Here’s a brief history of me in the working world:
- I got my first job when I was 17 years old. I worked in a cafe around the corner from where I lived but actually I spent most of my time in the back washing plates. The owners there weren’t the biggest fan of me as they couldn’t fathom how I got 12A*s at GCSE (they pointed out often they they “‘ad none!”) but didn’t know what a sundried tomato was (well – it’s not really apart of an African diet!! But yes I was also a ditz, allow me.) After two months of passive aggressiveness I quit via text and never looked back. Sometimes when I go back to see my family I look back at the little cafe and wonder if it’s still owned by the same buncha eediats.
- I tried to get retail jobs for years but was never accepted for anything! I had an interview for Tesco once but they never got back to me… ouch.
- Uni started and so did the internship applications. In my first year I “interned” for 1 week at a US investment bank, then later that year I paid the deposit for my second year uni flat, was plunged into my overdraft, and decided to take up a 12 week part time summer internship at a “commodities pricing firm” to keep me afloat.
- In my second year I interned for 10 weeks at a European investment bank which I now work out.
What’s the point of me telling you this?
Well I was thinking recently about the fact that full time work led directly to me starting my fitness journey. I gained 10+ kilograms when I started working full time in the space of just a few months, and that’s just because I developed a habit – for the first time in my life – of turning to food for comfort (more on this later). Now that I’ve been in this “legit” full-time working world for over 2 years, I thought it would be a good time to reflect and advise a few new workers on what you shouldn’t be doing when you first start working…
Don’t eat your stresses
I was really terrified before I started full-time work because I just didn’t know how I was going to hack it. I couldn’t even make it to 9am lectures, let alone think of being in the office by 8am with my head down working for maybe up to 12 hours. My parents told me that work would be easier than uni and whilst there are some merits (hey – you get paid, you learn some real world sh*t and I’ve become 10x more organised) – I would definitely say that my 2 years in work have been a lot more difficult/stressful than my 3 years at uni. When I was first just getting used to the hard deadlines, the intensity, the pace, the sort of being thrown out there and told “GO!” -ness of it all, I found it so stressful that I’d comfort myself with unhealthy foods. Late night? English breakfast in the morning it is! Busy morning? How about that chicken and chips in the canteen… I almost fell back into it recently, I can’t remember why but I was upset, in Tesco post gym and about to buy myself a rack of ribs – then I remembered that whilst that’s not the most terrible decision ever (I mean, I love me some ribs), the motivation behind it is not one that will lead me anywhere I want to be.
Dial out of defense mode
I remember one of the first pieces of feedback on what I got wrong at work was that the logo I had used on a slide deck was incorrect. I came full guns blazing – “BUT that’s the one they use on their website??” Whilst I was right on this occasion, I came to realise really quickly that my dial seemed to be set on defense mode 70% of the time anyone questioned a piece of work I’d done. I know now that you have to pick and choose your battles – you should be ready to explain or even sometimes defend the rationale behind what you’ve done, but you also need to be very open to learning. Being on defense mode all the time isn’t a good look and it just gives off the vibe that you think you’re always right (which was actually not the case in my situation).
Take ownership and stop sitting comfy
My team at work has always been quite well buffered in terms of seniority which means that there has (at least in the past/when I was truly a newbie) always been a little screening process of my work through someone somewhat more senior than me before it hits someone a lot more senior than me. But having a team pretty well buffered meant that I felt fine to overlook anything that I felt was “too senior for me”, and happy to let that be picked up by someone else (overlooking certain emails that dropped into my inbox was one example). I’m not sure when things changed – perhaps it was after someone pointed out that I can address said emails, maybe it was my first time being left at the desk alone or maybe it was when I just generally started to find my feet and improve at the job… but I realised pretty quickly that whilst some decisions are definitely to be left in senior hands (you know, the type of decisions that involve legal matters or huge sums of money) – “I’m just a grad/analyst” shouldn’t be a card you draw out of your back pocket often; and those that excel are (sometimes but not always) the ones that go above and beyond these confines.
Be prepared for the grind
You know what they say when you intern – be the first one in and the last one out! I had totally mentally prepared myself in this way before I interned so once I did my internship – I was about ready to in the office if that was required for me to get the job. Fast forward one year later (I got the job – yay), and I decided that because I wasn’t an intern anymore, I had to change my philosophy. I wanted to get in when everyone else gets in, leave when my personally work was done, and do this on repeat. I wanted to roll around the office like I’d been there for over a year, but the truth is that when you first start a role the microscope is totally on you, and you need to yourself before you get too comfortable. And whilst I am of course quite comfortable in the role now – I’ve realised recently that you can’t actually even be too comfortable – in a way you always need to be re-evaluating ways to make positive changes to keep up with those around you that will be doing just that.
And… there you go – some very, very honest tips from me (drawing on my own experiences) on a few ways you can make that transition into “adulting” somewhat smoother. It’s a brand new year and I’m sure a lot of people are stepping into new and fresh jobs – so I hope these tips can be useful to someone just trying to find their feet as it is something I am questioned on sometimes!