To have and to hold from this day forward

… an extra qualification.

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It is difficult to work, but it’s even harder to work and study at the same time.

Some of you may wonder why I stopped blogging so regularly. Yes, there were the usual episodes of laziness and a lack of inspiration, however I did have a legitimate reason – I was studying for my CIMA qualification. And it took forever for me to take my first exam because it was just so hard. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that the content was particularly challenging (though it wasn’t that easy either), it was hard because I had to work at the same time.

I should have made better use of my free time in University by doing the qualification instead. In fact, I had an acquaintance who did the CIMA foundation and level 1 during university, because he needed a diploma or a degree certificate in order to take his CFA. He then went on to finish his CFA before we even started working. We all thought he was crazy and intense. On hindsight, given how slack it sometimes was in year 1 and 2 of University, I regret not doing the same. At present, he has an awesome job, which most people can’t have given our limited level of experience and lack of qualification. His LinkedIn profile is always ranked one of the most viewed. Of course, there are also some of us who have landed great jobs and would never need those qualifications.

But sometimes I wonder if I did the same, would I be as successful as him? That’s a rhetorical question – probably not even close but I would think I would be better positioned during the job hunting season. I guess I just have to settle with the fact that I now have to work and study at the same time.

Having been through a little of what it’s like, I thought to give those of you who are thinking of doing a qualifications some tips on what to look out.

1. Find something relevant to what you do or what you might be interested to do

This might seem straightforward, but sometimes people take qualifications for the sake of taking them or because people around them are doing so. Personally, I was dissuaded from taking CIMA by some people. They advised me that I should have taken CFA instead because it was more recognised. However, the definition of “more recognised” depends on what industry you work in. If I were in banking – yes absolutely, but I found that CIMA was more relevant to my work.

Pursuing a qualification is also a great move to switch out of a job / industry. A good example is how some people have decided to take do Masters with the hope that that’ll open another window of opportunity to them. That works too, but there’s always a level of uncertainty with that, which leads to me to my next point.

2. Speak to as many people as possible

If you’re really serious about taking a qualification, speak to a good mix of people, specifically:

  • those who are senior and qualified to understand how the qualification has or hasn’t benefitted them
  • those who are in the industry / job that you hope your qualification will open doors to, in order to understand whether the qualification is actually relevant and necessary for their job
  • those who are taking the qualification to learn about their experience and assess if you can really take the extra challenge and stress. They may also give you a tip or two about financing options

3. Start small – if you can, take one exam and see whether you find it relevant

It doesn’t have to be like a 12 month gym membership, you can actually take 1 exam first, then schedule the other exams after that. Don’t overcommit and buy all the books at one, only to find that you hate it and find it extremely boring. You could even buy the book first and see whether you find the exam worth taking. There’s definitely a high cost to pursuing qualifications. Sometimes you might have to self fund your studies, so you need to be wise about how you spend your money. Even if your company sponsors you, you need to make sure that failing the exam will not affect your promotion and bonus opportunities, or even worst whether you keep your job.

And this reminds me – I really need to cancel my monthly gym membership.

4. Once you commit, you will experience pain and constant FOMO, but don’t give up.

FOMO 
ˈfəʊməʊ/
noun informal
  1. anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.
    “I realized I was a lifelong sufferer of FOMO”
early 21st century: abbreviation of fear of missing out.

 

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Know that you will definitely lose some weekends and weekday nights. It’s very common in the UK that people will ask you “how was your weekend”. My response for my Easter holiday weekend was particularly depressing because I was studying throughout. When asked this question, we figured that it is usually polite to ask the person back. Cue a slight cringe inside when they tell me about their fabulous weekend, riding horses and chasing unicorns. I guess at least they didn’t mock me for having a lack of life.

Or maybe you could rethink FOMO, when everyone has qualification and you have none. #FOMO

Concluding Thoughts

As one of my friends pointed out to me, those who are the most successful are often those who are always working and studying at the same time. They are constantly improving their personal and professional self. It doesn’t have to be by pursuing professional qualification – there’s only so many you can do that is relevant but self-improvement is always great.

At least you won’t feel that your “study” brain is degenerating. Looking back, i can confidently say that my math has definitely improved. The qualification has also helped me understand a lot more things in work. There was an initial inertia to study after work, but it really helps once I get into a rhythm of work-study-life. I still feel that I miss out sometimes, especially on sunny weekends and I’m stuck indoors. But even if I’m not studying, the truth is that I would probably be stuck indoors watching drama anyway.

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An accurate portrayal by theAwkwardYeti

On the bright side, for the rest of us who are single and have few commitments, we just need to worry about working and studying. I have no idea how those who are married with kids, work and study survive.

Hope you enjoyed the post! I would also like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment. You’ll never know who else is reading your comments and might benefit from them!

If you would like to stay tune to the next post, please click the “Follow” button on the bottom right of the page and just provide your email. You don’t need to have a registered wordpress account. 

You can also connect by following my instagram @twentyandfabulous and liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/twentyandfabulous/

Stay fabulous & ambitious everyone! 

Athena

 

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The Car Park Problem: Learning to Say No

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I was back in Singapore for Lunar New Year last month and encountered a peculiar problem in the car park. My best friend was driving and we were looking for a parking space in a multi-storey car park. However, when she drove to the third storey, everything came to a standstill. We didn’t move for twenty minutes.

By some miracle, we eventually found a parking lot and got out as quickly as we could. I asked my best friend about this and she said this was a common situation faced in this car park. The car park had a major problem. It had only one lane. Cars that came up to find parking lots were blocked by cars which were trying to get out of the carpark. Then the honking starts. All that was needed to solve the problem was for someone to say no to the situation, get out of the car and direct the traffic, but everyone preferred to sit in their air-conditioned vehicle… and honk. Nobody wanted to get out into the heat and roll up their sleeves to get the traffic moving.

The car park problem reflects a similar problem I face in work: my inability to say no, because it is uncomfortable.

As a junior, it is normal that we would want to please our bosses. It could be ambition that drives us to constantly want to impress our superiors. Sometimes its nervousness that we may be left behind our peers if we don’t make them happy. Sometimes it could be just purely of fear that we will not progress in our careers if we don’t. I have the same fear. During one of my projects, I received the feedback that in my eagerness to please, I didn’t actually know what I signed up for. Given the tight deadline of one month, I didn’t actually have the capacity to perform the task, but I said yes to the partner because I didn’t like the idea of rejecting a partner. I mean, it’s a partner.

Since it’s so uncomfortable to say no, why should I do it then?

It affects your ability to deliver on other tasks.

For every task that you accept, you need to consider the consequences on the other outstanding work that you have. Does it affect the quality and the timeliness of other work? How does it change the order of priority of each piece of work? This will also put your reputation at stake if you fail to deliver.

A good piece of advice I was given by someone was to “under-promise and over-deliver” for every piece of work that you receive. As you’ve managed expectations when the task was initially handed out to you, any extra mile you go will enable you to exceed expectations upon completion of your task. However, I’ll put a twist on this principle – before you can even under-promise anything, how about think of what you can even promise in the first place. Because if you’re overworked, you can under-promise, but you’ll probably under-deliver as well.

It increases chance of burnout from work.

One of the main points that I didn’t mention in my post on the difficulties of transitioning from University to work, which eventually leads graduates to want to quit very quickly, is actually due to our inability to say no. Having more responsibilities and being challenged is a good thing, but when it starts making you sacrifice your weekends and prolong your weekdays, you will burn out soon.

As some of us aren’t willing to have this conversation about being overworked with our boss, we choose to quit instead because we can’t actually live like that. We live with the stigma that saying no and refusing a task means that we are lazy and not willing to be challenged, but there is a line. Sometimes people give you so much because they have become accustomed to you taking on so much that they don’t even realise. However, nobody is going to tell them except for you. The onus is on you.

In fact, I would think that employers would prefer you to work hard, be consistent about the quality of work, rather than work extremely hard all the time and quit after less than 2 years of working for them. As quoted by a friend who has his own company, “we prefer a consistent employee than a one who slacks one day, hotshot the next. When you’re running a company, you want reduce all the unknowns as much as possible. There’s enough of them as it is.”

An obvious question now comes to mind, how do you say no exactly?

An effective method that I’ve tried so far was to ask questions to clarify and increase my understanding of the task. Sometimes people aren’t really sure what task they are handing out to you to do, sometimes they don’t even know the purpose of the task. Hence, by asking questions and challenging them slightly, the task may actually have been redundant. You could try listing the competing priorities you have at hand to see whether you can fit the new task in, or if the person will get the message that it’s not possible. In fact, even if you didn’t successfully manage to say no, the person can at least give you a hand at prioritising the different tasks you’re juggling with.

I haven’t been able to investigate the different methods, but one thing not to do is to say no immediately when the request is given. It’s so easy to come off as rude and arrogant when you say no immediately, especially to your superior.

Concluding Thoughts

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There’s always a rainbow if you just step out.

With that said, it’s important to not reject challenges to increase your capacity and ability at work. You need to judge correctly for yourself what is too much for you and what you’re rejecting because you aren’t willing to be challenged.

Nobody knows whether you’re just being lazy or you’re really overloaded with work, except you. We are sometimes so good at putting a professional and calm front that we forget to prioritise our own well-being. We sit there stuck in our cars honking all day, frustrated and angry with the situation. We forget that the quality of our other work decreases when we take on more than we can handle. We forget that we could actually do something about the car park problem.

If you face the carpark problem in your workplace, why don’t you stop honking and do something about it today?

Hope you enjoyed the post! I would also like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment. You’ll never know who else is reading your comments and might benefit from them!

If you would like to stay tune to the next post, please click the “Follow” button on the bottom right of the page and just provide your email. You don’t need to have a registered wordpress account. 

You can also connect by following my instagram @twentyandfabulous and liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/twentyandfabulous/

Stay fabulous & strong everyone! 

Athena

Perks of being a Social Butterfly

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Back when we were in school, the most popular and well-liked person never received A+ for possessing excellent social skills. We were only graded based on the exams we took, the essays we wrote, the coursework we did – it was all down to the technical tangible stuff. Even project work didn’t really require you to get along with your team members, because you could do everything yourself if you wanted to and just write the scripts for everyone for presentation day. You could get away with working alone, as long as you were willing to put in a few more hours. However, it changes entirely once you enter the workforce.

At work, most of us operate in a team, report to our supervisors, speak with clients and interact with colleagues. When I first started, I was uncomfortable, because I knew that being good at my job was no longer just about producing the deliverable, but also about how well my colleagues liked working with me and how much rapport I could build with the team and client. I became more aware of the increasing importance of building relationships with people around me.

However, to my surprise, I slowly realised that building strong relationships was actually sometimes more important than having strong subject knowledge. I shared this discovery with my mentor who agreed with me. She found that in her years of experience, in an extreme case between a person who possesses high technical expertise but poor social skills and a person who gets along well with many people but has little technical expertise, the latter will usually do better.

Let me justify myself with the following observations:

1. People won’t make work harder for themselves by working with difficult (but capable) people

Recently, my project team did a personality type test – some of you might have heard of Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), to understand each other’s working style more. When explaining one of the personality types, we were given a scenario by the expert,

“You are leading a client project with 8 other members working under you. Initially, all 8 of them were meant to go to Miami for a client presentation. However, the company later informed you that there’s only budget for you and one other person. Assuming that everyone is equally well-positioned to give the presentation, who will you choose?”

Now I won’t delve into all the answers that were given, but one particular answer really caught my attention. One of the more senior leads said,

“I will bring whoever I can get along the best with and have a pint with.” 

His reason was that since everyone was equally prepared and qualified to give the presentation, why not bring someone that you can get along with and have some fun?

Initially, I was slightly annoyed. After all, you’re in Miami for work, so fun should be separate from his consideration. However, thinking more about it afterwards, I realised that it was so true. For many of us, dream job or not, work sometimes feel like an obligation. Since it’s already such a chore, why surround yourself and work with people that you can’t speak to casually and joke around with. Why make your life tougher by being so serious and “professional” all the time?

I’ve experienced working in a team that I could have a laugh with but did moderately challenging and sometimes administrative work versus a team that was really strict and had very exciting and interesting work. When comparing which experience was more enjoyable, the former project wins hands down.

Honestly, your job becomes so much harder when you work with someone that you can’t communicate well socially with, even if they are very capable.

(On the note of work being a chore, my colleague on the same project as me who obviously could afford not to work told me today that, “when you find the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Wise words?)

2. Life’s like that – sometimes you pick your friends even if they are less competent.

At the start of one of my projects, I had 2 colleagues. I sat in a room with them and observed how they worked to figure out the best approach for the project. I could be wrong but I felt that one was definitely technically better in his approach. He was very sharp, but kept cutting in mid sentence. While the other colleague was not as strong, he was such a nice and easygoing person who cared and listened to everyone’s views attentively (even mine, when I knew nothing).

The budget for resources decreased and then one colleague had to roll off. Guess who left? It’s definitely possible that I didn’t see the strength in the colleague that my director saw. It could be due to other reasons that the easygoing colleague was chosen (i.e. he was maybe more experienced in that particular scope of work). Maybe my impression was wrong.

He did get along extremely well with my director though.

On my part, I was very happy that he was chosen because I had a really good time working with him. To date, we are still chatting and have a good professional relationship. If it were me, I would have picked him too.

3. In the long run, it’s all about your ability to build relationships.

Aa a junior, sometimes you find that in order to prove your worth, you need to focus on building your technical skills. However, as you climb up the career ladder, the importance of forming strong professional relationships increases at an unbelievable pace. Depending on the line of work, you supervise and leave most of the technical bits to your team. Mostly, you leverage your network to increase sales.

Think of your Partner or Managing Director pitching for projects, it’s all about who they know, not what they know. They will definitely have a fundamental level of technical knowledge. But if they don’t, they can always hire people who do that.

Concluding Thoughts

All of these revelations have changed how I act professionally. Previously at school, you could always get away with being not very sociable or even anti-social as long as you had good grades; you could be “successful” (i.e. get into the best universities). However, you need to recognise that it will change once you step into the working world.

Obviously, still being strong in your technical ability will help set you apart from the rest. You cannot expect to cruise through your job just by being friends with everyone, but don’t neglect building relationships. It’s not too late to realise that your performance scorecard has changed. Time for you to change and enjoy some perks of being a social butterfly too!

Hope you enjoyed the post! I would also like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment. You’ll never know who else is reading your comments and might benefit from them!

If you would like to stay tune to the next post, please click the “Follow” button on the bottom right of the page and just provide your email. You don’t need to have a registered wordpress account. 

You can also connect by following my instagram @twentyandfabulous and liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/twentyandfabulous/

Stay fabulous & sociable everyone! 

Athena

 

 

 

The Bare Minimum for Work (Makeup Edition)

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This post is dedicated to all my fabulous female readers!

Many of us ladies starting work have a rough idea of how much makeup to put for work, but exactly how much is too much and how much is too little?

In this post, I hope that I can shed a little light on this. I’ll also be sharing some makeup hacks on how to get ready quickly for work.

Disclaimer: Having worked for only 1.5 years, I am obviously no expert at putting on makeup (you need beauty bloggers for that) or gauging how much makeup to wear at work, therefore I’ve tried to interview quite a number of people to write this article.

How much makeup should you wear exactly, especially for your first day of work?

Someone close to me who is the boss of her own company gave me a pretty good answer. On a scale of 100, where o% is no makeup and 100% is full party makeup, put around 60% and focus on your eyes and lips. 60% will be sufficient to look presentable enough, but that also depends on your skin condition. My friend, E, wears a #nomakeup look literally, but her complexion is really good. It varies from person to person.

Paying attention on your eyes and lips can go a long way in giving you a brighter and more awake look. Invest in some good quality lipsticks with versatile colours. I use mainly two Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) ones, #52 and #17 for work. Depending on my mood, I alternate between the dark red #52 and paler pinkish #17. Why not more buy more? Well, I’m always conscious of hoarding makeup and of their expiry dates, so I’m more than contented with these two. Of course, I have another 2 for going out, but these 2 are the most suitable for work. Throughout the day, I use the Dior Addict Lip Glow, because it does a really good lip balm job (i.e. very moisturising) with some colour in it. It’s also comforting that I don’t have to be constantly checking whether I’ve got lipstick stains on my teeth when I use this.

Personally, I don’t use eyeliner or mascara (gasp! – I told you I’m no makeup expert), but I haven’t had problems with that. The thing is that when I apply my eyeliner on my eyelids, it becomes obvious that they are uneven and then I will have to put on eyelid tape, which is an absolute fuss and I would much rather spend a few more minutes in bed. Some of my friends do, but choose not to put mascara, because when they rub their eyes after looking at the computer screen for too long, there’s a fear that the mascara might smudge. My personal preference is to put eyeshadow, light coloured ones to brighten up my eye area. It’s so easy because it’s a brush and the margin of error is much wider compared to applying eyeliner.

As we discuss about eye makeup, you’ll realise that there are different ways to enhance your eye area. It’s up to your personal preference and how much time you have in the morning. Just make sure to stay away from dark coloured smoky eyeshadows and thick eyeliners. You don’t want to send out the message that you were out last night partying and forgot to take off your make up.

Now on to the section that I’m more excited about!

7 Makeup hacks for the working girl who prefers her sleep over makeup

(Some of them can be really basic and I’m risking that everyone knows all of this already, but being a complete makeup beginner, I learnt all of these after starting work).

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1. After toning and moisturising, put your lip balm on while waiting.

It’s important to let your moisturiser set in for a minute, so that it will be more effective in keeping your skin moist. I didn’t used to do that and my skin got dry and flaky even though I was using Clinque moisturiser which is apparently very good and rich. I don’t want to start nagging about using toner but if you want less blackheads, please close your pores. Putting on lip balm will moisturise your lips and get them ready for the lipstick. This will reduce the number of trips to the loo to touch up your lipstick. Spray some perfume while waiting.

2. Use a make up brush for foundation

A few months back, I was washing my hands in the loo and chatting to my colleague, L who was getting ready to go out that night. She had her whole bag of makeup with her and I was telling her that I’m really bad at makeup. She replied saying she was too and in fact only recently did she found out that she should use a makeup brush for foundation.

I laughed and replied, “I didn’t even know that until now!” Ah, the many revelations you have in the loo!

Thus, I started my quest to research for the best makeup brush that met my criteria of good, affordable and easy for beginners. The winning brush was the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush! Honestly, I’ve never regretted buying this, which I often do for other cosmetic products, because I usually stop using them after a while when I get lazy. The brush is the winning makeup tool for lazy people. I use liquid foundation from Benefit, and it’s very easy for me to apply it well and evenly using my makeup brush, compared to using my fingers and taking quite a bit of time. After that, I use the brush for some powder foundation to set the makeup and I’m done! Voilà!

It’s more hygienic as well, because once a week, I spray some of my Instant Makeup Cleaner from Make Up Forever (sold in Sephora) into a cotton pad, which cleans the brush really well. This is in line with my strong belief that you use make up to enhance your features and sometimes, cover some of your flaws. But you need to make sure that it doesn’t cause your skin to break out in pimples or worst acne (gasp!) and makes you rely on it even more to cover up. One way to prevent ruining your skin is by washing your brushes and practising good hygiene (i.e. clean fingers when you apply makeup).

3. Use your fourth finger for eye area

The magic fourth finger is apparently the one that has the lightest touch out of all your fingers or something to that effect. Hence, when applying concealer or blending eyeshadow, use your fourth finger because the skin around your eye area is the thinest. I know I just said to use a brush for applying foundation, but for concealer, the warmth of your finger ‘melts’ the concealer, making it easier to apply around your eye area and blend it in. There’s more research to justify this but just do it!

4. Introducing the Tangle Teezer, the game changer for your hair

Previously, I used to cut my hair regularly, because I couldn’t maintain long hair properly and there were just too many knots. On the other hand, my fashion blogger friend, A had this amazing product on hand every time we went out with her.

Introducing the Tangle Teezer for people who can’t be bothered to condition their hair or have too many knots.

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This is an amazing product and now I comb my hair super fast in the morning.

5. Try different hairstyles and look gorgeous

After you’ve worked for a while, your hairstyle tends to stay the same and it gets boring. Recently, I saw this video from Naomi Neo and I thought this hairstyle was perfect for work and takes like 2 minutes maximum?

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I know it says “Hairdo for a casual date”, but if you shift the pony tail to the middle, it actually looks quite professional looking and this look will make your normal pony tail a little less boring. You don’t need the ribbons and the hair straightener . Link below at the end of the post!

6. Magically de-oil your hair with dry shampoo

You’re not meant to wash your hair every single day, but when you come from Singapore, the climate turns your hair disgustingly oily. Hence, when I arrived in the UK, I tried to wash my hair less, but I think because my hair is so used to being washed everyday that it just became really oily all the time. However, after watching a Tried and Tested on clicknetwork video, I discovered the magic of dry shampoo!

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All you do is shake the can, spray it on your hair, brush it and it looks washed! This is especially useful for those who worked too late the previous night and don’t want to go through the whole fuss of washing and blowdrying your hair. Yes, because that sacrifices that extra 15-20 minutes of your sleep. If you want to try getting a dry shampoo, I would recommend that you do more research on the brand of dry shampoo, because I don’t think this brand is really that good unfortunately. 

7. Invest in good make up removers

(On a quick side note, I know this doesn’t really fit in with getting ready for work, but it’s too important to be left out!!!)

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Not only do you prevent having breakouts from leftover makeup, you also clean your face much faster when you have good makeup removers. I find it much harder to remove eye makeup sometimes when the makeup remover isn’t very good. Take the Bioderma makeup remover for instance, it is one of the best rated makeup removers and it easily takes off most make up with one cotton pad, but I prefer the Hada Labo one, because it’s extremely good at removing both eye and face make up. (Thank you S for introducing it to me!) Both of them don’t leave the face feeling dry either, which is nice.

And yes to all those who use BB cream, you need to use makeup remover as well, even if it’s just BB cream.

Concluding Thoughts

If it’s your first day of work, just go with 60% makeup for the bare minimum, then observe your female colleagues to gauge how much you can actually get away with.

In my opinion, it’s more important to be consistent about how much makeup you put. For example, you will have down days, so if you do 95% all the time, you will look quite different if you decide to go with 20% makeup another day. Not that different is necessarily bad, just make sure that you always look presentable and awake. While I say that, I go from 60% to 0% when I have an exhausting week at the client. And then around midday, I regret not bringing my makeup bag along because now I want to look pretty. Yes, make that tip #8, bring a small makeup bag along to work in case of emergencies.

Hope you enjoyed the post! I would also like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment. You’ll never know who else is reading your comments and might benefit from them!

If you would like to stay tune to the next post, please click the “Follow” button on the bottom right of the page and just provide your email. You don’t need to have a registered wordpress account. 

You can also connect by following my instagram @twentyandfabulous and liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/twentyandfabulous/

Stay fabulous & gorgeous everyone! 

Athena

Videos mentioned in this post:

Naomi Neo’s hairdo

Dry Shampoo video by Shu An

The first 90 days of working

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Let’s talk about the first 90 days from the time you started work.

Maybe you’ve worked for much longer than that, but this post is dedicated to all of you who have worked for less than a year. (90 days just has a nice ring to it, heehee).

I had initially planned to write about networking and dressing up for work, but I realised that I had too many friends who had just started work and were discouraged and slightly disillusioned. Work was different from what they had expected. Some of them had landed their dream jobs, some of them hadn’t, but the recurring theme was that work wasn’t that great.

I had my 1 year work anniversary in September and yes, it feels like a long time. So to those who have just started working, I hope to share with you some realisations I had from my first year of working, while it’s still fresh in my mind. And in my own little way, also encourage you to press on. 

1. The transition from University to Work is difficult, sometimes, really difficult, especially with the ‘longer’ hours.

Day 0: I still remember the feeling I had on the first day of work (actually it was induction), I was fresh, excited and ready to change the world. However, at the same time, I felt apprehensive and uncertain about my future. Would I do well in my job? Would my boss and colleagues like me?

Day 7: Post-training – I had a brilliant time and now I felt I was even ready to conquer the world.

Day 60: Entering the business was completely different from my expectations. It was difficult, so difficult to transition from University where I knew almost everything and knew how to behave and deal with situations to Work where I spent my 9am to 6pm, doing tasks that nobody wanted to do because I was assumed to know nothing. I could hardly stay awake in the morning and I couldn’t stay focused after lunch because I had food coma.

Many of us would understand the feeling of having morning lectures in University then going back home to take a nap or some place to chill before going for afternoon lectures. But now, you have to work straight from early morning to night, with a short lunch break in the morning.

But fear not, because things will get better once you find your coping mechanism.

For example, some of us rely on coffee. Personally, I don’t really like coffee, but I do have one cup every morning to keep me through the day. Too much coffee is unhealthy though, so I do limit the number of cups I take to prevent that though getting addicted. I wouldn’t want to be one of those who can’t function without coffee.

To cope with working late into the night, I had a small packet of crisps. I know this explains why I put weight after working, but at least it got me going for the first few months. Think of it as Freshers 15, but for work. After that, I became used to working longer and also replaced with crisps with fruits.

See things do get better.

2. Not knowing what to do or how to act is normal

The second realisation occurred to me much later when I overheard 2 senior members of the team speak about this. They were saying that they felt that this new graduate was rather arrogant because he acted like he knew everything, when he’s just a graduate. This was revelation to me because I often felt the discomfort of not knowing what is appropriate to do or say, and in terms of my work, I didn’t know what was the best approach. But then I realised, it’s normal.

As someone new entering the workforce, no one really expects you to know anything. Instead, they expect you to ask questions and be curious about things. Learn to clarify and understand what is the best way to approach situations.

However, I would like to think that there are certain guidelines on how questions should be asked:

Address the question to the right person

I will strongly advise against asking stupid questions openly. While senior people can be quite friendly during dialogue sessions and will say things like, “feel free to ask any questions, even stupid ones”. They actually expect you to think through it and make sure it’s relatively appropriate. Asking the CEO how to use the office printer or very basic questions will not help advance your career at all.

Ask at the right time

Sometimes, it’s also about asking questions at the right time. While you can be very enthusiastic and proactive, you need to take into account your environment. Let me give you a scenario: On the day before the deadline of your client’s deliverable, you are given the task of formatting some slides, for example, make sure that objects on your slide are aligned on the slide. You decide to read the content of those slides and realised that you have some questions about the content that you want to ask your manager. Under any other circumstances, you are learning and doing the right thing (see point 4 later). However, try asking your manager now, maybe he might entertain you, but it will put him in a relatively snappy mood. Your team is rushing a deliverable deadline! Choose to ask the question at the right time.

Ask questions that you cannot Google about

I think this is quite self explanatory. Otherwise you can Google what I mean. Yes, I get the old age argument that we all want to save time and ask the person who can give us the answer immediately, but you remember better when you find out the answer yourself. Save yourself the opportunity to ask other more challenging questions.

Don’t keep asking the same question 

People will know that you’re not listening.

3. Expect to do shit work whether you’re in the job of your dreams or not

Regardless of where you start work, you will be given the most mundane and boring tasks because you are the most junior person. Why? It’s just because someone needs to get them done. If you don’t do it, no one else will do it. Then why should you stick it out then? I thought about this a lot. As we joined the workforce at our prime, we should be given more exciting tasks that would allow us to fully utilise our brain power. So why should we do that? Why?

It’s because no one trusts you. We all know there are flaws in the recruitment system and even the most qualified person in terms of education, may not be very good at their job. Having a job requires almost a different skill set altogether. How many of us start working and realise that it is completely different from what you learnt in University?

The little mundane tasks you do will overtime allow people to trust you more with the bigger tasks. Put yourself in the shoes of your superior. If you whine and complain all about the small tasks that you have to do, think about how much more whining and complaining your team will have to endure when you are allocated a difficult task.

I often hear that juniors sometimes enter the business expecting to be given tasks similar to Managing Directors / Partners. They complain that they don’t learn during stupid tasks.

This brings us to my next point

4. Who says you can’t learn doing the small tasks?

Someone successful from my parents’ generation once told me that as the most junior person on the team, his only job was photocopying documents for a very long time. But he read every single piece of information on the paper that he was photocopying.

You see, friends, it’s all about the attitude.

5. Have a life outside of work

It’s very easy to be consumed by work when you start, especially when you have challenging hours. Sometimes when you go back home, you feel like you still have outstanding work, so you continue.

It’s really easy to burn out this way. Partly because I work in the UK where there is an emphasis on work life balance, but partly because I see others around me wanting to quit or feeling lost after working for a few months – You really need to find your work life balance. Everyone works and enjoys in different ways, so you need to find something that lets you switch off from work and look forward to. Personally, I do that by deliberately turning off my work phone on the weekends. I also play badminton every Wednesday, because at least I know mid week I have something to look forward to.

Don’t make your life all about work, because you will begin to hate it, then you will start entertaining thoughts of quitting.

Concluding Thoughts

Some of us were so happy when we finally got a job after multiple rejections that it didn’t really matter whether the job suited us. Some of us were lucky enough to get our “dream” job. Gradually, we all realised that the dream we were promised was a nightmare. Many of us, including myself, became disheartened along the way, because the job wasn’t what we expected. However, I think if we decide to look at work with a different perspective and attitude, it will get better over time. People will trust you more and delegate more difficult tasks for you to do. And even when you become senior, you will still have to deal with some administrative and mundane tasks. But it’s your attitude and what you decide to do about your situation that makes the difference.

If everything still doesn’t work out, you can always look for another job. But make sure that you’ve learnt and gained all that you want from your current job before moving. Make sure it’s not a whim that you change jobs but that you’ve given your job a proper chance. For example, by committing to your job for longer than just a few months and giving your best attitude. At least then you can said that you’ve tried your best but your relationship with this job just didn’t work out.

How about we try to switch the theme from work wasn’t that great to I’m learning everything I can from this job. 

Hope you enjoyed the post! I would also like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment. You’ll never know who else is reading your comments and might benefit from them!

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Stay fabulous & optimistic everyone! 

Athena