23 Things I Learned About My Career at 23
As you read this, I've turned the ripe old age of 24. Not yet mid-20s, but close enough to taste it. Far from being a pro at navigating my career, but seasoned enough to know a thing or two. As I took time to sit back and reflect on the last year in my personal life and career, it became clear to me that 23 was a year of learning and growing like never before. Below are 23 things that I learned about my career and myself while I was 23 – all things that have collectively contributed to where I happily am today!
1.) Take the risk first, figure it out later. I moved across the country without a definitive plan six months ago. I found a job, apartment and friends that I love – it all fell together naturally. Don't overthink it if you can help it (I sure did, though, let's be honest).
2.) Less is more. 23 was a big year of decluttering – now, I'm used to living a more simple, streamlined life, and I love it. No need to binge shop at Forever 21 when I really don't need to.
3.) Create a savings plan and stick to it. It's never too early to start. I've always been frugal, but this was a big year of financially planning out my future, paying down student loans and more. As soon as you're out of college and making even the tiniest of salaries, save as much as you can.
4.) Every job has a honeymoon phase. You can't expect every day at work to feel just as magical as the first. Challenges pop up at the most inopportune times, yet you will overcome them.
5.) Guard your time. This is something that was very difficult for me, but necessary. Be kind to others and invest in your community, but also leave ample time for your own personal development. I spent a lot of time at 23 coaching others on their career, reviewing resumes and making connections when I should have been doing the same for myself.
6.) Don't block yourself off. In the same vein of saving time for yourself, also don't become a hermit. This was equally as difficult for me – some weeks I would have back-to-back events after work, and then next I would do nothing but go to work and transition to my bed with Netflix at home. Find a good balance.
7.) Quit your job. ...stick with me on this one. If you find yourself inconsolable while on the job and questioning your entire professional existence while struggling to keep up with emails...it might be in your best interest to move on. I do not condone quitting just when times get tough – but when you feel this way for weeks on end, it's time to reevaluate.
8.) Going out during the week is a myth. I thought my 20s would always be full of post-work happy hours with a chic martini in hand. When you're working full-time and tending to your side passion, this is just a tab ambitious.
9.) Your relationships shape who you are. After moving, I realized that I had left behind a few relationships in Atlanta that weren't the best for me. Some folks that I associated with brought out the catty, judgmental, "Mean Girls" side in me that I didn't even know existed. I realized I had no obligation or desire to invest in these relationships anymore, so I cut them loose.
10.) Be a real person in the workplace. It's possible to be professional while also remaining personable. Don't be so uptight to the point of seeming standoffish – this was a challenge!
11.) Corporate American isn't for me. Before entering the workforce, I had dreamy visions of working 14-hour days, wearing the badge of being "busy all the time," wearing super high heels and working my tail off for the corner office. I don't want that anymore. Actually, give me the farthest thing from it.
12.) Working for someone else isn't for me. I also learned this, in a huge way, at 23. Entrepreneurship is for me. And that's a scary thought. No, I'm not going to be leaving my full-time job anytime soon, but knowing that my end goal is to be my own boss is empowering and comforting.
13.) Succulents are the best plants in your 20s. Too busy to remember to water your plants? Succulents don't care.
14.) I love design. One of the best things that my new role has taught me is that I love design! I used to focus solely on the writing component of old jobs, but the combination of writing, social media and design in my new role is pure happiness.
15.) Always ask for more. I know this is scary, but always ask for more when negotiating your salary. Don't get lowballed. The worst thing that can happen is getting told "no;" the best thing that can happen is getting paid what you're worth.
16.) Don't just go for "any job." The farther you get into your career, the more important it is to be selective about what opportunities you go for.
17.) Your body changes once you start working. This is one that I hate to admit, but it's true! What do you think happens when you're primarily sitting for 8 hours a day? Gravity happens. Making time for fitness is key.
18.) Sleep is awesome. A mere two years ago I was staying up until 1 a.m. regularly, working on projects and homework. This was my norm. Now, I'm typically in bed by 10 a.m. at the latest, and I don't regret a thing.
19.) Learn new skills. Just because you'll never sit in a classroom again doesn't mean that you have to stop learning! I re-learned the entire Adobe Creative Suite at 23 and it was the best decision.
20.) Immerse yourself in your community. Sure, it was awkward going to those first few "getting to know you" events in Denver, but I feel like I'm slowly but surely getting to know my community. Bloom where you're planted.
21.) New York will always be around. I still go through periods of feeling like not moving to New York a few years ago was a big oops. NYC will always be there, waiting. Until then, I'll keep growing. Oh, and I'll keep growing my bank account because I'm really going to need it there.
22.) Don't play the comparison game. It's easy to start comparing your job to others' when you're scrolling through LinkedIn, but save yourself the trouble and realize you're in exactly the right place right now.
23.) You can start over today. This is the great thing about being 20-something – if I wanted, I fully realize that I could start my career over today. You can too.
What important lessons have you learned in your career so far? Leave your thoughts below or tweet @HeyWorkingGirl!