10 Best Lessons I've Learned in the Workplace
It's been almost 2 years since I began working full-time. I can still remember the first day at every place I've worked; good, bad and in-between! Thankfully, I've been able to learn some incredible lessons in this short amount of time so I thought it was only fitting I share them with you!
Loving what you do does not mean you will love your job 24/7.
We've all heard it "Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life." Yeah, not entirely the case. Sure, I absolutely love my job and I genuinely enjoy going to work every day - but it's still work. There are days where I don't love a specific meeting I'm in or a specific task I have to complete. Heck, as a vet tech there were so many things I didn't like to do but I still loved the work.
While you may not enjoy sitting at a computer responding to hundreds of emails every morning, as long as you love the work you're doing as a whole and you love the industry you're in, you can get past the less than ideal items on your to-do list.
You control your calendar.
This is one of the most important lessons I've learned. I cannot tell you how important it is to control your own calendar. Not everyone works the same way so not everyone can have the same daily schedule. Sure, there are certain things like start and end times that you don't control. I know that my working hours are 8-4:30 daily. Sure, there are certain meetings you have to be at that you don't schedule. But, you need to control the flow of your calendar.
Of course I love this because I love calendars and planners but my current workplace lives off everyone's Outlook calendars. If a meeting request shows up and I have a prior engagement or I'm in the middle of a task I can't take a break from no one get's offended when I decline to join and suggest a different time.
By allowing yourself to dictate your day, you are able to prepare for, and engage with every element of your job. Not to mention it's so much better to know what is on your schedule every day.
Sure, things still pop up, but they're more manageable when you already have control of what's going on throughout your day.
If it feels perfect, it probably isn't.
I cannot tell you how many time's I haven't learned this lesson. So believe me when I tell you, that job that sounds so amazing that I'll be here forever right off the bat, probably not the case. From my personal experience. any time a job checks every single box and there is not a single thing that doesn't match exactly what you told them you're looking for is a job that's going to quickly turn into something you hate.
Sometimes you get into something and realize you don't actually like it. Sometimes, you realize you were duped. Either way, it usually leads to you being unhappy pretty quick. I've found that asking tough questions in your interviews and really combing over the job descriptions helps a ton when trying to figure out exactly what you're getting yourself into.
Clear boundaries are essential.
I don't care how much you love your job, you definitely don't want to feel like you're on the clock all the time. The biggest way I've found to keep myself from feeling like this is to keep clear boundaries. Now, in past jobs I've definitely been guilty of working past my scheduled hours and on my days off, which only left me feeling burnt out not to mention it set the expectation that I was always available. I found myself feeling guilty if I wasn't able to cover a shift, needed to take a break, or even leave on time. It felt like no matter how hard I was working it was never enough and it's because I didn't set boundaries from the beginning.
What I've learned is that if you are clear with what your boundaries are from the beginning, most of the time people will respect them. Of course there are the few who will try and push them, but overall people are respectful of them and your life becomes much more balanced. If you haven't been super clear about boundaries before, you can start setting them immediately. It'll be hard at first but it's so worth it.
If you need some ideas, here are a few of the boundaries I've set for myself and others when it comes to my full-time work...
No work emails on my phone.
Hard stop at 4:30pm.
24 hour notice when possible for any schedule change or overtime.
If a meeting starts more than 15 minutes late with no warning it needs to be rescheduled.
Always be willing to help and always be willing to ask for help.
Nothing is more overwhelming than needing help or being unsure of yourself when it comes to work. No one likes to feel like they can't figure something out or can't get something done. That's why asking for help is so important. It's so much better to ask for help than try and figure it out on your own because more often than not, you won't get the work done or solve the problem by staying stuck thinking you have to do it alone. I used to be so scared to ask for help because I felt like it made me seem bad at my job or that it made me a worse coworker. But that is so not the case. Asking for help is always going to be better than trying to do it yourself. Of course, there are work cultures where help is not exactly encouraged, but I say ask anyways. Most likely you'll outgrow places like those quickly so it's better to be prepared to work in an environment where help is not frowned upon.
Likewise you should always be willing to help someone else. Now, I totally get if you can't help someone immediately, but being willing to help when and where you can goes so far in the workplace. Just remember, helping someone does not mean taking on all of their work - but there's no reason you can't lend a hand when and where you're able to!
Keep Your Space Organized
My bedroom may have clothes everywhere at the moment, my car might have more than a few random items in the backseat, but my office is organized and has everything in it's proper place. I cannot even begin to tell you how important it is to keep everything organized when you're working. It's horrible when you're trying to get something done and you can't find the single item you need because your desk is a mountain of random notes, pens and everything else.
I definitely become more and more disorganized as the day progresses but I make sure that I take 5 minutes at the end of each day to clean up and reorganize so I'm not walking into a disaster the next morning. In fact, I even do the same thing when it comes to my computer. My email is full of different folders, my calendars are color coded and every week I go through my files and delete what I don't need and organized the rest.
I know this may seem insane but believe me it is so helpful when it comes to being efficient at work!
Take advantage of every opportunity.
It's amazing how many opportunities people don't take advantage of in the work place. It could be something as seemingly simple as speaking up in a meeting or something big like a professional development opportunity. Whatever it is, take advantage of it!
I used to feel like if I just kept doing well in my role I would get better and that would be that. Sure, that's true, but you also get better by trying new things and embracing new opportunities. So, if a work trip comes up and you're able to travel - do it! A professional development meeting or seminar has space for you to attend - go! Not only does this give you the chance to learn new things and meet new people (never underestimate the importance of networking), but it also helps you feel more confident in your role and your workplace! Plus, it shows you are taking initiative and believe me, that's only ever worked in my favor.
Never underestimate the power of a good outfit and a cup of coffee.
I have turned a lot of days around with a quick coffee break and a good outfit. I'm serious. There's something about feeling put together and liking your outfit that makes you feel ready to take on the day. This is especially true when you're facing a day that has the potential to go not exactly the way you'd like. It's also especially true if you're having a bad day or you aren't in the best mood, or even if you really don't like your job/workplace. I joke with my coworkers all the time that they'll be able to tell if I'm not feeling my best because I will come in wearing my favorite outfit with a full make-up look and my hair perfectly done only to go into my office and close the door. It's true though, even on my worst days I'm usually able to cheer myself up just by liking what I'm wearing.
I am also a firm believer in the power that a mid-day coffee (well really an any time of the day) coffee can have over an otherwise bad day. So much so that I've got a Keurig set up on my desk just so I don't have to leave my desk to feed my coffee addiction. Don't just take my word for it though, try it for yourself. Have a busy day of meetings? Schedule a quick coffee date with a friend to boost your mood. Have a big project and you need to focus? Grab a coffee, close your door and get to work. Exhausted? Yup, grab a coffee. No reason? You never need a reason for coffee,
Write sh*t down.
I have more notebooks and sticky notes in my office than I know what to do with. But honestly if I didn't have them, I'd be screwed. Between trying to navigate 3 different compute screens, multiple programs and a ton o phone calls it's to be expected that I forget things throughout my day. That's why it is crucial that I write things down.
I know a few people who never write notes during meetings and they certainly don't update their calendars and I do not understand how they do it. If you're blessed with an incredible memory, congratulations butt please write sh*t down. You never know when you're going to need to remember that specific deadline or random item from a meeting you went to a month ago. I promise if you write it down somewhere you won't feel quite as panicked when you have to remember something like that.
Never be afraid to walk away when the job doesn't align with what you stand for.
Here's the thing, at the end of the day, no job is worth compromising your values and what you stand for. I have tried in the past to make jobs that didn't align with my values work and at the end of the day it left me feeling frustrated and defeated.
I know there are situations where you cannot necessarily just up and leave, but that doesn't mean you need to stay. Never be afraid to continue looking for a place that will support your values and will align with what you stand for.
Walking away can be terrifying, especially if you don't have anywhere to go right off but it is so much better to walk away and figure it out than stay somewhere that is compromising who you are.
I hope these lessons are one's you can take with you! Have a great rest of your week! If you don't already, be sure to follow me on Instagram and comment the biggest life lesson you've learned from your career!