Starting out in the professional world is miserable and magical to the extent that T. Swift should’ve written a song about it. It’s a thrill to find a place you belong, and one that offers you health benefits. On the other hand, the tedious tasks that come with any entry-level job can be thankless and unfulfilling. Here are 20 lessons that will ensure your survival:
1. Your work is seen and appreciated, even if you aren’t thanked for it.
At some point on your professional journey, you will feel underappreciated and anonymous. Some bosses won’t thank you and will instead take the Don Draper approach and say they don’t need to thank you because “that’s what the money’s for.”
2. Paying your dues is frustrating, but will be worth it if you’re in the right place.
If paying your dues upsets you, consider why. Maybe it’s because you’re not working toward the right goal. You’d be willing to jump through hoops for a job you loved. If you’re unwilling, or frustrated by the menial tasks, that may say something about the path you’re on.
3. Pity your jaded coworkers.
They are only looking down on you because you have everything they don’t. You are young and you can decide in a year that you want to try a different job. They can’t. They’re stuck and are jealous that you aren’t.
5. Pity yourself as little as possible.
When you start stressing about your work situation, you slip into self-doubt. Whether your job is a dream, or just a means to an end, it’s still helping pay your rent. It’s still teaching you something, or getting you somewhere. If nothing else, it’s paying for your happy hour tab. (Admittedly, it may also be causing your need for a happy hour tab.)
6. Your previous work experience is more valuable than you think.
If you’ve previously worked in retail, as a server, or at a 9-5 in a different industry, don’t write off those experiences on the pretense that they can’t help you. You will be able to perform better in this role because of your past experience. Your understanding of how to react to different situations has been honed thanks to your last job.
7. You can’t make a decision based on what your family wants for you.
But you also can’t pick a career path just to snub your parents.
8. You aren’t on a path to nowhere.
If you’re getting overly frustrated and it’s been a year or two or five, and nothing’s changed, you have the right to feel restless. But showing up everyday is still furthering your career. If you are serious about making a move, think about what your situation is lacking and assess potential new roles based on that. If you want to move up within your company, arrange a sit-down with your boss. Ask for more responsibility, instead of just making demands or giving ultimatums. People promote people they like.
9. Cry whenever you want, but find privacy first.
The bosses that tell you crying is wildly inappropriate tend to suck, but that doesn’t mean you want them to look down on you. So if you’re going to burst, excuse yourself.
10. Your office culture is only as good as you make it.
If you’re determined to make your work situation a success, then mingling comes with the territory. Meet people. Stop saying you already have enough friends, because that’s never true. If you don’t click with the people on your team, go schmooze with a different team. Don’t exclusively gravitate to the people in your age group.
11. Corporate offices are kind of like Gossip Girl.
People talk. You may assume people are loyal to you, but honestly, you work in a hierarchy and you have to be careful what you say.
12. Open office set-ups are better in theory than in concept.
You’ll describe it as “cool,” “hip” and “fun” on the phone to your friends after your first week on the job. In reality, it just means your boss can see you on your phone at all times. You could be posting a tweet to your company’s account and it would still look like you’re slacking off.
13. Ask yourself: Do you want to take your boss’ job?
The best piece of professional advice I’ve gotten is from a book I never read. The book boasted that it would teach me how to one day take my boss’ job. And that’s when it occurred to me: I don’t want to take my boss’ job. If your superior’s position isn’t remotely appealing to you, that’s a problem.
14. Read the trade pubs of your industry.
Every morning before your day starts. Pick up Ad Age, or Bev World, or the publication associated with whatever industry you’re in. If you work at a magazine, read it cover to cover even if you’re not on the editorial staff.
15. Having a boss you like is a privilege.
Some bosses will never be as nice as they were when they took you out to lunch on your first day. If that level of kindness continues, consider yourself lucky. If they reveal themselves to be crazy, don’t let it rub off on you.
16. Be grateful to everyone who landed you this job.
Don’t forget about anyone. If you leave, thank them for everything they did to help you. And thank everyone who listened to you bitch on Friday nights.
17. Failure comes with the territory.
You will do things wrong. Even if you had a 4.0 in college and were president of every club on your campus, you still won’t do everything right all the time. So when you get feedback, listen to it. Accept it with grace.
18. Make your own coffee.
Office coffee is the worst. It has this vial burnt taste that you should avoid subjecting yourself to.
19. Stop bragging about your job.
You can tell people that you like your job, you can say how great your boss is, but you can’t flatly tell people your situation trumps theirs. You don’t know what they need. You might not even know what you need.
20. Don’t be the person who initiates Facebook friendship.
At least not in your first 6 months.