what one year of working life taught me

4 October 2018

University was hands down the best 3 years of my (22 years of ) life. I could go on and on about how great it was. And I did - I wrote an entire blog post dedicated to the 12 lessons I learnt during my three years at University.

When it came to the last semester in my final year of uni, I was scared! I dreaded life after university. Whilst you're told the world is your oyster, to me (wrongly) it seemed like my world was ending. Despite having a comfortable amount of grad jobs offers and being accepted on programmes to do further study - I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't even know what country I wanted to live in. I knew nothing.

So, I chose the working option. And now I'm coming up to a year and 4 months in the workplace. On my work anniversary (I know it's not a thing, but it should be) -  I reflected on all the things I've learnt in the past year.

Having networked with a lot of people in various industries throughout my graduate role and during my internships, I've realised the general consensus is that people rarely love their first jobs. This was me. At the end of my degree, I believed my first graduate role was where I would find myself (who needs a 'gap yah'?) Sorry to be the 'I completely found myself when rescuing elephants in Thailand' type but I did. However, it was more Microsoft excel than Thailand. I found myself in the sense that I didn't want to be in the field I was in and that I needed to believe in myself more.

Coming out of university and straight into a graduate job can difficult, you have so many expectations, you are that super keen bean bouncing off the walls wanting to apply everything you've learnt in a lecture theatre, thinking you will change the world. This was also me. Now more than ever, graduates expect so much of their workplace - we want to feel involved, build relationships, engage in fulfilling work, enjoy the social aspect, be part of a workplace community that is responsible and gives me back. And sadly not all workplaces deliver this. I was in one that didn't. I quickly realised the organisation I was in didn't have the capacity to take on this keen new graduate wanting to question everything and as cheesy as it sound 'change the world through business'. Prepare to cringe through your bones but I actually said those 5 words in my interview with one of the finance directors. Whilst I do think I left my mark on the organisation, I am now in an organisation where fresh ideas and creatively thinking outside the corporate box is what we're paid to do and the opportunities are endless. Also, the social side of working (some would say the most important aspect of work) is pretty good. So the moral of the story is if you're in your job role and it's not what you expected or you hate it, then don't worry - 16% of us have been there.

You will form a love-hate relationship with the tax man. Income tax, council tax and national insurance and the list goes on. Adulting hurts but you learn to manage your money like your a financial adviser to *insert name of someone you know who is extremely frugal / tight with money here*

You’ll Grow Out of Friends, old habits and places. As brutal as it sounds - as time goes on, people change. Whilst I think it's so so so important to maintain the friendships you've made over the years, sometimes they don't endure the test of time. There are a couple of reasons for this. The main reason for this is the practicality aspect. Working is tiring and your friends and loved ones will have busy schedules too - next thing you know you go a year and a half weeks without seeing someone.
Keep making an effort, though.

The sad part is reasoning is when friends sometimes just drift apart or in the put in the nicest of ways 'outgrow each other' - and that's okay too. Not ideal but okay. 

Your Drinking Habits Change. This one is tried and tested by yours truly. Gone are the days where one or two drinks turned into a night out and you were fine the next morning. Nowadays, I physically can't hack it. I used to be able to go out until the early hours then wake up as fresh as a daisy - it's almost as if my tolerance to alcohol deteriorated as soon as I graduated from university. And as showing up to work with a pounding headache and hangover is a big no - I've said a emotional goodbye to the odd glass of white wine on a Tuesday night. Bed times will also change. I used to (silently) laugh at those that went to bed at 9:30 p.m on a work night. I now am one.

You will enjoy work shopping much more than you think. A couple of blazers, shirts, suits, trousers, dresses and skirts can take you a long way.

It's okay to be clueless. Linking nicely onto the first point, not everything will go to plan and that's okay. Not everything will be mapped out in a neat 8 year plan and will follow through. The great thing about being at such an early stage in your career is that you're open to so many opportunities with the potential to learn from people, their successes, their failures - allowing yourself to decide on what you want for yourself and the best way of going about the result.

To add to this, there are some things you just can't plan. 20 years ago, no one predicted blogging to be a career. Now look at it.

The term 'winging it' has never been so relevant now that I'm in the working world. It's okay to be completely clueless. There's plenty of support networks out there whether it be through your friends and family, a mentor or someone outside your workplace who you look up to, to help guide you on the path to knowing what you want in the longer term.

Productivity takes centre stage. I'm amazed at how many ways the old university version of myself managed to procrastinate. Watching Netflix instead of working on coursework, sleeping instead of revising and the list goes on. However, when working you become a lot more productive. There's your 9-5 job where you're held accountable so have to get things done, then outside this you want to have a life, so will naturally become more organised, plan like you're in a military operation and fit more into the day. 

Be nice. The power of being nice within the workplace is tremendous. It goes a long way for sure. Like all things, there are some people that are for you and some against you (for no specific reason, there are some people that don't want to see others succeed). You will see this in all kind of forms such as; people going behind your back, not sharing information or being as snakey as the current snakeskin pattern trend.

Being nice in the workplace is an undervalued quality. Life's too short to be a mean and nasty individual that no one wants to work with. It's also been proven that those around you are more willing to help you if you're nice to them. Proof is in the pudding.

Don't feel like you have to fit in. No one wants to be disliked. I used to think that being successful in the corporate sphere, it would require me to be overly loud to be noticed and remembered. How wrong was I! I'm a quiet but confident person by nature. And whilst I never got to the stage of putting on another persona to be accepted (because that's a whole lot of effort and no one has time for that), it took me an awfully long time to realise this. And sure, you'll act slightly different and in a more professional manner when you step foot in your office but sadly, a lot people put on a completely different persona to who they really are, all for the sake of fitting in and being liked.

Side hustle. Over the last year, multi hyphenate has been thrown about here and there. According to Wacks, a side hustle isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s critical. A side hustle allows you to take a step back from the (sometimes harsh) realities of your day job. Plus it helps when keeping you sane. Whether your side hustle is a blog, business, charity, baking, tutoring or babysitting - a side hustle is a great way to take your mind off work, earn some extra cash and develop skills in a new area.

Take time and rest. We've all been there. Stepping into the graduate world or starting a new job in general is exciting. You'll want to do everything when you first join and end up spreading yourself too thinly - like a crumpet being spread with jam that only covers half of it (Such a sad analogy I know). And then there comes burnout. In simple terms, Burnout is a reaction to prolonged stress and is characterised by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability. If there was anything you wanted to steer clear of like the plague, then it's burnout. But how do you stop yourself from getting burnout? I'm the person that is speaking from learning the hard way - it's not easy. The first (and most difficult) step for me was coming to the fact that I was actually exhausting myself. Telling myself that 'BeyoncĂ© has the same amount of hours in the day as me' was not good. By acknowledging I had a tendency to push myself and work stupidly until the early hours of the morning, eat hardly anything, have 2 hours sleep and then repeat, was the first step towards my burnout recovery. Secondly, taking time for yourself to just do nothing (I have one weekend every 3 months where I try and schedule nothing and just sleep, eat and watch TV - it's bliss). Thirdly, reach out to those around you. Most likely, they will be the ones telling you that you're burning yourself out in the first place.

So there we have it, a bunch of lessons I've learnt whilst completing my first year and 4 months of graduate working life. Not to mention all the valuable Microsoft excel skills, stakeholder management and communication skills I've also learnt - but this isn't LinkedIn, I'll save those for later. I recently did a post titled 'what university life has taught me' (this current post being the obvious follow on) - if you like this king of blog post or have any tips you can pass to me, let me know on the socials.

Outfit details

Heels - Office
Shirt - Hawes and Curtis (similar
Skirt - Uniqlo (similar)

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