I was the big-wig success story of my college graduating class: I had a full-time job that was in my career field, I was all ready to go. I wasn’t going to be working at the supermarket or filling temporary positions with crossed fingers, hoping for something better. I had made it. All that hard work was about to pay off.
Little did I know that the start of my career was also going to lead to its death.
My first day on the job was a mere two weeks after my graduation. During that time, I had to wrap up my student teaching internship, celebrate Christmas and New Years, fill out paperwork, move into my office, meet with my bosses, read through the curriculum, look through all the files, write a syllabus, start writing curriculum…. You get the idea. I was starting two miles behind the finish line with a twisted ankle and a stitch in my side. Even so, I was excited and determined.
All things considered, I did an amazing job. But it took long hours and I felt my otherwise-handled depression and anxiety start coming back with a vengeance. I was tired and unhappy, to put it lightly.
Unfortunately, I fell into a similar pattern at my next career spot: one week notice of responsibilities, very little support, even less resources. Constantly playing catch-up and treading water made me hate the profession I had trained for. So I left.
Whenever people ask why I stopped teaching, I list things like the long work hours, the grading, the terrible parents, the confinement, and so on. In all honesty, I think I just wasn’t ready.
If you don’t want to follow in my footsteps, take a look at the four things I wish I did before starting my career.
Take the time to adjust out of your lifestyle before jumping into the next one. Whether you’re graduating from school or leaving a career for a new one, give yourself time to process the emotions is vital. Especially since they can take a few days to feel ’em. Catch up with friends and family, and do whatever else you need to to rid yourself of the old and prepare for the new. You might feel like you’re ready right away or that any extended time off will make you soft or forgetful, but that’s not true: being refreshed and rested, without anything weighing on your shoulders, will get you a lot farther than not taking the time to breathe. If you have the option, travel!
2. Get Organized
Go through your old files, figure out what you need and don’t need; establish a new system if you need to! Part of transitioning and being ready for the next step is not being distracted or weighed down. Unfinished to-do lists and tasks are inhibiting, so it’s best to be rid of them.
One of the best things you can do is research what you’re going into: what does the job actually entail, which company(s) do you want to work with or not work with? Who do you need to network with? What do you need to have prepared? What should be in your closet? And so on. I went into a position based solely on information I received from a friend, who got it from the source, which turned out to be very skewed and inconsistent. I didn’t think it was something I needed to verify, but now I know that reading reviews and reading about the company outside of their marketing material is incredibly important. I could have saved myself a lot of time and stress, and maybe my career, if I can done my homework. Research will also help you in your interview and first few days, so cozy up with your laptop, search engine, and LinkedIn profile before you get started.
4. Prep Time
This sort of encompasses the previous three, but this is for when you’re ready to start applying, or you’re hired and you’re about to start. You want time (at least a few days if you can) to get your closet ready, scout routes for parking and coffee shops, get in touch with supervisors and coworkers, adjust your sleep schedule, and prepare any necessary work ahead of time. It’s a lot less stress when you’re actually prepared, whether that’s with a syllabus and curriculum or a checklist of first day questions and tasks. I now have a running list of questions to ask on my first day of the job, mostly because they’re things it would have been better to know before the emergency (like who do I contact if I’m going to be late or out sick?).
Giving yourself ample prep time will make things smoother, both for your current career and your assent up the ladder!