After college, I was fortunate enough to ease into entering the workforce… well sorta. During undergrad, I started working half days for an internship. Slowly that increased in number of days per week, then numbers of hours per day. In a blink of an eye, it happened; my string of internships turned into a full time job! Before I knew it, I was clocking in at 8:30 and clocking out at 5:30 five days a week.
Initially, I felt so excited! I had my own office, a new professional wardrobe, and business cards! This was the dream! I was #adulting. I loved my co-workers and clients. Every day 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. Perhaps this was why my mom always claimed she was so tired. Anyway, I quickly realized the 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.
Here are 8 things I wish I knew before entering the workforce:
You will be exhausted
If you thought you were exhausted while in college working a side job, you have no idea what you're in for! Granted, I was in night classes for my masters and waitressed on the weekends in addition to a 9-5, so I may not be the best person to ask, but legit, I was exhausted. I felt more tired than I've ever been, and I've worked three jobs at once before. How do people with kids do this?!?
Get ready to learn everything you can about time management! If you want to maintain a personal life in addition to a professional life you're going to need to! And I don't care what anyone says, but an internship is 100% different than actually having an employer. My role as an intern was more or less 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 it's own. Plus, while I thought I was “doing the job” as an intern, I really wasn't. There's so much stuff employers won't 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.
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Make your mornings count
Let me start this by saying, I am not a morning person. If you know me, I'm a four hours of the Today Show and two to four cups of coffee gal, and then maybe you can talk to me. But, here's the thing, when you have an employer and work a 9-5, you basically give your day to someone else. By the time you get home it'll be like 6 or 7, if you have a long commute, and you've done nothing for yourself. I repeat: it'll be 6 or 7 pm and you'll have done nothing for yourself, five days a week! Take advantage of your mornings and make them count! Do something that fuels your soul and take a moment for yourself! You have to prioritize you when adulting, otherwise you simply won't have time for yourself.You have to prioritize you when you're adulting, otherwise you simply won't have time for yourself Click To Tweet
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Keep your personal life, personal
I know it's 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'll probably be 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 period of time to get your ish together before returning.
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You 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 to sort their receipts from the week, 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're in the position, every moment is a #teachablemoment. It's a lesson in stamina, patience, and gratitude (because if you're boss is making you stay late to sort receipts, let's just take a moment to imagine how miserable they are in their personal lives *daydreams and cringes*).
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Feed your soul (and your belly) during lunch
Whether you work in a fast or slow paced environment, it's easy to want to just 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, #laborlaws. In other words, you really can't leave earlier in HR's eyes if you skipped your lunch. This is also usually the first step on the road to burn out.
Since you're required to take a lunch, take it! If it only takes you five minutes to eat, great! Use that time to do a meditation, yoga flow, read a book, or take brisk walk around the black and get some vitamin D. There really is no excuse when you have so much at your finger tips thanks to modern technology!
Listening to gossip, is gossiping
I learned this lesson the hard way. Office gossip is something every person will face at some point in their life. It may sound like:
“Ugh, can you believe she wants me to come in earlier”
“Did you hear that she had a melt down during the meeting”
“Don't tell anyone but, his wife is leaving him”
It might be a negative comment, it might be telling other people's business, it may 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 office gossip. Try to get in the mindset that any negative commentary outside of your actual work (e.g. Someone didn't get you a document you needed to get your job done), is gossip. I learned the hard way that simply being in the room as someone re-told stories about another employee, was “co-signing” the gossip and being lumped into it all. 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.
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 really okay to just not know. Most of us millennials 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 career, 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'll end up self-sabotaging your success and feel isolated in your workplace.
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're not going to be interested in this type of work for very long. In my experience, I have a million questions when I'm 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'm not asking questions about how things work higher up to get down to this super easy to understand info, then that's concerning too me. I'll probably loose interest soon.
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've been around here for a minute, you know my career hasn't been linear. In fact, it's been all over the place at times. However, I wouldn't be able to work full time as a blogger and coach other bloggers to do the same, without the experiences I've had in my career.
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122 thoughts on “8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Entering The Workforce After College”
I wish I had known a lot of this when I started my first job out of college. It’s so overwhelming and kind of like getting pushed into a pool and trying to learn to swim!
Greta | http://www.gretahollar.com
So much truth, keep putting the effort in and you will go far!
So helpful for those of us who are anxious about this, I wouldn’t even have considered some of these things before reading you post!
Hope it relieved some anxiety and left you feeling a little more prepared!
Totalllllly agree with all of this! It’s crazy how work can seem like high school over again sometimes when it comes to gossip and whatnot!
YES! That’s the thing i was most surprised about for sure!
The personal life personal part….on point. I never made that mistake and cringed when I watched others pay for that one. Work is overwhelming and college can’t prepare you for what will meet you!
yes! i made this mistake for sure and it was an important learning lesson!
I wish I read this when I graduated college!
I love this! I also would add, always have a stopping point or end time. Many jobs (like teaching for me) means you take your work home with you. You could end up ALWAYS working, even when you aren’t being payed for it unless you give yourself strict end points. Same goes for blogging, too!
that’s a great point!
I went thru this and everything you say is 100% true. I realized that giving my whole day to someone else just isn’t for me! Taking lunch was always a big one for me. I could tell that I was much more relaxed and in a better mood to get more work done if my belly was happy!
BTW I’m watching the Today show right now as I type this, love it!
haha love it! im’ watching as I respond to everyone! haha
Thank you for being so honest in this post about what it’s like to start working in the “real world”. I think so many new college students entering the workforce think that a 9-5 job is so glamorous and that it’ll be easy but it definitely isn’t! It’s such a big adjustment to get used to (heck I’m STILL getting used to it 3 years later). These are all amazing tips, especially the one about ACTUALLY taking a lunch break!!
yes! even getting to “ease” into it through my internships didn’t help! its jsut so different!
I love this post, thanks for sharing! I can absolutely agree about keeping your personal life personal!
These are awesome Rach. I just couldn’t do a 9-5 building someone else’s dream when I could be building my own!!!!
yes! me either!
Great points here, Rachel! It can be difficult to navigate one’s way through the professional landscape without being entirely prepped for it! Glad to see you took steps to regain your work-life balance! xx, Lindsay
Love this!!!! Being in the workforce now for over 8 years this couldn’t be more true! Scary, but true! And no… I don’t see how parents do it!
Great tips for success in the workplace! Setting aside time for myself every morning helps me feel organized, energized and prepared for the day ahead.
OMG YASSS!!! My first job I so thought I was owning it and I could handle the world. Long story short it sucked and here I am doing something I love!
that’s awesome! fun when things come full circle!
All of this is so, so good for those entering the standard workforce. Sometimes I miss being in a workspace with friends, but most days I don’t miss working in a cubicle. I’m so thankful for my remote job!
Molly | Miss Molly Moon
haha i hear that!
I completely agree with all of these! I learned the hard way on most of these – and am still learning. I didn’t expect the real world to be like this. I was much better at balancing my free time when I worked 3 jobs and was getting my masters. Now, I still work 3 jobs but one is an 8-5 and the other two are only 3 hours a week (each). I think part of my problem is that I do very similar things at my 8-5 as I do for Glitter so when I come home the last thing I want to do is engage on social media more or write another blog post. I’m currently trying to find another job that allows me to stay in marketing but on a different level so I am not so burnt out by the end of the day. Thanks for the tips!
xoxo Lauren | Glitter & Grandeur
Loving this advice! It’s so true that starting your career is a transition. And, I think it’s important to set boundaries and make time for yourself (e.g. your lunch hour) to not get overwhelmed and burned out.
The exhaustion never ends either!! And I agree about taking advantage of your mornings. I love the extra time I get to myself
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