My first real position came with a offer letter and was accompanied by a proper title. I had worked since 16 yet this was my first “real” job that counted. At least thats what I thought. I was twenty-six, straight off a amazing customer service position that did not suit any of my strengths, and excited to start my first position where I could affect change.
I was a young professional. *cringe*
Entering what I saw as the first step of my “official” career, was daunting and scary. Hard work was no stranger to me, but this was different. On my first day on the job, I wore my best professional-casual outfit. I carried a millennial pink portfolio from Tar-jaay (Target), my healthy packed lunch of what I didn’t know was going to be my next failed diet, and my personal convictions that I could create change. That was a year and a half ago. Since then I’ve realized a few things. Here are five confessions of a young *almost* professional.
- Professional clothes aren’t comfortable. You will not catch me wearing heels for a normal work day. Props to the ladies who have nice elegant feet that fit perfectly into heels. Me and my platypus feet will admire your agility to navigate crowds in 3 inch stilts from a distance. My position required me to greet donors, meet volunteers and to interact with so many different people; semi-profedssional clothing was encouraged. However after a long day of 10,000 steps or more, the nice pressed white button down became my worst enemy. Some I days found myself damp with sweat after an event, understandably so; I was the setup team, facilitator and tear down team. I realized my comfort in the way I presented myself translated into confidence when meeting with people in the community. My work attire can now be described as “nice-enough-to-represent-yet-in-reality-closer-to-pajamas.”
- My salary did not reflect my work value. This is something I was aware of when I accepted the position. Not every job you accept will reflect what you think your work is worth. And not every position will support upgrades in your life. I was forced to budget (with a 60% success rate). However my primary motivation for accepting the position wasn’t the salary. It was the experience.
- Experience is as valuable a commodity as your wage. Remaining somewhat unattached to the number of zeros before the decimal point on your paycheck frees you to focus on gaining experience any way you can. I found so much value in learning why our directors and CEO made the decisions they did. I studied the systems in place and dedicated myself to paying attention to details. Listening and learning from meetings with some of the most experienced employees was invaluable and I sought out those opportunities. Eventually, I was able to interject valuable ideas and strategies that were actually implemented!
- Self care is not your life vest. Making time for yourself when you are at maximum capacity is not therapeutic; its an emergency response. If you treat self care as your last resort to deal with stress you will work yourself out of your passion. I learned the hard way. There was a nine month period of consistent medium to high level stress my first year. I didn’t find relief in my day to day work and didn’t make room for self care in my time away from work. By the time I realized I needed to put more value in caring for myself, I had gained 20lbs, wouldn’t sleep through the night, and developed heart burn. Yeah, it was that bad. Now, I integrate moments of rest and pause into my yearly calendar. I make sure to take a full lunch break even if I have urgent emails in my inbox. And I work with the mindset that my work can be interrupted if I begin to feel compromised.
- Sometimes you outgrow the positions you’re good at. Flash forward to almost two years into my position, I have developed the conviction that any position, job, hobby or activity that doesn’t push me to grow in experience or character, is not worth staying in and will lead to decay. This means that even a job that is best suited to my skill, may not be best for me.
I believe every experience has some good. The hardest moments and lessons in life are filled to the brim with rich life lessons. They shape who you are and what you value. I’m a young professional. Almost. And that almost is the steady reminder that I will never make it; I am always becoming.
Do you have lessons you learned in #posttwentyfivelife? Leave a comment and share one lesson you’ve learned as a young professional!