For a couple years following my university graduation, life was a blur of confusion and uncertainty. I gently nudged my way into the workforce (okay, my parents gently nudged me), and setting off into the world with no set path, a recession in front of me, was not the easiest time. Trying to cobble together a career when I was mostly focused on making rent and beer money definitely led me to making a few mistakes along the road.
After a series of internships and low-level positions — some very worthwhile where I learned a lot, others where I spend a large part of my day reading things on the internet and secretly blogging — it felt like I spent much of my early twenties blindly fumbling into “teachable moments”. It definitely takes time to reach your goals — which is good, it makes you appreciate it. However, there are a few things I wish I knew from the get-go.
1. No one is paying attention. This is both good and bad.
I guess I hoped to find a true champion role model. You know, a powerful woman who would see me as a kindred spirit and guide me toward my ultimate career goals. This, obviously, was misguided. I’ve had a lot of great bosses over the years, many of them women, and most of them very generous with their time and advice.
But you have to be your own champion.
Everyone is worried about their own path, because no one knows what they are doing. Realize that it’s totally cool if you make mistakes (no one remembers the small stuff) and that your path can look however you want it to look. You’re the only one really watching.
The downside: You need to know when you have to make someone pay attention. Do you deserve a pay raise? Ask for it. Your boss will never remember this. It just won’t come up. So speak up. You may not always get it, but you definitely won’t get it if you don’t ask.
2. People will forgive a lot, if you give them reason to.
So… about those mistakes.
Everyone understands when you make mistakes, but they won’t understand if you don’t own up to them. Being proactive about a project falling through, or a missed deadline, is the best way to work towards a fix. And sometimes maturity is the only way to maintain these relationships.
3. Work is hard. That’s okay.
Even if you work in a creative field, you’re going to find your work hard. It is. It’s what we do for a large part of our day, and even if we love it, it’s going be difficult, or boring, or tedious. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be satisfying (to butcher Camus). There are many great inspirational quotes about “Do What You Love And It Will Never Seem Like Work,” but that’s generally not helpful. It’s fine to have days where you HATE your job. It’s how you make money. It’s okay to have bad days.
About the writer:
A typical Scorpio, Elizabeth Bourque is a
writer/producer/film snob from Toronto.