There's nothing worse than being excited to land your first "adult" job, only to find your dreams crushed because the experience does not live up to your expectations.
Job hunting is an stressful ritual every twenty-something endures after their graduation. It's tedious and boring, and as excited as you are to land something, the stress and anxiety of not having a paycheck add up pretty quickly. Not to mention, this is an age when we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. If you look right, you'll see a classmate or friend who's making six figures in their first job. Maybe your neighbor has become an influencer and is traveling the world for free. Or maybe your older sibling is still living at home and doing no better than you are, which makes things look bleak.
But surprise! Suddenly a company responds, and after a few interviews, you get the coveted email that begins with "Congratulations..." What a dream, right?
This is not a universal experience (anything rarely is, to be honest), but for a lot of people, their first job is a rude awakening. Your first week goes great, maybe there's a little anxiety here and there, but for the most part, it's all manageable. Then the days start piling up, and the friendly faces who were once telling you jokes about the office are now piling up the work on your desk. You make enemies, because let's be honest, adults are no better than high schoolers and you'll soon learn that a company resembles your old school's hallways way too close. So you're miserable, but you tell yourself to hang on because you can't quit after one month cause that'd be insane right? Right?!
You may have a plan to quit after a year, or you might be aiming to push through for the rest of your life. Whatever it is you decide, here's how to survive your shitty first job that you wanted for so long.
Never Talk Shit
Why am I starting with this? Because it sets the tone. Talking shit at the office will make you bitter and unlikeable. There's nothing wrong with light gossip here and there, but the longer you spend at a job, people will become more comfortable with taking shit around you. Don't surrender! If you talk shit about another coworker, there's a high chance it'll reach them. And even if it doesn't, talking shit at an office brings the vibes down. There's a difference between coming up with reasons why Susan from HR wore the outfit as yesterday, and criticizing every single thing about the people in your office. The first one? Lighthearted and playful, maybe even a bonding thing if it's stays within certain boundaries. The second one? It'll make you sound aggressive and rude, and even if your coworker joins, they'll still see you as the perpetrator.
Set Boundaries (Even If It Makes You Anxious)
I won't spend too much time on what boundaries exist in an office. I'm sure that when you read that headline, something came to mind. But as a fellow introvert, I know setting boundaries can seem scary. The first step is figuring out your biggest stressor, what makes you go insane. Is it that people want to talk to you after work hours? Is it that your manager is setting unrealistic deadlines? Is it the fact that your coworkers are not friendly?
Here are some solutions to test:
If people keep setting up meetings or trying to discuss work after hours, make up a responsibility that you can use as an excuse. It can be as innocent as babysitting or a dog walking gig, or even more elaborate like you are dealing with an injury that needs physical therapy. This lies don't hurt anyone at your office, yet they create a "routine" excuse, which means people register that you won't be available for more than just that day.
If your boss or supervisor is setting unrealistic expectations on work deadlines, then ask them what you should prioritize. Please avoid trying to be a solve-it-all from the beginning. Your supervisor won't set boundaries on the amount of work they give you if you don't communicate that you're unable to complete it.
If your coworkers do not seem friendly, then it's important you find your people. Small and big companies will always have at least another person you can relate to. Be open when it comes to their age, because sometimes as young people we search for those who are similar to us. Who says your work bestie can't be a seventy-year-old grandpa? Or a new mom in her thirties? At the office, the lines blur so be open and meet as many people as possible.
Find a Side Passion
Notice how I didn't say side hustle? If your 9-to-5 pays well enough, then not everything you do has to be for the sake of making money. Find a passion project that you can do after work. This can be a pottery class, learning a new sport like tennis or running, or even doing a social club like a book club. Having something to look forward to after your job makes getting through the day easier.
Don't Let Your Job Rule Your Schedule
Our first job is daunting, and it can seem like it consumes your entire day. It's because you're not used to it! Even if you played sports in college, took seven classes, and had a lively social life, it doesn't mean you'll juggle a job just as easy. The first few weeks give you a chance to dive in, and learn as much as possible about the role and the company. Once you find your groove, make sure to close your laptop at 5 and make spontaneous plans during the week. Don't become a prisoner to your 9-to-5 because so many people do and it's the worse thing.
Drinks or dinner with friends on a Tuesday, movie theater nights on Wednesdays, and new museums on Fridays are a way to take the power back and make you feel like you're working to live and not the other way around.
Focus on Earning Weekly Wins
Even the most boring job in the world has challenges to solve. It doesn't matter if you're an accountant or a PR manager, pick a weekly win that you'll work to earn and watch your motivation soar. This could be finishing a project and submitting early, or learning everyone's names at the office. Weekly wins keeps you focused, and make the week feel like success when you earn them.
Apply for a New Job
The best career advice I've ever received is this: the best time to apply for a job is when you have a job. Don't spend the entire time feeling miserable, use the time to spruce up your resume and portfolio, reach out to connections, and apply to new jobs. And stop telling yourself that you are when you're actually not, because that's a thing. Be serious about this and a new opportunity will present to you.
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