Tuesday, 11 October 2016

10 tips from 2 weeks of work

Over the past five weeks I've spoken to nine graduates about what being a graduate means to them: their university experience, their life after university, and all the things that have shaped and are continuing to shape those experiences. They are all excellent, hardworking, interesting people making graduate, or almost-graduate, life work for them - whether that's embracing further study, travelling the world, trying to find their place in the job market, or working an enjoyable and satisfying job. They are living proof that there is no one type of graduate and that, perhaps, the first stage of adulthood is making your aspirations, job and lifestyle work for you. 

And that's exactly what I'm learning to do right now. I'm two weeks into my first proper job, and it's a little bit of a shock to the system. After a four month summer of travelling, chilling and hanging out with friends, and a three years at university where, beyond my four to six hours of contact per week, 90% of my study time took place from the comfort of my own bed or sofa, ten hour working days and a 45 minute commute each way is...intense. But good intense. You could not pay me to go back to uni and, well, I am actually getting paid to go to work. I love the structure, the routine, the feeling that I'm building some sort of platform for myself and, for the most part, I enjoy the work. It's a change, but one I'd better get used to since I'll probably be working for another 50 years!

So, instead of telling you all about my journey to becoming a graduate, I thought I'd share ten of the most important things I've learned since starting my first 'graduate' job: 

1. Early mornings are your best friend and your arch enemy
There's something really peaceful about being up early, and I've seen the sun rise more times in the last fortnight than I have in my whole life. I like the fresh autumn mornings and, once you're up and out, you sort of lose sense of the time. At the same time, when your alarm goes off at 6am on a Monday morning, it's still pitch black, everywhere outside the bed may as well be the Arctic, and you have to mentally prepare yourself to get on a rammed commuter train, it's a bit less fun. Indeed, the realisation that this is your life for many years to come, until you have a baby and then have even less sleep, is something not worth thinking about. 

2. The work anxiety you inevitably had quickly goes
On the morning of my first day at working (and pretty much every morning in the week preceding it), I felt physically sick. I wanted to stay in bed and never face anything or anyone. It's the anticipation, the fear of the unknown and change, and it's really bloody scary. But the scared 'I'm-still-a-student-don't-make-me-adult' soon disappears. You get there, you pick things up quickly, and no one expects you to be an expert from day one. People will help you out and, before long, you'll feel like you've been doing it for months. The fact you've got to get up and go every day, you don't have the option to sack it off because you're feeling a bit nervy, helps. You chuck on your suit jacket and, somehow you find it in yourself to go. 

3. Heels are the worst
You wear flats to commute in on day one, and change into your heels at your desk. By the end of a long day of walking solely from your desk to the kitchen/toilet and back, you vow never to wear heels again. Unfortunately, you're only 5'1 and all the 5'10 women in your office still wear heels, and you don't feel like you can get away with it. From then on you resign yourself to constantly wearing plasters on your heels, and being forever thankful that boot season is just around the corner. 

4. Packed lunches are the best
Not only do they mean that you don't have to spend £15 on a salad from Whole foods, or ever decide that an extortionately priced litre of beetroot juice is a daily necessity, you also get to spend your morning looking forward to your afternoon snacks...and your afternoon making your way through them. My current favourites are frozen grapes (well and truly defrosted by the time I get round to eating them), and Nairns berry oatcakes. A packed lunch means that you can head straight to the park at lunchtime, and don't have to spend 45 minutes queuing to pay for your Boots meal deal; and it also means that you don't have to brave the cold/wind/rain in the winter, and can enjoy your sandwich from the comfort of your own cosy office. 

5. You have no idea how you wasted so much time at uni
When you're at uni it somehow feels absolutely necessary to check Instagram from new pictures of pugs every half an hour; WhatsApp your mates throughout the entire day, every day; and take that Buzzfeed quiz to find out what should you have for dinner based on which Disney Princess you're most like. Sometimes you just need to watch five episodes of Come Dine with Me of an afternoon, because you deserve a break from reading those two academic journals. Today I have one hour in which to eat my lunch, go for a walk, AND pick up some bread, and I have to make my own dinner decisions, free of Disney interference. 

6. Talking of dinners, prepare for your freezer to become your new best friend
Bulk make meals at the weekend, freeze them, and microwave them when you get home. That way you don't have to live off pasta and soup, you get the tasty home cooked meal you've been dreaming of since your last afternoon snack, and it saves you so much time (and money). 

7. You can justify buying stuff
Not only can you now actually afford to buy stuff, you can justify it to yourself. You're a working woman (or man) now, and wearing your school leavers hoodie and leggings doesn't feel so much like an outfit you can actually wear out to anywhere other than Tesco. My new favourite thing is working out how many hours work equals your new purchase. You can definitely buy those £60 boots at lunchtime if that's what you've earned that morning (disclaimer: you cannot do this every day). 

8. You do not need to shave your legs in the week
When hopping into a warm shower is one of the big highlights of your evening, don't ruin it by trying to balance on the bath, hacking at your legs, and exhausting yourself unnecessarily. You've got black tights and trousers, and you'll stay warmer in an air conditioned office. Save that chore for the weekend.

9. Exercise is this thing you still need to do but want to do even less
I cannot think of anything worse than going to the gym before or after work. One day at the weekend has to be reserved for sleeping, cooking, laundry, food shopping and chilling. Having said that, after 45 hours spent sitting at a desk all week, I do get kind of fidgety. I find myself enjoying standing on the tube, and eating my dinner standing in the kitchen, just because I'm bored of sitting. Lunchtime walks have become my saviour, whether it's wandering round the park, or down the High Street, at least it's something, and at least I'm doing almost 10,000 steps every day. The fresh air is so needed, and the sunlight a luxury I hope sticks around for a little bit longer.

1o. Be nice
If you've got to spend 50 hours a week with your colleagues, it's probably in your interests to get on with them. They don't have to be your new best friends, but they should probably be someone you can ask for help or can enjoy a Friday evening drink with. Be friendly, make them a cup of tea, and give them a hand when they're overworked - and they'll probably do the same for you. Having a bit of a support network at work will be worthwhile when you're having a bad day. 

So there it is, my words of wisdom: my thoughts, discoveries and reflections on my first two weeks of work. It's a big deal, a big change, and a big new grown up lifestyle to get used to; but we've all got to do it at some time, and these are the things which, for me, are making every day a little bit easier. If you have any tips to survive the long working weeks, please share and let's all master adulthood together!

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