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11 Things All Twentysomethings Should Know About Their Jobs

Sometimes you'll feel like you have no idea what you're doing.

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1. Try anything and everything that you’re interested in, even if seems like a waste of time.

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I landed my first job not because of my university degree, but because I also worked at my university newspaper and built a good enough portfolio to land an internship. I was hired at BuzzFeed partly because of my previous work experience, but also because several years ago, I drew a kind-of-OK webcomic in my spare time, just because I thought it would be fun. If I relied only on my education and my subsequent jobs to advance my career, I wouldn't have anything to set me apart from the competition.

Regardless of what your job situation is now, find ways to try anything that you're interested in, even if doesn't seem like it will benefit your career. You have no idea what skills can help you in the future, and your supposedly insignificant hobby could be the one thing that gives you a leg up. And even if it doesn't and you've just taken up a new hobby that you enjoy? Oh no! You've become a more well-rounded human being! The horror!

2. You’ll have to work with people you don't respect.

20th Century Fox

This may sound like a "duh" lesson, but when I was in school, I honestly hadn't considered how frustrating it would be to work with someone I couldn't stand. But a few years into my career, the company I worked for hired someone whose mere presence sent me into a silent rage — and she was was making a lot more money than I was. I was not very happy about this. But then my boss at the time told me something very important:

"You're always going to work with people you don't like. Get over it."

And she was totally right. There will always be people you don't like or respect, and you will have to work with them anyway. Sometimes you'll have to work for them. Sometimes they'll succeed and advance in their career while you flounder, and it won't feel fair at all.

But, to be blunt, shut up and deal with it. The sooner you come to terms with this, the more focused you can be on improving yourself. While you can definitely bitch about Goddamn Helen to your friends after work, try to keep your hatred for her under wraps in the office.

3. You’re going to work with people who are better than you. Like, way better.


"This has to be better than working for people you hate, right?" you think. And yes, you're right. Working with people who are smarter and more accomplished than you can motivate you to work harder and be better.

But it can also be hard to see friends and colleagues taking steps and achieving goals that you haven't. It can make you feel like you're not doing enough — that you yourself are not enough. Even if you're doing well, even if you're happy for others' accomplishments, you can still feel insecure and envious when they get something that you want and don't have.

Don't let this paralyze you. Don't let this stop you from surrounding yourself with incredible people. Let this inspire you! Let these people help you figure out what you want and how you can achieve it. If you only work with people who are doing worse than you, you won't have any real motivation to change.

4. You’re going to deal with some serious bullshit at some point.

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Another "duh" lesson, but when I first started out, I assumed there were "bad" jobs and "good" jobs, and the good ones were always great all the time. But even in a good job that you usually enjoy, there will be boring parts that make you think, Oh god, don't make me have to do that again. Or there will be months where everything is great, followed by months where everything seems to be going wrong.

And it can be much worse than that. You might be completely unappreciated. A co-worker might take credit for your work. You might not get a promotion you deserve. You might have a boss who treats you unfairly. You may be discriminated against or harassed. There are a million things that could go wrong, and you're going to deal with it someday.

It's up to you to decide if the bullshit is bullshit you can deal with. If it's not, that's OK. But just know that no job is completely bullshit-free.


5. Sometimes you will feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Kristin Chirico/BuzzFeed

For the first several months at my first "grown-up" job, I felt like I was faking it. As I looked at my confident and talented co-workers, I was keenly aware of how little I actually knew, and I was sure that at any minute, everyone would notice that I was completely winging it. It took about half a year to even start to feel comfortable in that job — which lasted until I moved on to my next gig, when I felt terrified all over again.

It happens to a lot of people: Regardless of how hard you've worked or how much you've achieved, you think that all your success is just luck and that you don't deserve any of it. It's called Impostor Syndrome, and it's actually something that happens to a lot of successful people. One of the reasons you feel this way is that despite what you know, you're also aware that there are many, many things you don't know. But believe it or not, that's actually a good thing. The alternative is possessing a false sense of confidence and being woefully unaware of all your gaps in knowledge, which is way more dangerous.

Try to remember that even if you feel like your success is a fluke, you're always striving to improve, and that's what will help your career grow.

6. One blip on your résumé isn’t going to tank your entire career.

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There's a bizarre axiom that you should stay in a job for at least a year so that future employers don't think you're unreliable. At a previous, unrewarding job, I had glumly resigned myself to sticking it out for that arbitrary time period because I felt like I owed it to the company, and I also feared that it would look bad on my résumé if I quit before that. But after a few more weeks of unrewarding work and diminishing morale, I had to make a choice: my résumé or my happiness. I chose my happiness, and ultimately, that choice benefited my career far more than staying in my crappy job would have.

Of course you shouldn't make a habit of quitting job after job just because you've experienced a little bit of adversity. But if your job is the suckiest thing that ever sucked? You are totally allowed to quit. You might feel like you're leaving your boss in the lurch, or you're being unfair to the company that hired you, but the truth is that you need to look after yourself. That company probably wouldn't hesitate to fire you if they wanted to, so why should you be forced to stick it out if you don't want to be there? And most employers aren't going to punish you because one previous place of employment was a bad fit. They'll be more impressed that you're taking steps to find a better job.

I know that not everyone has the luxury of making such a choice. Family obligations, financial responsibilities, and countless other factors often mean quitting is not an option — after all, "personal happiness" won't pay the bills all by itself. But if you have the opportunity to make your life better or easier, it's at least worth considering.

7. You can outgrow a job you really love.

Instagram: @taniaonthescene

When I got my first journalism job out of university, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Yeah, the pay was next to nothing, but I got to write about pretty much whatever I wanted. Who needs money when you have complete creative freedom? Surely journalism was an industry that would never disappoint! (HA. HA HA HA. PASS THE MERLOT.)

But a few years later, I was still being paid next to nothing, and now I was pretty crabby about it. After experiencing what it was like to support myself, I realized that I liked being able to buy things. The creative freedom no longer made up for feeling underpaid and underappreciated, and I saw that there was no real room for advancement. As lucky as I felt when I took the job, I now felt trapped. It took finding a new job to renew my love of writing again — and, sure enough, a few years later, that job frustrated me, too.

Finding a job you love is the dream, yes, but the dream doesn't end there. Things can change, or you can change, and what enticed you at the start may dissatisfy you later on. Which brings us to the next important lesson...

8. It's up to you to keep your passion for work alive. Nobody will do it for you.

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Just like in a relationship, staying happy in your career (even a career you love) takes hard work. After a while at one of my jobs, I got comfortable — too comfortable, as I figured out the minimum amount of work I needed to do to be considered acceptable, and rarely did more than that. It's no wonder I felt increasingly unfulfilled, because I hadn't even been trying to challenge myself.

If you don't put in the work to keep yourself happy in your career, then just like a relationship that you take for granted, your passion for your work will fade. You'll find yourself just as dissatisfied as you were at your previous place of employment.

So it's up to you to keep yourself interested. Challenge yourself with projects that you've never tried before. Ask your boss to let you sit in on meetings that you otherwise wouldn't. Take a night class to expand your professional skills, and then apply your new knowledge to improve your work.

Personal satisfaction doesn't happen all on its own. It's up to you to find it and to maintain it.


9. You can't avoid failure. It will find you. It will hunt you down like a dog.

Instagram: @mysuccessnetwork

You probably kind of understand that failure is a part of life, but it still seems like an abstract concept. It's something that happens to other people. As long as you work hard and stay sensible, you can outrun failure FOREVER, right???

I get you, dude. I used to be you.

Then I got laid off from my job of three years. And yeah, that was unpleasant, but I didn't even consider that a real failure. It wasn't really my fault; it was just the nature of the industry. Within a month, I had a new, completely different job that seemed perfect for me, and I was obviously going to kill it.

Except that I didn't. I was bad at my new job. I was really bad at it. I couldn't figure out the office politics, I didn't understand the work processes, and time and time again, I didn't meet the completely reasonable expectations of my boss and co-workers. I knew I was going to keep letting people down, even though I was trying so hard not to. It was a huge hit to my self-esteem to realize that I was failing and that it was completely my own doing.

And one day, it will happen to you, too. You will fail. Yes, YOU, the person reading this, are going to fail. You will try hard, you will fail, it will be all your fault, and there won't be anything you can do. It will be demoralizing and humiliating and you might start drinking two bottles of wine by yourself every night. (That last part may just have been me.) It will suck, and it will suck hard.

But here's the good thing: Failure happens to everyone at some point. Everybody fails. What matters is how you respond to your failure. Look brutally and honestly at what happened, and figure out what needs to change. Do you need to fix your attitude? Do you need to improve your skills? Do you need to find a new career entirely? That's all OK. It's what you learn from this terrible experience that will help you get better.

10. Find balance between work and the rest of your life, whatever that means to you.

Instagram: @wildernessvalleyhoneynz

Even when I have a job that I love, I know that I don't want it to be my whole life. I want to work hard and do well, but I also want a life outside of the office, cultivating hobbies and friendships and experiencing the many wonderful things life has to offer. Sometimes it's difficult to give all of those things the proper attention, and sometimes one aspect of my life will take up more time than the others, but I put in the effort to create as much balance as I can in order to keep myself sane.

Maybe you want something similar. Or maybe you find personal satisfaction from working a lot more. Or maybe your career isn't that important to you, and you want a job that will let you focus way more on your hobbies. And all of those things are OK! We're all different and we all approach our careers and our lives in different ways. Figure out what kind of work-life balance will make you happy, and accept that other people will do the same for their own lives.

11. And finally, the most important lesson of all: There is no correct office temperature.

Kjekol / Getty Images / Thinkstock

You'll either be too hot or too cold. No one has found a solution to this. Sorry.