Last week marked a full year since I started my first full-time job. To celebrate, I took time to reflect on the biggest lessons I’ve learned the past 12 months.
Your lowest moments drive your highest learnings
Life after college is the first time many of us are truly on our own and sometimes life deals you with difficult circumstances. Having these low moments teaches you about how tough you can be and how much you can grow.
It is okay to say no to things that don’t bring you energy
I don’t enjoy going to bars. There is something about them that leaves me more drained than energized even when I’m with friends. When I started work, it seem part of the work culture was hanging out together at a local bar on Fridays. In the beginning I would go because I didn’t know many people in San Francisco, but I would leave after just an hour or two feeling drained. At some point I decided I’d much rather spend my Friday on a quiet dinner or reading a book – these activities brought me much energy. I am much happier as a result.
Your first year is an investment
You’re not going to be a rock star when you start. You’re going to be asked to do work that make you sense how junior or new you are. It is part of the learning opportunity.
No one will protect your non-negotiable except you
If you don’t know what is important to you, work and those around you will dictate what those things are.
Making new friends takes effort
It was so easy to make friends in college. Between classes, events, and dorms, I saw other students every moment of the day. Post-college, I’ve had to go out of my way to make new friends.
Keeping in touch with your existing friends also takes effort
People become busy, even your friends. If no one is willing to organize time together, they don’t naturally just happen.
Begin with the end in mind
There is always more work to do, but there are only 24 hours in a day. To avoid doing work that adds little value, beginning with the end in mind helps you stay focused on what is most important. What is the end product you are building towards, what is the key answer you are answering, what is the result you want to achieve?
You’re going to make mistakes on the job, that is okay
It is your first job, you’re not going to be perfect at it. Mistakes are okay, repeating them is not.
Being time poor changes your view of money
In college, I went out of my way to save money – spending an hour to find a find a PDF of a book instead of just spending $7 dollar to buy it. I was money poor and time rich. Now, for the first time in my life, I am finding myself money rich, but time poor. I could cook dinner, clean up, and save $7 dollars, but when I’m coming home so late. I’ll gladly just pay $10 for a healthy meal so I can have an hour more to sleep and rest.
Your spending creeps up if you don’t watch it
In college, a $30 dinner would make me cringe. That was a lot of money to spend on just one dinner. When I started earning money, $30 dinners still made me cringe, but as time passed the effect wore-off and $30 meals became normal. It wasn’t until the end of each month when I’m paying bills that I see the accumulative effect of the $30 meals. Stopping the spending creep will help you avoid spending more than you have and forcing you to invest in the things and experiences that are most worthwhile.
Your health will slip away if you don’t watch it
While your spending will slowly creep on you if you don’t watch it, your health slowly slips away. As time becomes scarcer after college you started to give up activities you once enjoyed to stay healthy. I’ve seen this happen to so many of my friends who used to be so active in college. If you don’t watch your health, don’t expect anyone else to.
What makes work enjoyable is a feeling of growth and support
The type of work you’re asked to do day in and out will change. Some days will make you feel so lucky to be where you are; other (many) days will make you want to quit. But what drives happiness is feeling as though you are being challenged without being too stretched and having people who care about you. The work can be tough, the hours can be long, but with supportive people the experience is more enjoyable.