Education, Work

What I learned on my first month at a real job

 

Like a lot of college students out there, I’m used to hustling. There are definitely those out there who have had a lot more on their plate than I do, but I’m no stranger to taking intense course loads while working, volunteering, exercising, and trying to maintain a social life. I’m the first to tell you that I don’t have it all figured out, but I do now have newfound experience with something that many students don’t get to experience at age 19: working full time in an office with only career professionals. I’m now several weeks into a yearlong internship, and I’m having a blast and learning lots! In addition to everything that I’m discovering about journalism and local government, I’ve also garnered a few tidbits about human nature and work habits. Today I want to share with you some of the things that I’ve gleaned so far.

 

1. Your first impression might just be wrong

On the day of my interview, I was welcomed by a frizzy-haired lady with an air of harried caffeination: the office manager of the local newspaper that I’m now working for. I got the idea that she was very frazzled and sleep deprived and not terribly professional, if sweet and knowledgable. Then her husband arrived, and seemed much more polished and professional (if also a bit tired). Since I’ve now been at the paper for a few weeks, I see that although my initial impressions had some truth to them, my office manager is the glue that holds the business together, a good writer, tech savvy, and on top of a thousand things at once. Her husband, who is the publisher, however, has turned out to be much less diligent and involved on a day-to-day basis than his wife, despite his snappy outfits and superior rank at the paper. 

2. You have to stay mobile

I could not believe how achy and tired I was after my first few days at work. It’s unbelievable how bad it is for just about every part of your body to be sedentary all day. Having grown up in the 21st century, I hear daily how important it is to maintain an active lifestyle. Since I was homeschooled, however, I haven’t had a lot of previous experience with being chair-bound for large portions of the day and so it was new to me to be feeling achy, tired, and tight from lack of movement. I’ve started going to yoga twice a week to work out some of the kinks, but I’ve found it to be even more important to get up and move around during the day. I make a point of standing up to stretch for a minute or so a couple of times an hour, and try maintain a good posture when I have to be sitting for long periods of time. At the moment, I’m in the process of looking for a taller chair so that I can convert my desk to a standing desk, which according to what I’ve read and heard is much more ergonomic. 

3. The Internet can crush productivity

I’ve always felt that I keep my Internet and social media use well under control. To this day I don’t use Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, and I rarely check Facebook (yes, I still use Facebook, sort of). But now that I’m in a job that requires me to spend eight hours a day largely at a computer, the stupidest things on the Internet have become pretty appealing. Nobody can focus for an entire work day, and most of us are susceptible to that mid afternoon slump where it seems pretty enticing to knock off productivity for awhile and watch cat videos. It’s important to me to do a good job and be respectful of my employers’ time while I’m on the clock, so I keep it limited (we are allowed breaks, although it’s not law where I live, so there’s time built in to decompress).  I have yet to try any of the apps out there that block access to social media during work because I think self control is the answer here, but I do set myself specific rules, such as only getting on Pinterest once or twice a day for five minute breaks. 

4. You’re building a new image — do it right! 

Every day at work, one of my coworkers asks me a simple question about who I am, what I like, or what I think, and as each of those moments is an opportunity to create the persona that I want to have at the office, they’re important! These critical first few weeks of my job have been the time for me to establish myself as a hardworking, motivated and diligent individual, but more importantly, as a Christ follower. Although this post has been more geared towards general life advice than faith-related commentary, all aspects of our lives are deeply interconnected with our faith, so I think that it’s appropriate to consider carefully in the early stages especially what kind of a character you’re establishing. Many New Testament epistles dwell on the concept of establishing a character above reproach, and half the book of Proverbs is advice on building a good reputation! It’s key in the first weeks and months of a new job to show your new bosses and coworkers that you’re trustworthy and a person of integrity.

 

5. Don’t let work encroach on your personal life more than it has to

I’ve had a few different jobs in the last few years ranging from cooking and baking to waitressing to babysitting to writing features at my college paper, and now I have this full-time position. I’ve found that I (and a lot of the people that I know) tend to talk about their jobs all the time. Hopefully, we are passionate about at least a good chunk of what we do, and of course we like to talk about our passions. But I’ve also noticed that I tend to think out loud about work projects when I’m supposed to be unwinding with my family or focusing on other things, to the point that sometimes I feel like I worked 14 hours instead of 9 because I spent so much extra time talking and thinking about work. All of that to say, to the extent that it is up to you, don’t be thinking about work a lot when you’re not there. Obviously this isn’t possible for everyone. Even in my job, if I see a bunch of police cars or a fire truck going somewhere, I know I need to check into it if at all possible, since my job is to report on local news. But when I’m at home hanging out with my family or I’m at the gym, I try to not let work creep into the back of my mind or answer too many emails.

 

 

Conclusion

Of course, that’s not EVERYTHING that’s hit me upside the head in this crazy first month — but it covers the main points. At the end of this yearlong contract, I’ll be posting a follow up about what I learned in my first year. I expect there are quite a few things that a year will teach me that a month hasn’t. As always, thank you for reading, and please comment or send me a message with any feedback you have! 

 

–Neva

 

**Image courtesy of stockfreeimages.com and Dreamstime.

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