What I’ve learned from my first ‘real’ job

Jul 27 2016

by Miranda Rodriguez

Self care is integral to staying energized and focused on your job. (photo Lilly Jo Photography for The SOuthern C)
Self care (lesson #4) is integral to staying energized and focused. (photo credit: Sonya Jahn for The Southern C)

A few months ago I talked about what I had learned since graduating from college. At that point I had worked in a couple of internships and a part-time job. 8 months later I’ve been a full part of the working world for over half a year (!!!). It’s crazy how time really does fly.

They say the transition from college to the ‘real world’ is one of the most challenging changes we go through. And speaking from personal experience, it definitely is hard to be held 100% responsible for our actions and the paths we go down (imagine that!). The most difficult part, I think, is finding that job/career/passion that we feel is best for us to take. So far, here are a few things I’ve learned during this transition:

Your time is valuable- use it wisely.

When push comes to shove, we only have so much time here on Earth, and to not use that time in a way that you find important is to not do yourself or others justice. That doesn’t mean you have to be Mother Teresa II (although that would be pretty sweet) but it does mean that you have to find meaning in your work. If you work at a shelter or do some sort of missionary work, that may come easily. If you work at Dunder-Mifflin, that may be a little more tricky. Take a step back and think about what makes your job important and  how it adds value to the lives of others. Also, consider if you are not quite aligned with the direction of the company you work for, it may not be a good long-term option. While the job itself will always have aspects that we don’t love or are tedious, the mission or purpose is something we should believe in (even if it is just selling paper).

Not only that, but your time outside work is especially valuable. Make sure what you do before, after and on weekends are things that are important to you. Maybe you feel like you should go to that happy hour, but is it something that will truly bring you joy? Taking time to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually; to spend time with those we care about; and to do things that we love to do is so important to a fulfilled life.

Careers come in steps.

We typically don’t get one job and done. It’s step-by-step. I started as an unpaid intern, took  a paid internship in a different field and then a part-time job in a different field. Now I have a full-time job doing something pretty different from the other jobs I’ve worked. Sometimes you know from 5th grade you want to be doctor, but even then it may take time and experience to find your specialization or even a certain hospital where you really feel at home. Sometimes you change your major 3 times and end up doing something completely different from all of them. Be patient and know that no one has it all figured out right after college and that you are a masterpiece that needs to be revealed over time, not all in one sweep (although  that would be nice too).

Motivation/inspiration doesn’t always just ‘happen’.

Sometimes it’s easy to think of motivation and inspiration as these external forces that somehow pop up and give us the stamina to do the work. The truth is that though that is the case some of the time, other times work feels like…work. You may think that because of this it’s not the right job/career, but moments (sometimes days and weeks) of being uninspired and having to work a little harder to come up with that motivation happen regardless of what field you’re in. So before you throw in the towel, come up with a few reasons of why you’re grateful to have the job you have and how it adds value to your own life and the lives of others. It’s okay to not feel 100% passionate about what you do all the time, it may not be the right job for you long-term, but you want to give it a fair chance and learn what you need to learn before moving on to something else.

Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care

I’m not going to stop emphasizing this because it was (and still is) such a tough lesson for me to learn, I don’t want it to be that difficult for anyone else. We have to take care of ourselves so we can give to others (co-workers, friends, family, s/o’s) from a place of health. This is a discipline; it’s not easy and it’s not always fun. Choosing to go to bed earlier, to sacrifice some nights out, to exercise, to meditate/pray in the mornings, read good books and set aside time for our hobbies isn’t easy. It feel so much better to say ‘yes’ to your friends for a night out or to your boyfriend when he asks you to hang out or to skip the gym because you’re tired and really want to catch up on Netflix…I know. I really do. But it comes at a high price…ourselves. If we go about mindlessly saying ‘yes’ to every offer we get and never get strategic about taking care of ourselves, we will end up rundown and resentful. FOMO and FODO (fear of disappointing others) feel so real, but in the end what we will ‘miss out’ on the most is our best selves and we will disappoint others much more when we look to them for fulfillment because we haven’t been able to find that for ourselves. Like we talked about in my post about commitment, you gotta make a plan, Stan. Make it, stick to it & then feel free to write me a super nice thank you note.

Focus on the now.

I know mindfulness is like, super ‘in’ right now. And even though you may be sick of hearing about it, I think the reason it’s so…popular is because it is so needed. We have become a culture that worships busy and multi-tasking (which isn’t really a thing, btw), jumping from one thing to the next without stopping to enjoy the moment or thinking about whether the activity/person/job is actually valuable to us or not. The truth is the present is all we have. The future and past are only thoughts. This moment, right now, is what we are actually living…shouldn’t we cherish and make the most of it? Reading about and practicing mindfulness has been super beneficial and I highly recommend giving it a try. The fact is that when we actually give the present our undivided attention, we are able to be so much more; more of who we are. Check out some of the resources for this at the bottom of this post- again, thank you notes always appreciated ;).

The transition from college to ‘real life’ certainly has it’s ups and downs, but I think life in general is that way. The important thing is to appreciate the good and learn from the hard… Right?

I don’t know, I’m just 21.

Happy Wednesday!



A few helpful resources:

Mindfulness: An 8-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world.

The Headspace App: Train your mind for a happier, healthier life.


Miranda Rodriguez View More Blog Posts from this Author

Having graduated from Clemson with a degree in psychology in 2015, Miranda became editorial intern at the online publication Best Kept Self. While there she also worked part-time at the social media agency Project Sensei. In January of 2016 Miranda took a job as membership & administrative coordinator at the Center for Women, a non-profit in Downtown Charleston. Miranda loves coffee, writing, reading, laughing and recently took up kickboxing- so watch out.

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