1. There is no clearly defined pathway. Sometimes your career will go sideways. You’ll work in industries that have no direct correlation to each other, and learn immensely from each of them (with jobs in interior design and international trade in the same year.) When you move to the South, you’ll end up taking whatever work you can get, until you find something you love. The rewards and lessons throughout will surprise you.
2. Cooperating with that co-worker (or boss, colleague, intern) you can’t stand will be a continuous part of your development. Learn to navigate wisely.
No one has a perfect workplace. Egos, expectations, assumptions and baggage are at play in a job, and these dynamics shape relationships between co-workers, effecting productivity. Changing your work environment may shift your landscape, but only temporarily. Tough personalities don’t go away, so learning to work with these characters will turn out to be a huge asset to your employers. Keep at it.
3. You may be replaceable, but seek work where you are celebrated & appreciated.
A former boss said to me, “If you don’t like it here, you can leave. 80 well-qualified people would take your job in a heartbeat.” He was right, but he also had a short term view of his employees. Although other people can do your job, and well, there will be working environments where you will be nurtured, groomed, and respected for being you. Despite a range of opportunities for other roles, your loyalty will keep you grounded until it’s time to move on. In the meantime, your success – both personal and professional, talents and skills will be celebrated.
4. The recession will drastically change career plans; everyone will flock to graduate school at once.
Job opportunities won’t always be so forthcoming as they were in early 2003. After college, many of your classmates land jobs almost immediately after graduating, but none of us are prepared for how bad the market will get: 9% recession nationally, 14% unemployment in South Carolina where you’ll reside for some time. Ride it out, and delay grad school. Career experience will present its own educational opportunities, and you can commit to a second degree when you have a more definitive career path.
5. The old rules still apply, and will for a long time.
The workplace continues to evolve, but some aspects remain the same. The work ethic you’ve inherited from your parents will take you a long way. Their journey, and deeply embedded gratitude for their jobs, will help you understand and appreciate your own work opportunities. Subsequently, you, as they did, will work incredibly hard, and have a long lasting impact on roles you take on.
Continue to grind. Hustle away, nose down, getting it done. Show up early. Show up everyone. And never take for granted how lucky you are to be able to work.
6. Stay open and grateful.
Finding the silver lining in every job, no matter how small, will keep you sane. Taking an entry-level role after graduating from college with highest honours will keep you humble.
You will keep learning as you age into your thirties, and onward. Stay open and willing to feed your curiosity. You’ll hit a point in your career where your peers will start to turn inward, many becoming disinterested in their jobs. Find things you love about every position. Soak up everything. It will differentiate you from co-workers who have tuned out.
7. You won’t always be broke. If you are, you haven’t learned to manage your money.
Budget. Many of your peers will live outside their means, buying gorgeous items on credit cards. You will bargain hunt and shop at thrift store. You will own unique and vintage pieces, having paid less than $20 for most of them. You’ll stick to your budget, and you will travel to phenomenal places like Patagonia, India, and Iceland without going into debt. Stay focused, delay your instant gratification and spend on experiences that matter, not things.
8. If you smell smoke, get the hell out.
There will be 2 major points in your career when you will be deeply worried about the state of your employer, and your work environment. When you finally leave, you’ll wish you listened to your instincts earlier; you could have saved yourself months of anxiety-inducing indecision. If your non-profit is rapidly leaking state funds, or the start-up you are helping run has no intention of actually getting off the ground, get the hell out. Your time and talents are best honed elsewhere.
9. You are so much more resilient than you realise.
You will be put in scary and difficult situations at work, and you will navigate them gracefully. You will be questioned by customs and border patrol for bringing in a foreign trade mission, with only your 19- year old intern as your alibi. You will have clients scream at you, and bosses humiliate you. You will survive that one random business trip to Mexico City alone. You will be smarter and stronger for all of it.
10. Your pursuit of personal happiness will make you a better employee.
You will learn, slowly, that it’s not about money and fame. You will eventually find your craft, and hone it – the discipline alone will make you giddy with discovery. Waking up in the dark, you’ll enjoy writing for hours, undisturbed. You will find you have so many words to share, and they won’t stop coming, despite you trying to hoard them at first. Let them out, craft them carefully, and use them to contribute to others’ personal development. The practice, and the happiness you find in writing, will make you a better person and employee.
This excerpt was originally published at melanieaxman.com.