Millennials seem to be coached through every life event. In middle school, I was preparing for high school. In high school, teachers were preparing me to get into college. During my final semester of college, I began preparing to make the transition into the working world. I was ready, and I was excited. After all, I had been coached for 21 years to make it to this point, right? Wrong. I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought I had been. This month, I am celebrating my first full year in the workforce. I learned a few lessons over these past 12 months that I realized I could never learn in a classroom or in a sheltered internship.
I was overwhelmed during my first month, trying to prove to all my new colleagues that I was the perfect fit for the position. I was afraid to voice my ideas. How would it look for a 21-year-old to be giving advice to a business that had been running fantastically for years before I had arrived? When I finally pitched my first idea, I was shocked to find that everyone loved it. Three days later, I was mailing Pop Rocks to all of our clients for Valentine’s Day with the tag-line “You Rock!” (beautiful artwork below):
I was inspired to speak up more in meetings, but more importantly, I realized that candy is the best way to anyone’s heart.
Finding work-life balance is completely necessary in a world where you can send an e-mail while simultaneously running on a treadmill and watching the season premiere of The Bachelor. I made quarterly “life” goals for myself that coincided and complemented my “work” goals. I explored local gyms, scheduled time for evening walks to Lake Michigan, wrote a bucket list of the best pizza places in the city, and allotted more money to go toward my reading fund. I used these to encourage me to get all my work done in time each day so I could get up and treat myself to a fun evening. This made me more productive in both work AND life.
My experience with feedback, prior to entering the workforce, had been strictly negative. Growing up with an older sister trained me to take criticism with a grain of salt (she was just jealous that I could rock a middle part). Needless to say, I was beyond terrified when it came time for my first one-on-one informal feedback session. I imagined it to be like tearing off a long-worn Band-Aid. I was relieved to leave that meeting with some great pointers. The main take-away? “Quit being so hard on yourself.” It definitely wasn’t the worst thing anyone has ever told me. The toughest critic of my work had undoubtedly been my own self, and it was hindering me from efficiently getting my work done. From then on, I quit overthinking every possible step I could take and instead focused how I could work smarter.
This lesson stemmed from discovering my talents, my place within the company, and my love for awful puns. I began to expand my role of operations through planning events. I made work even more fun by tracking our accomplishments in fun graphics, polling my colleagues on their favorite holiday food & drink, and sharing fun, relatable stories with my team. The learning curve is incredible in your first year. I am lucky enough to reflect on my past and use my experience to propel this next year into an even more successful and fun endeavor.