6 Things I Wish I’d Done Differently In My First Full-Time Post-Grad Job
I recently quit my job. It was my first full-time job out of school -– the ultimate goal of all weary, job-hunting post-grads. But only a few weeks in, the high of finally having a job was quickly deflated: I realized with a sinking heart that the job wasn’t a good fit for me after all. But this company meant a lot to me (and still does). I didn’t want to appear flaky by peacing out so soon after accepting the job, so I remained in the job for a year before moving on to another opportunity. In retrospect, there are a few things I wish I had done differently, and I want to share them so you don’t make the same mistakes.
1. I wish I’d listened to my gut.
Originally, when I read the job description, the position didn’t interest me. However, I felt pressured into applying for -– and eventually, accepting -– the job for a variety of reasons, namely pressure from those well-meaning people around me who thought it would be a good opportunity for me and my parents, who were ready for me to have a full-time job, any full-time job. And it was a good opportunity.
At the time I applied, I was tossing around the idea of moving more in the professional direction that the position offered. However, the work was primarily admin-related, and as a person who thrives in creatively-stimulating and relationship-based roles (aka, not sitting behind a computer screen all day), I should’ve listened to my gut and not applied for the job in the first place, given that the work didn’t appeal to me or fit my skill set.
While being able to support yourself financially is extremely important, you should listen to your gut when it comes to accepting a job that you’re iffy on. If it doesn’t interest you at the get-go and clearly doesn’t reflect any of your skills or interests, it won’t magically interest you once you’ve begun. You can always take part-time jobs (think hospitality work, nannying, et cetera) to pay the bills until you find a full-time position that actually interests you and allows you to do what you’re good at.
2. I wish I had immediately held a conversation with my boss.
Unfortunately, since my job was a newly-created position, my duties were pretty loose. It became clear that my work wasn’t enough to fill an 8-hour day. In an effort to not twiddle my thumbs all day at my desk, I did look for other work within and outside my department. But even then, it was difficult trying to find work for myself; I felt like I was back in the place of an intern, begging my superiors for something more substantial to do. I wish that I had held an immediate conversation with my boss about not having enough work; maybe then we would’ve been able to work together to arrange my days in a better way and find more responsibility for me in my role. What boss doesn’t want an employee who wants to work more? However, being a new full-time employee who just wanted to be liked by everyone, I was nervous that speaking up might cause him to rethink the position altogether.
Most managers are understanding and want their employees to be happy in their position, I’ve since learned. If you are feeling underutilized, speak up! If you are a good employee that your company wants to keep around for a while, your boss will hopefully work with you to build your workload to a fulfilling level.
3. I wish I’d made better use of my untapped creativity.
I wish I would’ve used this past year as a grace period to utilize my untapped creativity to a greater capacity, given that my job certainly wasn’t exhausting these skills during the week. Yes, I was running my own blog in my free hours, but I should’ve been working harder to pursue my freelance writing work (the actual dream) instead of waiting until literally my last month in the job to get serious about it.
IMPORTANT LIFE LESSON: You are not your job. What else do you have an interest in? Photography? Creative writing? Illustration? Tutoring kids? Pursue that! Developing your passions after hours is a great way to bring your soul to life and give you purpose outside of what may be a mundane 9-to-5.
4. I wish I’d made better financial preparations for my exit.
I should have better prepared financially for my exit date. I knew I had set a timeline for myself within this position, so I should’ve been better about saving money for this transition, aggressively upping my savings sooner, instead of waiting until only four months before my last day. (My addiction to buying plane tickets with my extra income may or may not have been a detriment to my savings). Fortunately, I was able to save up three months’ worth of living expenses in case I didn’t find immediate full-time employment after (spoiler alert: I did), but I could’ve created better cushioning for myself had I begun saving sooner.
It’s important to have an emergency fund in general, regardless of whether or not you plan on staying in your job for a while. But if you know you can’t see yourself long-term in a position (aka, it’s making your miserable and affecting your emotional well-being and health), start saving well in advance for your departure. That way, even if you don’t have a job immediately lined up after, you will have the financial means to devote yourself full-time to the job hunt.
5. I wish I hadn’t felt the need to stay an entire year.
Once I knew that my position and the career path it led me on didn’t align with my career goals anymore, I should’ve begun looking for other opportunities sooner rather than insisting (to myself, and myself alone) that I had to stay in the job for a year. Of course, I am glad that I made it to my goal of one full year (resume credibility). As I mentioned before, I really am fond of this company and the people who work for it, but that loyalty alone shouldn’t have been what anchored me to a job that sacrificed my day-to-day happiness and led to little growth in my job skills and interests.
Don’t misunderstand me: job-hopping is not advisable. There will be times when you don’t like your job; quitting and looking for a new one each time you dislike your job isn’t a practical solution if you want to ever get hired again. But, as a career mentor once told me, if a job isn’t developing your skills, challenging you, or moving your closer to your career goals, it’s perfectly acceptable to move on to a better opportunity.
6. I wish I had stopped feeling so dadgum guilty all the time.
I felt so much guilt for not liking my job, especially when so many people would’ve loved to have my position — or, hell, just a job in general! Though I was beyond grateful to have a job that paid my bills and allowed me to travel a bit, the financial stability did little to soothe the restlessness and self-esteem issues that stemmed from feeling like I had no purpose. Even when it came time to submit my two weeks’ notice, I felt unbearably guilty thinking about the inconvenience I would cause my boss and fearing that my co-workers and industry friends would think poorly of me (spoiler again: they were all extremely supportive… turns out co-workers are humans, too, and most of them decent humans at that).
Don’t guilt yourself for being unhappy in your current role. It’s important to acknowledge the positive aspects of your job — the ability to pay your bills, your great co-workers, what-have-you — while also recognizing that the job just isn’t the one for you. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a self-aware person, and self-awareness is a good thing. As long as you are offering your best work, treating everyone with respect, and not burning any bridges on your departure, you will have done all the right things, even if it means leaving the job sooner than career coaches might suggest.
Though I wish I could’ve done a few things differently in my first post-grad job, I will be able to take these important lessons with me into my future jobs. If you are in a job that doesn’t feel like a good fit, remember that change is possible. All it takes is some initiative on your part.
Ally Willis is a public relations graduate who buys way too many concert and plane tickets and then writes about it. She puts all things British on a pedestal. She runs a blog about post-grad life and also writes about music and travel on her own personal blog.
Image via Unsplash