21 Important Life Lessons I Learnt At 21 (As A Recent Graduate)

Looking out over Auckland from Rangitoto Island, New Zealand

At 21, I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed recent graduate who was ready to take on real life and a full time job in the ‘adult world’. But as it turned out, the ‘adult world’ was equally ready to squash me and my naïve soul flat into the ground.

Here are 21 things no adult ever tells you about breaking into ‘their’ world:

 

1. Getting qualifications doesn’t equal a good job

I don’t know why this always comes as a shock to us recent graduates, but studying for years and finally getting your qualifications does not guarantee you a great full time job afterwards. Somehow we expect employers to be fighting over us as soon as we cross the graduation line but that is usually not the case. If anything, we are fighting to get just one call back, or get noticed at all.

2. You may be unemployed for quite a while

Congratulations, you have graduated! If you’re part of the majority of people who don’t have a company taking them on prior to graduation, trying to find a full-time job is now your new full-time job. And it’s not going to be easy. Prepare to spend a lot of time sending out C.Vs and E-mails and a lot of time of waiting for one reply.

3. Connections are more important than you think

Everyone says that the best way to get a job is through connections and they’re probably right. Employers are much more likely to hire you if they know about you already from a trusted colleague, friend or family member. So sift through your contacts and ask around if anyone knows someone that’s hiring.

4. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is

When a job description sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Exercise caution when job hunting!

5. Minimum wage is still your pay

I know you studied all of those years so you don’t have to earn minimum wage anymore, but the truth is that most employers will still only pay you minimum wage at the start. You have to show your ‘worthiness’ to the company to finally get a pay raise and even then, you may have to fight for it.

6. People will use your age against you

In two completely different job interviews for completely different positions, I was basically told that I was too young for it. I mean, what was I supposed to with that? Was I supposed to go away and gulp down an ageing potion like the Weasley twins?

Sure, they probably wanted people with more ‘experience’, but there could definitely be older people who lacked the right experience that they were looking for too. No need to blame age for it.

7. All they want is experience

One of the most frustrating things about job hunting was that everyone wanted ‘experience’ from you. How was any recent grad supposed to have one or two years work experience prior to the job? The best you can do is apply for and/or work internships whilst studying but sometimes that isn’t even enough ‘experience’ to satisfy them.

8. A lot of bosses are not good leaders

I think this image pretty much sums it up:

boss

9. Given the chance, people will take advantage of you

Since you’re the young rookie at work, people will dump extra jobs on you that you will take on because you don’t know any better. They will also keep you in the dark as long as possible about the higher wage that you should actually be getting paid but are not – because you don’t know any better.

10. The work force can be full of sad, angry adults

One thing you have to remember in life is that the way someone treats you is a reflection of their character, not yours. With my stint in full-time work, I came across a lot of sad and angry adults.

These adults were stuck in a job that they’d been too long at, stuck somewhere where they’d never envisaged themselves being. They hated the job and they hated themselves for not getting themselves out of it, which lead to this hate being released on other people – mainly the staff that worked under them, including me.

11. Sexism is very much alive and well

This comes as no surprise to most women, but sexism is still rampant in workplaces. The boss would shout at me from the other side of the office to make his tea and other drinks and personally deliver them to him, as if he couldn’t do it himself (what was this, the 1950s?!).

He would also go around the young women of the office and massage their shoulders every morning (yes, it was as gross and as creepy as it sounds). So let me state this: no man or woman anywhere should be touching any other person without consent and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES is ANYONE allowed to touch you without your permission – especially not disgusting, misogynistic bosses older than your dad.

12. Workplace gossip can be ruthless

I thought I had left all of this petty gossip and backstabbing behind in high school but boy, was I wrong. The majority of the staff gossiped about the other members of staff like you would not believe. Especially if new staff members started, the more ‘experienced’ staff would relay all of the mistakes they had made, laugh about it and even rate who was best at the job so far.

13. No, you haven’t left high school behind – or kindergarten

I was also shocked to find that some of the people (high up in the hierarchy) sometimes acted like children in the workplace by shouting, throwing tantrums and picking favourites among the staff. They acted like children but they were so much worse because kids don’t know any better, but these fully grown adults most definitely did.

14. Not being able to trust your workmates is bad…really bad

Since there was so much gossiping and backstabbing going on, I had trust issues with the other staff. I couldn’t sincerely trust any of them because I never knew if they were relaying things I did or said to the other staff. This was a problem because I started to get paranoid and read too much into what they were saying – or not saying.

15. Some people will not treat you like a real person

Some people that are older than you and higher up the food chain will cease to treat you like a real person. One manager I had would use shame tactics when she told off new members of staff. Instead of taking me aside and telling me one-on-one what mistake I had made, she shamed me in front of all of the staff members and humiliated me. There is a vital difference between constructive criticism and point blank insulting.

16. Hypocrisy and double standards are everywhere

This was the last straw for me in my last job. I always try and stand for equality and fairness in all situations, but I didn’t find that in this workplace, at all. There would be a lot of things that managers told us never to do, and then we’d turn around and they would be the ones doing it – with no punishment, of course.

There was also shocking double standards where I would do something that I’d get told off for, and then another more favoured staff member would do exactly the same thing and not one word would be said.

17. No one wants to be the scapegoat

At one of my jobs there were a lot of situations I was deeply unhappy with. No one spoke up about any of it and no one tried to change it. Everyone avoided confrontation because no one wanted to be the scapegoat. Was this the way adults acted in ‘professional’ environments? Were we supposed to just put up with this all day, everyday? In the end I couldn’t take it anymore and I was so sick of staying silent…so I confronted (and quit the next day).

18. Make sure you know all of your rights as an employee

This one is really important. Before you even begin a new job, make sure you know all of your rights as an employee. Make sure you know your employee rights according to what country you’re in and make sure you read through your new job’s Employment Contract properly before you sign. You should be allowed to take it home and look over it without any pressure to sign it right away. And make sure you GET an Employment Contract too! (I worked at a law firm and I was’t even given one – this is against the law, ironically enough. I used this fact against them in the bitter end).

19. You are allowed to say NO

I know you’re at your new job and you want to be setting a good impression to everyone, but just remember that you are always allowed to say NO. You are not Jim Carrey in Yes Man – if you’re already swamped out with too much work, you can refuse to take on more work an older colleague is trying to dump on you.

You can also say no to jobs in interviews – there is no job that you have to take, no matter how much the employer is trying to pressure you into it. You’ve always got the power (cue ‘I’ve got the power’ scene from Bruce Almighty).

20. Never ever ignore your gut instinct

After the first training day at one of my jobs, I already knew deep in my gut that I didn’t want to take the job, but I did anyway. I still wish I could go back and undo that decision. Your gut always knows best, so don’t ignore it.

21. Your own happiness and health is much more important than a ‘great’ job

If the worst comes to worst and your job is badly affecting your health and state of mind (like mine was) – QUIT IT NOW. It was the best decision I ever made. Although it may not seem like it, there are a lot of other jobs out there and no job is worth trading your health or happiness for. This is precious time in your life that you’re never getting back – make sure it’s worth it.

 

To all recent graduates:

To all recent graduates, or anyone for that matter, I just want you to remember that you all have a choice. You always have a choice. Do not let other people or what you are ‘expected’ to do ever get in your way.

When you’re choosing a job, take your time and be careful. Ask questions, always. Challenge ideas that you think are wrong, no matter who’s ideas they are. Don’t stay silent and let it crush you, like it crushed me.

I wish I’d never had to experience these awful jobs, but I know that I learned a lot of important lessons from them. People write about relationships and heartbreak all the time, but no one ever talks about how a job can break you.

We’re all taught the tired old mantra of superheroes saving the day since we’re little and we believe it, to an extent. But in real life, sometimes there’s no one there to realise you’re in trouble. You can be in too deep for anyone to hear your cries for help.

Sometimes, you have to be your own hero.

Finally free!

Has anyone else been through/going through this at the moment?

Do you have any other things to add to the list?


Aucksbhjan

Wynyard2

LDR2

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