s to savor the moment or catch a break.

Very little is constant. Love, hope, and faith are — but you have to nurture them. I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions, and there’s no way to know what a new year will bring. But whatever does come, I’m hoping to respond to the good things more readily and not let the challenges drag me down. I changed a lot in the last year, and it’s hard to say how much of it was growth. This year I’m hoping to grow more instead of just reacting.

What lesson do you want to bring into the new year? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and here’s to adulting in the new year!