Seven years ago (I’m actually vomiting right now) I graduated from college. I was 21 (I have a fall birthday) and ready to take on the world. I mean take on the bars of Boston. I mean take on the depths of Urban Outfitters. I mean take on anything but a career because, well, no one would hire me and I was really pale so I just wanted to go to the beach and tan.
Eventually I got a real job. Then I got bored and got another job and then I went through that exact cycle 26 more times (that’s an exaggeration) until I eventually found a job that I – wait for it – actually like. And that’s where I’m at now. Not unhappy with my career, but not feeling too comfortable with my career, and not completely satisfied with my career. After all, if I was satisfied with my career, would I still be an ~ambitious woman~? (I never know where punctuation goes after squiggly marks – sue me.)
Every time I think I’ve accomplished nothing and have been in this stagnant place in life for the past seven years, I am going to read the above over and over and remind myself, ‘girl, you’ve been through a lot of fucking shit since you graduated college.’ Like, I might still live in the same city, but boy have things changed. And through those changes, boy have I learned a fuck ton of stuff about the working world.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned about life, career, and the pursuit of success since graduating college.
1. Getting rejected from a job is usually nothing personal.
It took me eight months to get my first, real job offer after graduating college. When I didn’t hear back from positions I applied to and when I got rejected from jobs, I assumed there was something wrong with me. It took me years to realize there wasn’t. I didn’t get jobs for many reasons: other people knew people, other people got along better with the interviewers, other people had more experience, other people wanted less money… the list goes on. It was nothing personal. The jobs just weren’t right—for me or the companies.
2. Your attitude can decide the rest of your career.
I’ve had both kinds of attitudes in the workplace, and I’ve seem others have both attitudes, and I’ve seen where they get people. The good attitudes (regardless if they were fake or legit) climbed the career ladder, where the bad attitudes stayed put. This may seem obvious, but chances are you probably won’t be thinking about it all the time. Try not to forget it, though, because a smile and positivity can do more for your career than actually knowing what you’re doing at your job. Leave your bad mood (and the fact you’re not thrilled with your job) at home.
3. What they say IS true – you have to spend money to make money.
For years (I still can’t believe it’s been ‘years’), I was in some sort of holding pattern waiting until the moment where I would suddenly become super rich out of nowhere and be able to do whatever I wanted. Alas, this did not end up happening. I did not end up being a ‘special-case twenty something.’ I could have done something risky like ditch my comfortable lifestyle to couch surf in another city while looking for a job. But I didn’t. Do I wish I lived on the edge more in my 20s? Yes. But there’s no going back now. At least I learned you have to take risks to change it up. Most people really do have to spend money (or lose money) to not just make money, but go after the success you want.
4. You’re not at work to make friends.
Ah, the old quote my mom used to tell me: I wasn’t there to make friends. I was there to do my job and make money. It was hard for me to accept this at first. I used to decide whether or not I liked jobs based on whether or not I was friends with co-workers. I hated feeling lonely, and I wanted everyone to like me, but I eventually learned that’s not going to happen. I now go to work to work. It doesn’t matter if I have people to talk to or not – but if I do, yay. I have tons of friends outside of work. And what-fucking-ever if people don’t like me. I’d rather love what I do on a day-to-day basis than base my happiness on what other people think.
5. Don’t ask. Do.
The real world isn’t school. There isn’t someone giving you assignments, telling you how to do things, and watching your every move. Okay – there might be. But that’s called micro-managing, and it will make you want to just ship fast. Figure shit out yourself. Try things, fail, try again. Go about learning things on your own before asking questions. Take chances. It might not always be easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but you’ll never know what could happen until you try. Use your best judgment knowing whether to ask or do, though. Like if you’re debating spending a bunch of your company’s money, I take back this entire point. But if you’re reading this article, chances are you’re smart enough to not navigate through life like a fucking moron, right?
6. Your flaws will be pointed out more than your achievements.
If you make a mistake, it won’t go unnoticed. And if you do something great, it won’t go unnoticed either. The difference: Your mistakes will always be pointed out by someone. Your successes will usually not be called out. This is just how it goes. So when you think you’re doing a poor job because you haven’t been praised, don’t fret. No news is good news.
7. There is no such thing as a ‘permanent job.’
On paper, there are permanent jobs. And those jobs are more permanent than temporary and contract jobs. But ‘permanent’ does not mean you are permanently employed no matter what. You can get fired or laid off, your company can get acquired or go under, you can get moved to a different position at the company that you dislike, etc etc. I’ve been through changes at companies, and I’ve been laid off. I now understand nothing is permanent – making it easier than ever for me to consider taking risks.
8. You should stay loyal, but also keep your eye on what else is out there.
With every step I take in life, I am always looking ahead. What’s the next step? How will I get to the next step? When am I going to get to the next step? I used to spend too much time focusing on “the next step,” but I have learned to keep a balance of being comfortable and being curious. Living in the moment allows me to be comfortable, show loyalty, and focus on the now – but I make it a point to never get TOO comfortable. That’s why I still keep my eye out for new opportunities. If I gave up on looking ahead, I might miss out on that next big thing. You never know when an opportunity will pop up.
9. Never take a job that hired you for granted.
They chose you. Yes, you. Not the other person who asked for less money than you did. Not the one who had more experience on their resume. Not the one who was a friend of a friend of the hiring manager. Unless of course that person was you, but then there’s a reason they chose you over other people anyway. They didn’t have to offer you the job. They don’t have to pay you every week. They don’t have to keep you around. But they do. So if you aren’t grateful, be grateful, and if you still aren’t, act like you are until you find something else.
10. Being ambitious means never truly being satisfied.
It’s totally okay that I’m so hard on myself. It’s totally okay that I’m not happy 100% of the time. It’s totally okay that I don’t love my entire life. Now don’t me wrong. I think I’m great. I’m happy a lot. I love a lot of things about my life. But I’m not perfect. My life isn’t perfect. I have goals. I have dreams. If I was super satisfied with everything, would these things still be on my radar? Would I have the motivation to continue to go after them? Not sure. Steve Jobs said to stay hungry, and I will… and not just to lose three pounds, but to go after the things I want and never give up. That’s what life is about after all.