I recently started what I like to call my first real, big person job. You know, the 9-5, dealing with co-workers, bosses and paychecks. The stuff that sitcoms and endless dinner table conversations are made of. But I have to admit, my job isn’t a typical one. I’m a summer research student, which means I’m getting paid to work in a laboratory and hopefully discover some pretty cool stuff. My office is a lab, and my co-workers are other research students. My boss is my professor, and most days she’s more like a mentor and a mom than a boss. I suppose you could say I’ve had it pretty easy so far, although it did take some adjusting.
First and foremost, mornings and I are not the best of friends. I quickly realized that if I was going to do this whole job thing, I had to start going to bed earlier so I could get up earlier. I couldn’t just go out with my friends at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night like I have been doing for the last several summers. I also have to go grocery shopping, and make sure I set enough money aside from each paycheck to pay my housing fee. It feels like a totally different world! It’s only been a month or so, but I feel like I’ve already learned much more than I thought I would.
3 Tips From a Newly Employed 20-Something
- Budget. It sounds like a no-brainer, but when I received my first paycheck, I found myself staring at a number that was much higher than any of the paychecks I had received from past summer jobs. My first instinct was to pull up my favorite online shopping website and go crazy. But I didn’t. I set some aside for my housing fee, gas, grocery shopping, and my savings account, then allocated what I had left to various other things like dinners out with my friends. This way, all the important stuff was taken care of and I still had some money left over.
- Be Proactive. When it comes to the job world, I find that being proactive is key. I got my summer research job by being proactive. I didn’t wait for someone to come knock on my door and ask if I wanted the spot; I worked hard and put myself out there. The same goes for once you have the job. Don’t wait for someone to hand you a project or assignment. Figure out what needs to get done, and do it. Proactive people tend to stand out, and people who stand out are often the employees that bosses think of when it comes time for promotions or great letters of recommendation.
- Love What You Do. If you find a job you’re passionate about, it shows. Maybe your passion is connecting through social media, or inspiring children through teaching. Mine just happens to be cell biology. When you’re passionate about your job, you throw your whole self into it, whether you realize it or not. I realize that you won’t love every job you ever have, but find parts of your job that you like, and work hard at them.
I don’t consider myself an employment expert just yet. I do consider myself an expert at being thrusted into the working world at 20 years old and having basically no idea how to be part of it. But I’m slowly figuring it out, and it’s not as scary out here as I thought it would be. Who knows? Maybe I’ll actually discover something in my cell biology lab this summer! When I win my Nobel Prize, I’ll be sure to give all my Get Smart girls a shout out. :o)
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