I have been working since I was 14 years old, but my very first “adult” job was many years later.
If I could go back to age 21 and give my younger self a few life lessons, here are the 7 things I’d say…
The interview is a two-way street.
When you finally land that job interview, don’t forget that they aren’t just interviewing you for the job…you’re interviewing as a potential employer.
- Is this company in line with your values?
- Do you like the environment, or hours?
- Do the people seem happy?
- Can you work here without having the ur
- ge to staple your hand to your desk so you can finally leave for the day?
You will be spending more of your awake-hours at this job than you will anywhere else, so you want to make sure it’s going to be an enjoyable place.
Some recruiters admire candidates that are inquisitive about the company, because it shows that they are interested in committing… and trust me, contrary to what you might think, no amount of money is worth a soul sucking (or soul crushing) job.
Almost everything is negotiable.
When you get a job offer, we should say yes to whatever offer is on the table…because you don’t have much leverage and should be so lucky to even be offered the job to begin with (plus you REALLY want it), right?
Maybe the first job offer is in-line with your expectations, but that’s not always the case. More important, the difference of $5,000 at the very start of your career could mean as much as $600,000 over the life of your career because every raise, bonus, and increase will be based off your wage.
You’ve heard people say “I got a 5% raise”. That five percent is based on their current wage. Not market rates, not what more seniored employees make.
When you negotiate, the best case outcome is that you get exactly what you want, and your new boss gains respects for you for fighting for yourself.
The worst case is that you accept the job as it was originally offered.
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for” – Oprah Winfrey
Debt is not normal.
One day, I landed a job where my coworkers no longer drove used Honda Civics with duct-tape bumpers while anxiously waiting for payday, but rather had mortgages, late-model SUV’s, and salaried payrolls.
Even though I was new to this life, I felt like I needed these things because everybody around me had them. I sure didn’t want to look “poor” or become the topic of conversation around the office watercooler.
A few credit cards and car payments later, I realized that success isn’t relative on what you have, or what your job-title is, but rather how you define your life.
I’ll be paying off my debt for quite a while, and I learned that majority of the people I worked with were deep in debt, too.
Your manager is not your friend.
It’s a wonderful thing when you work for somebody you genuinely like, especially when the feelings are mutual, but don’t let a sense of friendship place you in an compromising position.
To quote my mother, “You better watch your mouth because I’m not one of your little friends
I have had more than one manager tell me to check my behavior at the door when I unknowingly blurred the lines between casual and unprofessional. You can’t “un-learn” something, and befriending your manager on social media is a prime situation where you may unknowingly disclose something about your life that your manager becomes legally obligated to notify their superiors about to protect the company.
Example: You post a selfie sitting in a car saying “had a few drinks, ready for the weekend!”. What the manager might see is that you may be driving under the influence of alcohol, yet your moral compass doesn’t tell you to find a sober ride.
Even though you were actually a passenger and well below the legal intoxication limit, your manager can’t “un-see” this photo, and may become obligated to inform human resources because your job sometimes requires you to drive a company-owned vehicle.
Understand where each of your interests lie.
By all means, respect their achievements and look for opportunities to grow your relationship, but don’t forget that ultimately your boss isn’t loyal to you.
Likewise, don’t wait around for them to approach you for a raise, bonus, or promotion. Ask for it. No matter how sure you are that they know how you feel about the opportunity.
Human Resources is not your friend.
Let’s break it down. Just like the Accounting department accounts for money, the Human Resources department accounts for humans.
Any ethical company wants their employees happy, healthy, productive, and grievance free. Human Resources makes sure to foster that kind of working environment. However, they also exist to limit the company’s expose to human risk.
Complaints. Harassment. Disputes. Issues.
Human Resources is the department that resolves it.
Never be afraid to go to them over a concern you have, but remember that their interests align with the company first, not you.
You won’t be a manager making 150k in 3 years.
Although millennials are the most educated generation in world history, so many people in my generation are stuck with tens-of-thousands of dollars in student loan debt because our parents encouraged us to attend college. They weren’t wrong, they were simply speaking from a different professional landscape.
Gone are the days where a patriarch could work a full-time job and support an entire family, while knowing they will have a pension at retirement. No longer is a college degree a rarity in the workforce. Say goodbye to the days when a cashier can dedicate 40 years to a company and become CEO.
We’ve got to be practical about the workforce we now live in.
A college degree can enable you to earn more money over the life of your career, but it will never mean that you can walk out of college and directly into a department manager role that you’ve got zero hands-on experience for.
Likewise, putting in five years of great production doesn’t mean that you’re instantly eligible to accept the next manager position. You should always seek out the greatest opportunities you can find, but remember that there isn’t an always an easy path into a high paying job.
Grind it out, and never be afraid to change the game or find a new job if it means securing a better opportunity for yourself.
Even bad jobs create great opportunities.
One of the worst jobs I have ever worked was in a local real estate office where I was severely underpaid for the quantity (and quality) of work they expected. It was part-time and the hours were pretty unusual.
Although my manager was great in her industry, she hadn’t ever supervised an employee before, so we constantly bumped heads and missed expectations.
I got fired.
I have figured out how I learn best at work, how to voice my concerns, and when to celebrate my successes.
Everything in life is a learning experience. Sometimes you learn what you want to do next, and other times you see what you want nothing to do with.
What you do with this knowledge is up to you.
No matter what you choose to do for a living…
Make sure you’re happy.