7 Lessons Learned in My Career

lessons learned in my career | post-grad job lessons | post-grad job advice | job advice | lessons from my career | career tips | jobs tips | success tips | s'more happiness
When I let go of what I am, I become what might be.
— Lao Tzu

If you’ve been following my blog for quite some time, you’ll know that in college I used to wonder about who I would be post-grad. I thought about the different paths and avenues my career could and would take, along with wondering if it would make me happy. I dreamed of feeling fulfilled through each job and doing so placed such a high expectation on each role. This expectation led me to seek out three vastly different opportunities and taught me a lot along the way.

Now that I have been at my current role for almost a year, I thought it would be good to reflect back on lessons learned during my 2.5 years post-grad.

Organization is key.

I’ve always been an organized person, especially throughout college, and find that it can help take some of the stress away from impending deadlines.In my first job out of college, I was thrown into a heavy workload, and quickly learned that organization is key. Numerous tasks had various deadlines (all within about 2-3 days), so I wrote down a list organized by due date, then, I started tackling each step! This lesson has carried me through my next roles as I had to ensure a large event took off without a hitch and manage numerous content workflows.

Your first few jobs will not be the “dream job” you pictured.

This lesson is probably one of the most reality-checking ones I learned in the past 2.5 years. I am guilty of setting high expectations for myself, situations, and other people. What happens when you do that is you’ll always get let down because reality never matches expectations. I remember when I started college, I felt a pang of disappointment because it wasn’t like what was depicted on TV and in the movies. It was only once I dropped my expectations for college that I really started enjoying it and stopped feeling homesick.

The same is true for my career, which you would have thought I would have learned the lesson already but I didn’t until recently. While growing up and even in college, I had a picture for what my career would look like, and certain TV shows and movies reinforced that picture (obviously not The Office, although it is one of my favorite shows, I hoped I wouldn’t be bored endlessly day-to-day). I think the lesson is not to have such high expectations and just experience the situation for what it is. I think that there are always some positive moments and learning experiences that each job provides.

You are not defined by your job title or what you do from 9-5.

I have seen people get really wrapped up into their job titles and how they spend each day. While yes, I do think that your career plays an important role in your overall life, I think the way we view it needs to change. The reason being, jobs are temporary. The role you have today may not be the role you are in this time next year. If we start identifying ourselves by what we do in our careers, when that eventually goes away because we decide we want to try something new, get downsized, or retire, it will become a lot harder to adjust to that circumstance. We may also have a hard time accepting that a new career path is right for us because our identity is so rooted in one line of work.

Create a balanced life.

This plays into my previous lesson, but creating a balanced life is crucial, especially when having a bad day at work. I learned early on that although my workday might not have been the greatest, I can’t let it ruin the entire day. One time I arrived home after a particularly grueling day, and instead of letting it get the best of me, I made plans to do something fun and delicious, go out for ice cream! Here are some of the things I like to do to help create a balanced life:

  • Grab dinner with a friend

  • Go to the gym

  • Do an at-home manicure and pedicure

  • Read a book

  • Work on a side-hustle

  • Journal

  • Craft/get creative

  • Spend time with Penny (my dog)

Discover what aspects you enjoy, and which you could do without in the next role.

Very quickly in my first job, I was able to start noting the things that I liked, and the things I could do without in my next role. This is probably one of the best lessons to learn to help set yourself up for success in your next job. When you understand what you enjoy doing, and what you don’t, you are able to ask inquisitive interview questions to make sure that your next position is aligned with what you are looking for. Now, don’t get me wrong, there will definitely be aspects of every job that you don’t enjoy doing, hopefully, those aspects are minuscule parts of your overall workload, but don’t think you will land a job where you enjoy 100% of everything you are doing all the time.

Also, don’t be surprised if what you think you enjoy and don’t change from role to role. My first job out of college was primarily all writing and very little of anything else, so I thought I would like a little less writing in my second job. It turned out that the second job had barely any writing, and I was missing it! The role I am in currently has a nice balance of writing with project management and strategic thinking.

It is okay to change your mind about your career multiple times.

So you are in your first..or second..or third post-grad job and aren’t quite sure what you want your next step to be? I’m in the same boat as you. Although I enjoy my current role, my forward-thinking brain is trying to think what step I should pursue further down the line. I’ve changed my mind numerous times about my career, and I think slowly, but surely I am taking steps to reach my next goal. The bottom line here is, don’t be afraid to pursue new avenues or try something new with your current role that you didn’t think you would like or do before. Be open to change, and it can open a whole new world for you (cue Aladdin song).

Be confident in your abilities, open to learning, and don’t be afraid to speak up.

For those of you reading this blog that know me, you will know that I am a relatively soft-spoken person. But, that doesn’t mean I am afraid to speak up and share my opinions on projects and initiatives. While I think there is a time and place to share those ideas, you need to understand the company and its history with certain projects before sharing thoughts, don’t be afraid to do so! It can be tough being the youngest (or one of the youngest) people on the team and it feels like you have to prove yourself quickly. Just be confident in your abilities, open to learning, and don’t be afraid to speak up!

I’m sure it will be interesting to re-read this article in a few years and add on some additional lessons. What have you learned through your career so far?