5 things I've learned in my 5 years of working full-time
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
I've been working for just over 5 years now, & during this time have learned so much about myself. Since age 22, I've worked for 4 different companies, 3 different industries, started therapy, & worked with a professional mentor. All of those experiences have been so invaluable for my personal & professional growth, and have been a stepping stone to the direction I ultimately want to head.
Here are a few things I would tell my 22-year-old self before starting my career:
It's okay to job-hop! In fact, you SHOULD switch jobs! Experts say that it's good to switch jobs every 3-5 years. "It makes good financial sense to seek new opportunities consistently so you gain experience with different work cultures and individuals. This exposure will make you more marketable."
In addition to building upon your skills, learning from new individuals & teammates, and getting out of your comfort zone, by changing jobs, Forbes indicates, “staying employed at the same company for over two years on average is going to make you earn less over your lifetime by about 50% or more.” Those who switch jobs more often than not, continue to generate pay bumps. Employers understand that when you look for a new opportunity, you are not trying to make a lateral move.
2. If your employer doesn't provide quarterly, bi-annual, or annual performance reviews, ask them. Asking your employer to sit down and meet to make sure that you are meeting / exceeding their expectations is critical. This shows that you take initiative and want to improve, take ownership for your actions, & ultimately want to better yourself for the common good of the company. They'll also be impressed that you're bringing it up and shows that you are not just doing the bare minimum.
3. If you want something, ask for it. In my previous roles, I've proposed more WFH days to fight for a better work-life balance, mandatory mental health days for employees to take per quarter to avoid burnout, salary raises every 6-12 months that align with my performance / results / workload, & more! The moral of the story -- speak up when you personally need something at your workplace. It is important that you as the employee, are having your needs met and being supported in your role. If you can go to your boss or manager with valid reasons to support your arguments, it is more likely than not that they will hear you out and come up with a mutually beneficial compromise! You may be bringing a perspective that was not previously understood. Everyone is different & it's crucial to speak up when you need something!
4. A job should not negatively impact your mental health. If you're bringing home a ton of stress, anxiety, etc. from your work, you may want to consider looking for a new role that will make you happy! 40+ hours per week is a BIG chunk of your time. For me, it's always been important not to settle for roles that don't challenge me or that I'm not interested in. However, even as money-motivated as I am, I refuse to let a paycheck keep me from prioritizing my mental well-being & sanity. I've been there, I've seen the financial opportunity that I could have had at one of my jobs, but I was coming home so unhappy every single day. Sure, all jobs can be stressful & high-pressure at times, but no amount of money is worth it if your mental health is shot.
5. Be aware of your professional environment! There are so many jobs & individuals who can provide you with unparalleled work experience. The networking, education, & other opportunities that you can obtain from your workplace can be incredible! However, you can also end up in a toxic workplace / environment / culture & not even realize it. If your work & the people around you are not bettering you, making you happy, enhancing your skill set, or respecting you as a professional, it's time to get out of there! I would recommend checking in with yourself at least once per quarter to make sure that the role you're in is a good fit, personally and professionally.
Among having different experiences in different workplaces, a lot of these realizations came to fruition when I started going to therapy & working with a professional mentor. I could not recommend these resources enough! Learning about yourself in therapy only enhances your ability to more clearly make decisions that will best serve you!