It’s been about 7 months since I’ve entered the working world or the #worklife or what you would call ‘finally being an adult’.
And let me tell you, as someone who has studied abroad and has then returned to her home country to work, it hasn’t been easy. Things have been great sometimes, but they have also been harsh. Unforgiving. Shocking. Lonely.
The transition from being a university student to being a competent adult in the working world comes with a lot of expectations, mainly from your elders, but also from your ‘successful’ friends on social media, and eventually, from yourself. (Yes, and you are the worst critic of yourself!)
This year so far has been filled with difficult times for me, but in the end, you always learn something from painful experiences. Thus, I came up with this list, pieces of advice I wish I’d followed before starting my work life after university.
1. Don’t take the first job.
Disclaimer: this advice will not apply to everyone! Sometimes, you get lucky and the first job you get fits your goals and ambition and propels you in the right direction for your intended career. If, on the other hand, you’ve been unlucky, you soon realised you’ve been fooled, whether by greed, by appearances, or by your own naive self.
Basically, what I mean is, after you are done with university, don’t rush into the first job offer. I know, as students, we feel pressured to get a good stable job right after our studies and reap the ‘benefits of our degree’. Whether you have student loans or not, it’s common to fall into the ‘take whatever you get’ trap.
Well, from personal experience, this approach may not be very healthy. Take some time to step back and evaluate the ‘what now?’ question. Reflect on the ‘what next?’. Have some fun, too. Remember this may be the last vacation you will be able to enjoy for a long time.
Afterwards, if you have been lucky enough to get more than one job offer at the same time, THINK CAREFULLY AND CHOOSE WISELY. This is the second point I want to bring out in this piece of advice. Just don’t rush into signing that paper, even/especially if the company is pressuring you to do so.
Don’t be biased by the first job offer as you evaluate the second one. Weigh your options equally and objectively. More on that below.
2. It’s not only about the salary.
Okay, so you received 2 job offers. The first thing you are likely to compare? The salary. Of course, right? That’s what your parents tell you to look out for.
I’m not saying salary is not an important factor in choosing a job. Eventually, you gotta be paid what you’re worth. But often, especially if you’re new to all this, the salary will affect how you look at the other benefits or drawbacks of the company. A 12-hour working day? No problem, they pay me more! But are you really willing to compromise on your free time, your friends and family, or your mental health?
Yes or no, there are no right answers, just what your priorities are. I’ve met people who are against ‘work-life balance’ and others who fight for it, and none of them is wrong. Not everyone wants to become a CEO; not everyone wants to build a family.
Which side are you on? 😉
3. Location is key!
When I was looking for a job, I sorted out job postings based on their location. For me, location is a non-negotiable factor when choosing a job, especially because I don’t have a car and I don’t want to commute for like 2 hours every day. Time spent travelling to and from your workspace has a HUGE impact on your well-being (especially if you’ve been used to living on campus!).
Sometimes, it’s common to fall in the trap of ‘oh commuting this far isn’t so bad’ as you go for an interview but think of doing that same routine during peak hours every day for 2 years.
Personally, commuting for more than an hour a day kills my productivity. Well, it prevents me from performing at my best.
On that note, you should ask yourself: What’s my non-negotiable? What kills your workaholic side? Although the location is a very common factor, the answer will differ for a lot of people.
4. Fun perks don’t matter if you don’t get the basics.
In my notes for this blog article, the subtitle you just read is everything I’ve written, word for word, for this particular section. I wanted to change it, but I think nothing beats the raw truth of that sentence.
Ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? It’s that pyramid thing in which you can’t reach your fullest potential (actualization) without satisfying basic needs and other things. Basically, you can’t build a pyramid from the top; we start from the base and up we go!
Fun perks are currently the trend for companies around the world. Free food, ping pong tables, and bean bags: fun stuff to attract millennials! Well, all these additional benefits are a plus, but that’s what they should remain: ADDITIONAL.
Make sure you get all the basic benefits from that job first, such as insurance coverage, paid leave (depending on the laws on your respective country), a proper contract. Then, you can look at the fun stuff. Don’t be blinded by outside appearances. Your future self will thank you.
5. Industry matters.
I’ve talked about this before, but as much as you love your job, it may not fulfil you if you end up in the wrong industry. The more I talk to my colleagues, the more I realise that those who love their job are those who are in tune with the company’s industry. Some people may not know what their dream job is, but they know in which industry they would like to work for. And that’s a great way to start!
In addition, some industries fall in line with certain values, for example, the healthcare industry follows people’s drive to save lives and help others. By reflecting on your personal values, you’ll be able to point out a few industries you would like to try, and this will eventually help you choose your first job out of university.
In the end, if you are able to find a job in an industry which gives you purpose and adds meaning to your life, then you’ve come farther than a lot of us out there.
These pieces of advice seem so obvious, yet, I can say I failed to abide by all of these. At the same time, if I hadn’t failed, I would never have realised all of these things or learnt from them, and of course, put them out on the internet for you to not fall into the same traps!
Do take this advice with a grain of salt, however, as everyone’s situations and motivation in work settings are different.
What have you learnt from your first job? Tell me in the comments below!
D. K. Waye.