4 REALITIES TO PREPARE YOURSELF FOR IN THE WORKPLACE
You have poured in sweat and tears slogging over schoolwork and the big day is here! You crossed the stage with a big smile on your face, ready to be capped and have the certificate in your hands. You listened to moving, inspirational speeches about how the nation’s future is in your hands.
It’s exciting to be a part of the workforce, and you’re ambitious for your future career. You’re already fantasising about your dream job, thinking of your first pay so you can treat yourself to lots of wonderful things, being involved in big and important meetings and projects, and finally, getting paid annual leave (oh, bliss!).
But before you trade your beat-up sneakers for expensive leather shoes, here are some realities and truths to keep in mind as you start this new chapter in your life with your best foot forward.
1. You won’t always start with the dream job
We’re primed at a young age on the “best” life path to take (go to uni, score good grades, get a job with a fancy title), and this is often further encouraged and flamed when we’re at uni (study with us and we’ll help you land your dream job!).
But the reality can often be quite disappointing when it’s different from what was sold to us. So when we’re finally offered a job with a small business which no one has heard of, we’re probably a bit bummed out and embarrassed to tell people about it. It’s just not where we envisioned ourselves to be (plus, look at our corporate friends with their jet-setting lifestyle!).
Most of us don’t land our dream jobs the moment we graduate for a variety of reasons—lack of experience, an economic downturn, the organisation isn’t hiring, etc. Things probably aren’t all that glamourous for our corporate friends either, who may feel like they’re just a little anchovy in a sea of other bigger, more impressive fish.
Unlike TV shows and movies, we can’t expect to go from a junior staffer to a partner in six months. But time and experience working at the coalface will equip us with the necessary skills, work insights, and character building we need as we work towards bigger responsibilities.
It can be tempting to snub our humble roles, and think it’s not “worth” our time, and that we aren’t “called” to this role. However, Scripture says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). If we cannot be trusted to carry out even the smallest tasks, how then would God and our managers trust us with bigger responsibilities?
The growth happening right now may seem slow and tedious, but when we look back one day, we’ll be thankful God has used this “boring” moment to prepare us for whatever He may have for us in the future—nothing is wasted in His hands.
2. You won’t always get the acknowledgement you think you deserve
We were probably given a lot of positive feedback and encouragement when we were in uni, and it’s made us feel like we do have what it takes to be the rising star in whatever field we have our hearts set on. Furthermore, we can fairly expect that if we study hard enough, we’d be rewarded with decent grades.
Then we arrive at our workplaces, and our spirits deflate as our hard work goes unnoticed, the help we rendered our workmate went unacknowledged, and the suggestion we put forward was met with a lukewarm response. And with our performances now marked against the annual Key Performance Indicator (KPI) instead of the bell curve we’re so used to at uni, it doesn’t look like our bosses are going to give us an A anytime soon for our work.
As disheartening as this can be, it shows us that we cannot peg our worth or identity on the praises and affirmations of our bosses and colleagues. Otherwise, we’ll be happy only on days they say, “Well done”, and feel downcast when they say nothing. But when we seek our identity in Christ and become secure in who we are in Him, this allows us to carry on even on days when our work goes unnoticed, knowing that our sense of worth comes not from work but from Him.
As we learn to truly work for God (Colossians 3:23-24), this could look like taking feedback and constructive criticism well (and not feel like everyone is against you), doing our work diligently when it’s tempting to slack off and watch lots of cute animal videos, and taking the time to help our colleagues with their tasks (we could learn a few things from them too).
So let’s work towards the day when we see Him in heaven and hear Him say: “Well done, my servant” (Matthew 25:23).
3. You won’t always get along with everyone at work
We had our own tribe in uni, hanging out with people who shared the same interests and ideals as us (probably because most of our friends were also our coursemates), and we relished the years spent chatting late into the night.
Imagine the shock when we realise how diverse our work environment is, made up of people of different age groups, levels of education, personalities, and cultures. There’s the office brown noser, the introvert, and the overthinker—and there’s all kinds of clashes with different working styles and attitudes.
We aren’t going to get along with everyone at work, and there’ll be some really unlovely colleagues that we will struggle to love. And sometimes, quitting our jobs for a more positive workplace isn’t the solution either, because colleagues who test our patience will be found in every workplace.
While we’d love to wish them away, God does use the difficult people in our lives to show us what it means to be a light in our workplaces: how to love as Jesus did (Mark 12:30-31) (difficult and painful as it may be), how to be patient and forgiving (doesn’t mean putting up with wrong behaviour like a doormat), what it means to hold our tongue when all we want to do is “warn” (gossip to) others about them, and what setting healthy boundaries looks like (for instance, “I’m busy right now, but I can help you this project tomorrow.”).
As we learn to respond to these difficult situations and people with God’s love, we might find our attitudes and perception of them changing—and what was once a painful relationship might even turn into a lifelong friendship.
4. You won’t have as much time and energy to do what you like
We were a bouncing ball of energy in uni. We did all-nighters studying and partying, had time to meet up with our friends at the drop of a hat, and could squeeze in two gym sessions in a day. We had so much time on our hands too, from all the uni breaks.
Alas, ever since we started working, we’ve found ourselves having to give up some of the things we enjoy, as we’re low on both time and energy. We’re so brain-dead by the end of a busy workday, all we want to do is veg out in front of the telly. Weekends are often filled with errands. And it’s getting tricky organising hang-outs with friends, who now have their own professional responsibilities and other commitments.
“Ah, for those carefree days,” we think wistfully.
With time and energy becoming such precious commodities, it means we have to be wiser on how we’ll spend our time (1 Corinthians 10:23) (that art exhibition we aren’t keen on going to with an acquaintance? Maybe it’s a good time to just say “no”). And if we’re emotionally and mentally exhausted, we can put in healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, limiting screen time, or taking up a hobby, as a way to recharge ourselves so we’ll be less drained the next workday.
The realities of working life may be different to what we thought it would be. But there are still a few small wins we can celebrate, such as seeing our salaries in our bank accounts, paid leave to enjoy vacations, and being able to enjoy our evenings and weekends (no cramming for exams and assignments). And while it does take a bit of time to adjust from university to working life, as time passes, some of us may end up enjoying working life more than uni! If you’re still struggling to adjust, be kind to yourself and don’t fret, you’ll get there!
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