One of the first times I’ve ever experienced a large amount of responsibility that can be put on someone while at a corporate-level position was when I was supposed to get something really important done for work during a weekend. Come Monday, though, I realized I went the entire weekend without completing the assignment. I obviously got in trouble, and I’m going to be so honest with you, I went to the bathroom and cried after I was reprimanded. I started to think in the midst of my confusion, why was I getting in trouble for forgetting to do something when I do such a great job with everything else? The cold hard truth waved over me: no one cares if you do everything else perfectly, they only notice when you mess up.
But let’s go back in time for a second. Picture this: it’s your graduation day, you’ve interned at numerous companies, have acquired a great amount of work experience under your belt, and just accepted a full-time position at what you always pictured as your dream job. Everything is going just as you had always expected and hoped it would: you have your dream job lined up and no worries in the world.
However, the first few months of working at my job, I remember coming home and being so frustrated and getting upset because I wasn’t being told if I was doing a good job or not. I was so used to getting validation after anything I did in school. Professors always responded to my work and told me if I was doing a good job or completely missing the mark. I missed that and felt like I really needed it to help me figure out what I should or shouldn’t do.
When I first started writing this piece, I really struggled to put my thoughts into words because the last thing I wanted was to come off as “entitled” or “bratty” because I can let my emotions get in the way of things. But, in all honesty, that’s what I’ve dealt with. I had to learn how not to take things so personally and expect to be constantly told how great of a job I was doing.
In my 23 years of life, I still have not decided if being so sensitive is a blessing or a curse. I can tell you from experience, in the workplace, being sensitive is definitely a curse… well, “curse” might be too harsh of a word but it’s definitely not an ideal trait to have when you’re trying to build your career. You have to understand that people are going to have their own things to deal with and just because someone doesn’t respond to an email right away or doesn’t say hi first thing when they walk into the office, does NOT mean they are mad at you or don’t like you. I think learning to have that mindset and trying to keep my emotions out of professional settings have helped me the most.
But while that’s important to comprehend, the most important trait you can have in the workplace is being self-motivated. I honestly thought I was a pretty self-motivated person but then I realized how much I needed to be reassured I was doing a good job. I learned that you need to be confident in the work you do and own it! If something is wrong or if the company doesn’t like what you’re doing, trust me, they will let you know. No matter how many internships you’ve had, I can assure you, you don’t know what to expect when it comes to real life corporate office culture. Why has no one written a tell-all/self-help book to help us graduates through this transition?! Lucky for you, I’m here to share a few tips and tricks that worked for me through this post-grad life:
- Be Confident – Remember, you’re in the position you’re in now because you earned it. The worst thing you can do is second-guess yourself and your work.
- Check Your Emotions at the Door – Once you start taking things a little too personally, you need to take a step back and remind yourself that things are not meant to be a personal attack. Everyone has their own shit to deal with.
- It’s OK to Take a Break – It’s okay to get a little frustrated here and there but it can become a problem when it starts to show in your work. Listen to your body. If you believe you’re on the verge of burn out, take a break. Go for a walk, call a loved one, cry your eyes out in the bathroom — do whatever you need to do to recalibrate. Not every assignment that you turn in needs to be perfect, but you don’t want to present something to your boss that they’re just going to ask you to redo because you did it just to complete it. In the end, you just need to be kind to yourself because that’s the best thing you can do.
- Learn From Your Failures – Let’s be honest: failing sucks, but you won’t learn shit if you’re succeeding all the time. While I royally messed up with that assignment that I completely forgot to do, you can bet your sweet ass that I’ll never do something like that again. Your failures are there to guide and teach you. They’re not there to remind you of how much you suck or to tell you that you should give up. Those bitter-sweet moments are never fun to experience, but they’re there to show you that you’re taking risks, trying your best, and learning all at the same time. And if you were to ask me, that’s way better than being complacent and stagnant just to feel “safe” and “comforted” because in all honestly, you’ll never grow without failing every now and then.
I may still be young and I may not have had all the experience in the world, but I do think I have learned a lot and have grown as a person in this short amount of time. I wish someone had told me what I am writing this story. I think I would have been less hard on myself and had a better understanding that good things take time and you have to be confident in yourself and your work — because, ultimately, your confidence, kindness with yourself, and failures are what’s going to help you preserve in your career.
Feature graphic via Marleigh Culver