5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Career

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Career | Career Tips | Work Tips | Career Tips for College Grads | First Day on the Job Tips | Post Grad Career Tips | Work-life balance | communication skills in the workplace | organization tips in the workplace | s'more happiness

This post has been swirling around in my head for the past few weeks. Now that I am two years out of college (and have worked three vastly different jobs), I thought I would share 5 things I wish I knew before starting my career. 

1. There's Always a Learning Curve

Imagine receiving the syllabus for 10 college classes in one day. That is what the first day of work feels like. You are inundated with so much information and new faces. I always left the first few days of a new job feeling drained and tired. But, just know that feeling goes away. Pretty soon, everything that was new to you will become second nature. 

The learning curve applies to everything. With a new job and company comes processes, tasks, and projects that you've never seen before. Each company does things differently so learning that culture takes some time too. I wrote a blog post a few months ago about the best interview questions to ask, and I highly recommend reading that if you want to ensure the company you select to work for has a great culture for you.  

My advice to you is to be patient. Enjoy the early days and have fun learning about your new projects and coworkers. 

2. Creating a Schedule for Your Hobbies is Important

Once you are settled in your new role, you'll be responsible for a wide range of projects with deadlines looming closer and closer. It can be easy to get stressed and overwhelmed, which is why creating a schedule for your hobbies is important. You need time to recharge in order to be successful in your job.

Studies have shown that making time for hobbies and taking care of yourself leads to better job performance. So, book that 7 pm yoga class, head home on time to eat dinner with your family, practice self-care without the guilt! Work-life balance is possible, you just need to manage your time a bit better.

3. Meal Prepping Helps Avoid the 3 pm Crash

One of the adjustments between college and work life is the 3 pm crash. In college, your classes are rarely back-to-back over an 8-hour period. Most likely, you'll have two classes a day for 3 hours total. The rest of that time is yours to nap, eat, do homework, and hang out with friends. The working world is not structured like that. You'll likely arrive at work between 8 and 9 am, have lunch around 12 or 12:30 pm, and head home at 4 or 5 pm. 

Rushing around in the morning or grabbing your lunch on the go while you are hungry leads to unhealthy food choices. I remember my job at a digital marketing agency was in a small city and there were so many places to grab lunch. Whenever I didn't pack my lunch, I would head to grab a quick grilled cheese or fried food. Suffice to say, that left me feeling so tired by the end of the day.

Taking time to meal prep your lunches and snacks and packing it with you each day prevents unhealthy food choices and the 3 pm crash. 

4. Being a Self-Starter is Crucial to Success

In college, all of your assignments and projects are given to you without much room for creativity. While managers do give you things they'd like you to work on, it is crucial to be a self-starter as well. Think of areas that need improvement or updates and propose a project plan to your boss. I guarantee they will appreciate your thoughtfulness and like the idea of you working on a project that will benefit the business. Note, make sure that you understand what the business's needs are before creating a project proposal. 

Another way that you can be a self-starter is by figuring out the answers to your own questions unless it has something to do with assignment directions. I suggest googling things first, asking a coworker, and then going to your boss. Trust me when I say that they will appreciate you trying to find the answer before interrupting their work with your question. 

5. It's Okay if Your Dream Job Isn't Your Dream Anymore

Sometimes it's hard to know what working in the field you majored in is actually like until you get there. Internships can help, but until you are at a company for 40 hours a week doing the work, you won't know if it's not your dream until you are already there. While it can be challenging accepting that fact, I can tell you that you'll learn a lot about your resilience, patience, and what you want out of life while in a job that isn't your dream anymore. 

My advice to you is to write down all of the things you like about the job you are in and what you don't. Review and determine what your next course of action is. Maybe you need to go back to school to get another degree or alter the industry you are in, or maybe you are still figuring it out. Whatever stage you are in, be patient with yourself. To be honest, I don't know where I see myself in 5 years, and I think that's ok! We aren't supposed to have everything in life figured out. Try to see the positives in the situation you are in now and work to make a change in your life.

I want to end this post by saying you are not alone. I know that it can be all too easy to feel that no one else understands you or knows the challenges you face on a daily basis in your role. But, I do, and I'm sure others do as well! I've experienced three vastly different companies and job roles in the two years since I've graduated and over the next few months, I will be sharing my knowledge to help you thrive in your career.