Carly Sletten
March 09, 2016 9:59 am
Comedy Central

I’ll never forget the feeling of elation when I got my first job offer after college. Thoughts like “Heck yes I’m not a failure!” or “I’m going to be making so much money!” are just a couple of thoughts that raced through my brain as I enthusiastically accepted the position. Those feelings, however, didn’t hang around long. As it turns out, there’s more to having a “great” job than just your title or salary. Sometimes a place just isn’t a good fit for you.

The time you spend working at a job you don’t love doesn’t have to be a total waste, though, and with the right mentality, you can actually get a lot out of your work experiences at a less than stellar workplace. Here are a few things you can learn about not only yourself, but about being a working adult:

Health insurance and retirement funds are important and confusing

When I started my first job out of college, it was not only my first big girl job, but it was also the first time in my life I had to buy my own health insurance. I also had my first introduction to saving money for retirement, and let me tell you something, I knew absolutely nothing about any of it.

My lack of knowledge, however, forced me to find out! Don’t be afraid to set up time with your health insurance representative or financial advisor. As much as you may think they don’t have time for your questions, they are there to help you! After a few one-on-one meetings with both, I had the information I needed to make the right decision for me, and that knowledge has been beyond beneficial at every job I’ve had since.

You have to learn how to get along with people

This one may go without saying, but the work day goes a lot smoother if you get along with your co-workers. Simple things like learning how to be respectful in shared work spaces and getting used to pitching in with things like keeping the break room clean are things everyone should practice.

It’s also important to remember that your feelings aren’t the only ones in an office space, so learning how to channel emotions in an appropriate manner is critical. No one’s saying that you need to hide your feelings completely, that’s not healthy. It’s good to get in the routine of going to your HR representative about a grievance instead of bursting into tears at your desk.

You have to embrace new technology

Since each and every office or work environment is different, there’s a good chance you’ll have to use a software program or piece of technology you aren’t familiar with yet. Embrace that! I had never worked on a PC before, but my new office used them exclusively and so has every job I’ve had since. Don’t pass up the chance to play around with resources you have available at each job even if you don’t necessarily need it. Photoshop was available to me and I am definitely glad I took the time to play around with it when I had the chance, especially since I occasionally need to use it in my current job. Needless to say, the more you’re familiar with, the better chance you have of being able to adapt in whatever job you have in the future.

Communicating takes work 

Unless you are a born salesperson, you might need to beef up your communication skills, both verbal and written, when you start your first job. Writing professional emails is a skill that takes a little honing, and if you’ve never had a job where you need to talk on the phone, it does take some practice to get used to being professional and articulate during phone calls. Even if you’re simply answering internal phone calls from your colleagues, relish the time to practice those skills. After all, is there any job out there where you won’t ever need to give someone a call or compose an email? Probably not.  

Get what you can out of a job, even if you don’t love it

The great thing about a first job is that you get the chance to really find out what inspires you. Maybe you thought you were a killer salesperson, but find out that marketing behind the scenes is more your forte. Or maybe you thought you hated public speaking, but found that speaking at work events was exhilarating. Think of each and every job as an opportunity to stretch those skill muscles and find out what you excel at. The more you find out about yourself, the better equipped you’ll be to find the job that is a perfect fit for you!

Any skill you learn, whether it be office or life, is valuable, and even if you can’t say that you “loved” the job, you’ll eventually get there. Hey, and if all else fails, at least you’ll have the stories! Oh, the stories. . .

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