The first 365 days.
I remember I couldn't wait to graduate and start working. I didn't even care about the money, but I wanted know my worth. I wanted to challenge myself in a professional way and find out how valuable I could be. Being this impatient made me think of my first day of work as something completely radical. I didn't even know where I was going to be working but I was full of expectations. I knew my first day of work would be something that would change my life forever.
Thruth be told, I didn't feel any superior change at first. It didn't really feel any different. It was the same feeling you get when you go to a new school and deal with everything that you have deal with when you're new:
- You open the door unsure of what you will see behind. But if you're lucky like I was, another friend you've met before is also new, so at least you know you'll have someone to sit at lunch with.
- You go there to do some work that's pretty much something you've already done at some point during these last four years. In my case, design.
- You meet new classmates, which now are designated coworkers, and you smile awkwardly to make yourself seem like a nice approachable person.
- You then meet the teacher, or the person who'll decide if you have made a good job or not and give you a grade; this is your boss, and yes just like in school, you'll end up learning more than you ever imagined from them.
- Finally you go home to tell your family or friends all about your first day.
And then, before you notice you are already part of the working force. Of course, there are some high's and low's; and you will definitely miss having month long holidays but you are okay with that because you don't really need those anymore. You will have to find your balance daily.
I'm looking back now, after 365 days of doing this, and I'm quite astonished, because what did not felt like a change before has now changed me completely.
Right now I'm a completely different person than whom I was last February. Of course this has a lot to do with the fact that my new job came with a lot of new experiences like moving in a new city on my own, having my first meeting with real clients and executive directors, creating my first presonal budget and learning how to handle my newly acquired economic independence, making new friends as an adult (which has been a thousand times harder for me than when I was a student), mastering the art of paying taxes, getting my heart broken, dealing with diseases on my own, learning to say no when needed and yes when wanted. I haven't find that previously mentioned daily balance or mastered my self-discipline, but all these new experiences have made me grow both personally and professionally.
I feel very proud and grateful for what I have been able to learn this past year, and that's why I have decided to make this post about the 10 most important lessons I have learned so far and that have change me in so little time.
- Trust myself. It really depens on your position and industry, but in my particular case I learned that I was there to offer solutions. Nobody wanted to hear me saying "I don't know". I was expected to do my research, hire someone who knew, ask for advice, make my best guess; but never to just answer "I don't know". People wanted me for my proactivity and initiative, never for my excuses. So even when I didn't truly know, and it terrified me that I would be responsible for coming up with something that wouldn't be as good, I had to learn to trust myself and propose a solution regardless the quality of it. Most of the time, actually, it turned out I was the best prepared on the topic to propose any kind of solution, and just by using logical thinking you could say it was not a bad solution. It may not have been the best, but any solution was always better than no solution at all.
- Find friends that support you. I thought personal and professional life should be kept separate, but I've come to realize that since they're both part of me, I need to be good on them both to perfom my best. For me friendship was crucial. I was lucky to count with friends that had gone through the same stuff or were dealing with the same stuff. I remember we would motivate each other to keep pushing and doing our best and reaching our dreams. Support from mentors, friends, parents, and just special people in general that encourage me to be a better person has become necessary for me to continue my professional growth.
- Hold on. I remember there was a time when the situation at work became horrible, and I would think to myself "I don't even need this job, why do I keep dealing with this?" But I've always hated feeling defeated, so I didn't give up, didn't abandoned it, and now I feel like it was the best decission I could have made. Things will get difficult at some point, you will encounter terrible clients, co-workers, bosses, or simply very poorly managed projects, and they will all discourage you, but if you let them win you'll miss the opportunity of learning and development that comes with endurance. Besides I've never met anyone who has told me they regret staying there and learning to deal with the problem. I think as a general rule I will try to leave when I know it's right to leave, not when something is pushing me to leave.
- Learn to speak up. Expressing new ideas, developing initiatives, sharing the opportunities I have identified, and communicating some unjustice I've seen has brought most of my professional growth. Not only did it taught me a lot of new lessons, but it dramatically increased the value I represent to the agency. This lesson is a tricky one because I have met people that have advised me otherwise, but if I ever find myself in a job where I can't speak up and nobody wants to hear me, then why would I want to belong there?
- Apreciate what you have. After some time it seems like something normal to be there doing what you are doing. It's not. Meeting new people and having conversations with different people has helped me keeping humble and grateful with the people that have participated in offering me this opportunity and trust. This is exactly what fuels me to take every opportunity as a challenge to myself to see how much better could I be.
- Exploit all your available resources. This one may have something to do with the fact that I know it will all come to an end. And I don't know if I will ever have access to the contacts, books, advices, teachings, experts, tools, courses, etc. that are right now available to me. In my case there weren't all presented to me as resources, but anytime I can sort out any typography doubts with a design expert, or discuss about team management with my bosses, or enjoy food-filled co-creation session with a client, or the opportunity to exchange leadership articles with executive directors, I never hesitate to take it. I see a lot of people commit this mistake where i work and I'm very happy I'm always in the look out for other ways to exploit all the available resources continuosly.
- Take care of yourself. This is an obvious one, but I still make this mistake continously. I've actually found out it takes some effort, many organizational skills and lots of self-discipline. But when I do excercise, meal-prep on Sunday, rest enough and stick to my routine, it doesn't feel boring; on the contrary I feel like I have superpowers. Sometimes my work schedule, mess this up a bit making it much more difficult (though not impossible) to achive. I just want to always remember this is crucial and really worth making an effort.
- Don't underestimate you. This is one of the hardest lessons I've had to learn. My age and experience do not define me. When I had to build my own dream team I looked up to experience, but I learned from the advice an amazing Planner gave me "Hire for attitude, train for skills." (Though I think my father has been telling me this same advice for years already). Yes, experience is great and the more you have the better; but I had to learn to accept the knowledge and experience that I have right now and use it as best as I can. Instead of making my age a disadvantage, I should have been wiser and used it as an advantage. And the funny thing is once I learned how to embrace my own age it was easier to not let anyone look at me down just because I was young. In fact I learned to read those signs and proved them otherwise. Truth is most people I've met admire my young age and skills as much as I admire their experience and history, so at the end is a nice relationship of admiration and respect both ways.
- Keep in touch. One can get terribly lost between all the work, but it's really important to make a big effort and continue in touch with the people you care. Just like I said in my point number 2, professional, personal, and social development are never really separated. You can't simply ignore one and expect to be okay. As adult life comes, and living far away makes it harder, it become tough to keep in touch with your loved ones, but it's totally worth it.
- Define your success criteria early enough, and redefine it, and redefine it. I wish I had done this earlier. Setting up personal goals once you enter a new position is a cool way to keep track of your professional development progress and a way to revise them to match your updated dreams. After some time working there I defined my success criteria. Right now it includes: making projects that last and generate internal impact, setting directions and finding people that can continue, implement and evolve my vision, and inspiring others to adopt a more strategic approach rather than just an operatative one. These are not expected of me or form part of my functions and responsabilities, but I know if I achieve these, I'll have succeed on the challenges that my job represents for me personally. I want this practice to continue over at any new stage of life I enter and also revise these continuosly to see if my dreams have changed. Like right now, I love my job and still have a lot to learn from it and a long way to actually succeed on the challenges I have defined but my dreams and focus have changed. I believe the world might be needing me to do something else, and opportunities I thought would not arise until many years ahead have presented.
It's crazy to see how much one can grow in only one year. It's also very exciting cause I can't wait to enter new chapter in my professional path and see what new lessons they bring.
*I started writing this post when I turned excatly a year old on January 30th 2018, but ended up publishing until late March*