After a few months into your dream job it is almost inevitable that you will start to question your career choice. The realities of the workplace will begin to settle in, and you will start to question whether most of what you heard about your chosen career was simply false advertising. You may also begin to wonder why your former classmates and current colleagues seem to enjoy what has become, for you, a bleak and desolate existence. You may even begin to seriously consider throwing in the towel and admitting defeat.
Since graduating I and some former university mates regularly meet to discuss life as young working professionals. During our last gathering, I asked them what was the hardest thing about transitioning into their chosen career. I was surprised to find that they all faced, more or less, the same challenges, viz settling into a new norm, not needing to think in the same way, and being too far away from the decision-making process. From our discussions it was clear that while we all faced similar challenges, we each came up with different coping strategies.
Developing a new norm
A change of environment will always lead to the need to develop a new set of norms. Whether it's moving to a new house or getting a new pet, it can be difficult to get used to the new “normal” particularly if it is mundane. Unlike going to university where you can get away with not turning up to dull lectures, a job does not offer this luxury. Tedious, boring, and bothersome tasks must be managed, period. How you handle them will determine how your colleagues and line manager perceive and therefore relate to you.
The advice that I was given was to develop the ability to interweave mundane tasks with the more interesting pieces of work. This approach will help develop skills in prioritising, as well as to demonstrate reliability. Simply put, at time you just have to push through. Furthermore, there is no career that comprise entirely of activities that you will always like. A word of warning however – settling into a norm can have the effect of curbing drive and enthusiasm.
Having little impact
In my degree all the courses that I studied in my first two years were compulsory. This meant that while there were modules I thoroughly enjoyed, I also had to deliver on those that made me question whether my thinking was becoming automated. However, come my final year, I appreciated that I had indeed developed a solid foundation upon which to build. This analogy applies to the world of work. No matter how exciting a job sounds on paper, in your early period it is unlikely that you will be permitted or be able to demonstrate the impactful nature of your ability to make decisions.
During the early stages of your career you are being observed, examined, assessed by managers and colleagues. Do you have what it takes to work effectively with others, to work independently, to make decisions that will have a real impact on the business? If you are on a graduate programme it is more likely that you will be exposed to a wider range of corporate challenges. Once completed you should be quizzed regards your functional/departmental preferences - your response may or may not match how and where the organisation may wish to place you.
The truth is that a “dream job” is built on the back of hundreds of hours of grunt work. Getting the degree and landing a job in your chosen field is just the beginning of a long and hopefully exciting and prosperous journey. As my former classmates and I are discovering, it is important to deliver and enjoy where you are now while keeping a weathered eye on the future.