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College teaches you so much. And depending on where and what you study, advisors and professors will always push you to do your best. But the one thing I wish they would have taught?
How to thrive in your first year out of college!
To give you some context, I studied Strategic Communications at a small, satellite location of a private college in Florida. My professors were great. Furthermore, I was expected to engage in areas beyond my degree which included attending networking events. (Hellllllloooo, free food!)
Not surprisingly, the energy in college definitely oozed a certain pep that made me want to climb to the top and hustle to become as successful as possible.
In the same way, no one blatantly told me that I had to sacrifice and make myself miserable to somehow achieve recognition and promotions at a job. That’s the right of passage for young professionals, right?
Even before I graduated, I found myself burned out, resentful, and compromising myself at work. I just thought I had to get a job that “paid the bills” because being an artist, singer, or anything else wasn’t a real job.
So, what do I think they should teach you in school? A few things come to mind….
According to psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North, there are roughly 12 stages of burnout:
1. Intense drive and ambition to succeed and be the best.
2. Pushing yourself to work harder
3. Abandoning your own needs
4. Not taking responsibility for yourself. Blaming the job, bosses or coworkers for your miserableness.
5. You don’t make time for non-work related activities. It feels like they’re “just getting in the way of your work.”
6. The big D word…DENIAL. It’s easier to say that your coworker is lazy for leaving early than to recognize that you should allow yourself this treat as well.
7. Isolating yourself.
8. You become more reactionary and your behavior changes. You’re snapping at the people you love and feeling overall shitty.
9. Depersonalization. It’s like you don’t know how you got to this point and you don’t feel like you control the wheel anymore.
10. You just feel empty and without a purpose. (My past relief of choice for this feeling was red wine and hours of Netflix to numb myself.)
11. The other D word….Depression. Lack of motivation. Nothing sounds enjoyable. Your bed is your favorite place.
12. Finally, your mental & physical health just can’t take it anymore. You begin to lose your ability to cope, which may result in harmful behaviors.
So what are some ways you can avoid burnout? Taking care of physical and mental health, being mindful of your behavior, asking for help, getting a mentor.. Basically, SAY NO to work sometimes so you can SAY YES to actually living. Set boundaries! Because your career should be a marathon, not a sprint. Not to mention, people who take more vacation days get more raises!
Now that we know what burnout looks like, let’s talk about one of the biggest ways to avoid it.
I personally didn’t think I was allowed to set boundaries because I was supposed to be proving myself at work.
Need something after hours? I’m on it.
A task that is beyond my pay and time? I’ll do it.
Want to talk to me like shit? Go right ahead.
Sound familiar? But when we allow ourselves and others to cross boundaries, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and the job. It doesn’t help anyone and just leads to feeling resentful and wanting to quit.
I am very thankful to have a professor that was a great example of setting boundaries. He made it very clear that he was going to cancel classes sometimes so he could coach his kid’s baseball team. He even went as far to tell the entire class, “My kids and family will always be a priority over all of you!” And honestly…#GOALS
While college may teach you how to put on a pencil skirt with a blazer so you can walk in a room and act professional, I wish they taught you the importance of being yourself.
Even if it means missing out on opportunities because they don’t align with your values or style.
“Don’t post that.”
“You can’t get tattoos, you won’t be able to find a job.”
“You need to be professional.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny that being professional and respectful are important. But I spent years denying my personality, dreams, and even aesthetic because I lived in a primarily conservative city in the south where people turned their noses up at the slightest sign of alternative living.
And while it may sound cheesy, the more authentic you are, the more good you will attract to your life! Because you’ll be attracting a job that’s actually right for you not just what’s supposed to be right for you!
This is one area that my college professors encouraged. We couldn’t graduate without at least 100 LinkedIn connections!
The magic of LinkedIn lies in the fact that you can connect with virtually anyone. And people really do want to connect with you to help you out in any way that they can!
I witnessed this first hand while working at a small recruiting agency where one part of my job was connecting with CEO’s and executives leaders of companies. Granted, they probably only accepted because they saw that I worked in recruiting, but I am now connected with over 2100 people. And my boss had over 30,000!
I promise you will be surprised by how many job offers and proposals you will receive just because you connected with someone on LinkedIn!
Remember: happy people don’t just exist. They don’t just happen. Happy people put in the work to craft their life in a way that suits them.
And nine times out of ten, you need help doing that. Even if it’s just an app like Headspace or you try to follow mental health content on Instagram, it is so vital that you seek guidance and help!
This is because having a counselor and being mindful helps you know when you should create boundaries or if you’re being taken advantage of.
At this point, you probably understand that not setting boundaries and feeling burned out can lead to neglecting family and friends.
This was especially true for me during my first year out of college when I got so sucked into working overtime. I thought spending time with friends & family was getting in the way of getting my work done instead of the other way around!
In retrospect, I now understand why I was so depressed and anxious. I never made time for fun or spent time with friends! And I’m not the only one that feels the effects of this. Research done by Psychology Today reports that limited face-to-face social contact nearly doubles someone’s risk of having depression.
And while that may seem obvious, I think we’d all be a lot happier if we were more intentional about scheduling time for connection. This can be as simple as having coffee once a week with a friend or Facetiming your mom!
It’s simple: we are happier human beings when we have more free time.
But somehow we still have a society entirely focused on working harder and having MORE and more money! #HustleCulture
And what really blows my mind is the fact that there is research that PROVES this but we’re all still striving to own as much STUFF as possible! (Not that stuff is bad. I’m personally a huge fan 😉 )
Regardless, the first year out of college can already be overwhelming without feeling like you have to live a lifestyle outside of your means to impress new coworkers or friends, ammiright?
Overall, it’s easy to lose ourselves without even realizing it. Especially during your first year out of college when it’s easy to focus on what OTHERS are telling us we should be doing!
So, if you’re gearing up to graduate, or perhaps you’ve already graduated but feel lost like I was…
I hope you are encouraged to say no, ask for help, and do what’s right for YOU during your first year out of college. 🖤