Navigating the workforce as a millennial today is tricky. Not only is the economy still in recovery mode, but satirical YouTube videos like the Millennials in the Workplace Training Video prove our reputation is working against us.
Millennials have high standards and expectations. We don’t necessarily want to take the first or highest paying job that comes our way. We want meaningful and fulfilling work.
As the school year comes to a close, 2014 graduates enter an uncertain time. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before my first full-time job that your campus career center won’t tell you.
1. You Can’t Be Anything You Want To Be.
Most of us were probably told as kids, “If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be.” Well, it’s a big fat lie.
But wait, this is good news! God created us all differently. He gave you a unique set of skills and interests that cannot be duplicated. You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be everything you’re meant to be.
2. Everyone Else is Winging It Just Like You.
In your first job, you may have moments when you feel like a fraud because you’re making it up as you go. But don’t be fooled. Most learning is done on the job. Take your challenges humbly and confidently, and remember you’re not the only one who feels like they don’t know what they’re doing.
3. Mission Fit Matters More Than Job Fit.
Forty plus hours per week is a lot of time to spend working toward a mission you don’t believe in. Employers would rather hire someone who is enthusiastic about the mission of the organization but needs skills training over someone who has the perfect resume but isn’t mission-aligned.
While job hunting, the most important question you can ask yourself is, “Am I passionate about the mission of this organization?” Working in an environment where everyone shares the same goal is crucial for the organization’s success and your personal fulfillment.
4. Live to Work, But the Right Way.
It’s the age-old debate: Should we work to live or live to work? Some see their work as a toilsome means to make a living while others idolize their careers. But neither perspective exemplifies a sound theology of work.
Work isn’t a curse, but a gift God gave us before the fall. God created us to work. Of course, this doesn’t mean making work the center of your life, but rather recognizing that your work has eternal significance. When we view our work as a tool God gave us to fulfill the cultural mandate so that we might flourish, “living to work” takes on a much deeper, theological meaning.
5. Staying Late is Overrated.
Everyone knows someone who brags about how late he or she stayed in the office the previous night. Don’t let this person trick you into thinking you should do the same. Your job is about long-term value creation, not about how many hours you spend in the office.
Sometimes you will have to stay late to get your job done, but it’s important to set a good liturgy of life. If you’re overloaded, don’t be afraid to ask your boss to take something off your plate. Be a good steward of your time at work and remember that time spent away from work can actually make you more productive at work.
6. Be Entrepreneurial.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your first full-time job is to assume a passive role, only doing what you’re told to do. Don’t be afraid to present your ideas just because you’re an entry-level employee. No matter what position you’re in, you have an opportunity to offer something new because you are unique and wired differently than your coworkers.
7. Tedious Tasks are Tremendously Meaningful.
Can copying papers, mailing packages and organizing filing cabinets change the world? Definitely.
Seemingly insignificant tasks can create a huge amount of value for your organization, whether you see it or not. It used to take hundreds of years to build cathedrals in medieval times. The worker who laid the cornerstone never lived to see the steeple.
Be OK with the fact that you won’t always see the finished product of your work or the full impact of the little things you do every day. You will experience drudgery, but in God’s eyes, there is no such thing menial work.
8. It’s OK to Leave Before You Hit the One Year Mark.
Chances are, your first full-time job won’t be your dream job. And that’s OK. But what if you absolutely can’t stand your first job and want to leave only after a few months? Some people might tell you to stick it out for at least a year because it will look better on your resume. But this advice doesn’t account for the opportunity cost of your wasted time.
If you’re absolutely miserable at your job and it’s hurting your professional growth, leave as soon as you find the right opportunity to do so. The sooner you leave a bad job, the sooner you can continue to advance your career and fulfill your calling.
9. The Grass Will Always be Greener.
At the same time, don’t leave just because you’re getting antsy. One of the biggest temptations you will face in your career is the “What’s next?” mentality. There will always be a better job out there. Discontentment is part of every job. Know when to leave, but more importantly, know when to be content and push through the crummy stuff.
10. The Real World is Way Better Than College.
The “real world” that everyone tries to scare you about is actually really awesome. Yes, it involves doing your taxes and it’s filled with uncertainty, but you are entering one of the most exciting times in your life.
Your 20s could be your most defining decade. You’ll have more freedoms and more choices than you’ve ever had in the past or will ever have in the future. It’s going to be a great adventure.
Elise Amyx is a Writer and Student Outreach Manager at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics in McLean, Virginia. Her articles have been published in Real Clear Religion, The Detroit News, and The Gospel Coalition. Follow Elise on Twitter @eliseamyx.