Friday, September 18, 2009

the proverbial fork.

Next Tuesday will mark the end of an era.

I will say goodbye to my very first real job.

(Note that I said “real job.” This excludes my former experience in the following: camp owner, camp counselor, body shop receptionist, child support enforcer, mailroom girl, revenue intern, newspaper editor, preacher feature writer, English tutor, magazine copy intern and graphic designer.)

That’s right. Part of my lack of posts and increase in stress has been caused by this major life change called changing jobs.

A fork in the road was offered to me, and I followed Yogi Berra’s advice. I took it.

It’s a leap, to be sure, especially with my master’s degree dreams finally within reach. But after some prayer and deep thinking, I decided to take the jump.

To mark this milestone, I’m reminiscing. For posterity’s sake, I want to remember what I learned during this crucial transition from college kid to moneymaking adult.

- Pack a snack. I don’t know why this has been so hard for me to put into practice (stupid Southern Progress and their “fruit of the day” completely spoiled me), but having food to snack on during slow points of the day definitely helps. And it’s probably good for me.

- Everyone thinks they’re a graphic designer. Or writer. Or editor. For some reason, my skills set happens to be the skills set everyone thinks they already have. What a shame, because honestly… It’s just not true. I've had to learn to patiently explain a lot of things, not to mention I've had to prove why a job like mine is necessary. It's been character building, to say the least.

- Smile and nod. (Also known as, fake it ‘til you make it.)

- Take advantage of travel. Leaving Jordan behind wasn’t always easy, but my soon-to-be former place of employment graciously offered me so many opportunities to expand my horizons. Thanks to them, I’ve traveled to Austin, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale… the list goes on and on, and everywhere I went, I learned something. How to eat artichokes, run a commercial shoot, carry on small talk with a man your dad's age, reject an offer of alcoholic beverages, rent a car, etc.

- College doesn’t prepare you for the real world. I don’t care how great my education was (and I think it was pretty great); nothing can prepare you for the working world except the working world. So, if you’re in college and reading this: get a job, an internship, something to get you ready for the transition you’ll ultimately have to make. It’s a hard one—and I had plenty of job experience going in.

- Leave for lunch. For the first few months, I took 30-minute lunches and stayed at my desk. I was listless; it was hard to focus. If possible, find time to step away from the desk. It made a huge difference in my productivity and in my attitude.

- Mind your own business. I’m pretty sure I’ll encounter difficult people wherever I work, but I quickly discovered in my current position that the best way to handle those I came across was to sit at my desk and mind my own business. I don’t want to say I ignored anyone, but when I didn’t look up from my computer or when I answered questions with simple, clear-cut answers, my professional life became a lot easier.

- Save your opinion for when it counts. By keeping my mouth shut on certain issues, people really paid attention to me when I spoke up. I’m not sure it’s the best strategy, but it’s the best strategy for me.

- Dress for the job you want… You know the rest. The truth is, my current job is a pretty casual environment, and I almost fell into the trap set for me. (Everyone else dresses casually; why shouldn’t I?) What I learned was that just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean I should. I eventually discovered that the boss doesn’t like flip-flops, and jeans aren’t his favorite either. So I stepped it up a notch. Not every day is fashion forward, but I don’t schlep around in my jeans anymore either.

- Make your workspace your own. I wouldn't place posters of my favorite band all over my cubicle, but adding pictures of family and putting inspiring quotes within reading range was helpful in creating a work environment in which I could... Create. Write. Focus.

- Be better than your generation. I can't tell you how often people I come across speak negatively of workers who are in their 20s. We don't dress professionally; we Facebook during work; we use too many emoticons in our emails. Being more professional than the average 20-something goes a long way. Just take a look around, and you'll probably learn what not to do pretty quickly.

- Be proactive. Thank you, Stephen Covey. If there's no work for you to do, go find it. If you have a question, ask it. Don't wait for someone to come to you, because guess what I learned? They never do.

So that’s it. Adios, communications specialist. You were good to me. But I think I’m ready.

Associate editor, here I come.


Jordan Jones said...

Haha...glad you learned some things. I love your use of the word "schlep."

Lindsey said...

I'm so excited about your new job! I can't wait to hear about it.

Jessica said...

CONGRATS!!!!! associate!