Skip To Content

    15 Things About Starting Your First Job I Wish Someone Had Told Me, So I’m Telling You

    It's ok to poop in the office bathroom.

    I was prepared for a lot of things when I emerged from the internship birth canal and became a full-time working person: Show up on time, don't overdo it on the exclamation points, and always ask about a business woman's special.

    But there were some things no career counselor, professor, sister, friend, or parent warned me about!!!!!! (Clearly, I've gone rogue on the exclamation point thing.) My first year or so of work was filled with so much "Wait, is it just me, or..." and, "Well, I guess that's a thing" that I wanted to write a strongly worded letter to everyone who'd given me career advice because it all fell so short.

    Every workplace and job is different, but in talking to people in my five and a half years of work experience, I've discovered that the things that really took me by surprise are pretty universal. So instead of writing that strongly worded letter, I'm going to share them here as one giant subtweet/PSA instead:

    1. It's really hard getting used to the fact that this is your life...for the rest of your life.

    Columbia Pictures

    I distinctly remember sitting at the computer at my first real-life, in-office ~jorb~, looking at the clock and thinking, It's 2 p.m. I have four more hours until I go home?!?! How the hell am I going to do this every day for the next ~45 years? Can I nap now? The idea of working for the rest of my adult life was nothing new, but the reality of it was unnerving; it felt like a too-tight collar that I was dying to adjust or loosen up or take off.

    In time, I accepted my fate. The newness of everything eventually wore off, and as I started to like my job and what I was doing, the idea of continuing to do it seemed more exciting and less like a life sentence. But man, a little warning that an existential crisis was imminent on my first day would've been nice.

    2. It's a little weird to drink with your boss and coworkers at first.


    Here's a fun lil' rule to follow if you're worried about drunkenly blurting out something humiliating in front of the people who pay you: Always stay one drink behind them.

    3. Just because you have a job doesn't mean you shouldn't keep your resume updated.


    The only thing worse than reentering all of your previous work experience after submitting your resume on a job application is actually making a resume. Once I snapped up my first job, I didn't look at my resume again for a good nine months, a decision I regretted when it was time to job search again. Now, I make a concerted effort to yank my resume out of the dregs of digital hell anytime I:

    • Finish a project or important assignment at work

    • Get a promotion or raise

    • Learn a new skill, social media platform, or technology

    • Accomplish something significant outside of work

    You get the idea. Trust me, it's so much easier to do all this right when it happens instead of staring bug-eyed at your computer screen at 1 a.m. just to feel like you're making progress in the job hunt.

    4. Your work BFF will probably leave, but you'll survive.

    Comedy Central

    The same goes for anyone you admire or work well with. It feels like the world —

    and your job as you know it — is ending when they decide to move on, but you'll adjust. And who knows, you may end up working together again in the future!

    5. There are a lot of a horrible bosses out there who are also great people.

    Warner Bros. Pictures

    Newsflash! Not everyone who's great at their job or pleasant to be around is going to be good at managing people — and some are god awful at effectively dealing with underlings. As a perpetual underling myself, I've seen some good bosses and some bad ones, and it's quite an unpleasant surprise when your chatty and engaging boss gives unconstructive criticism, shirks any role as a mentor or advocate, or just kind of forgets you're there for a few days or weeks at a time. It's a hard thing to reconcile, and in a lot of workplaces, there's no such thing as managee-to-manager feedback.

    In any case, unless your boss's behavior is transparently personal, it's best to not take it personally, do the best work you can, call your mom to complain about it, and make a list of what not to do when you become a manager someday.

    6. You might love your job and hate your coworkers.

    20th Century Fox

    Some people just don't gel in the workplace, which is kind of a bummer considering you spend so much of your life there. But there's nothing wrong with feeling totally fulfilled at work while still feeling like you'd never want to see these people outside the office.

    7. You might hate your job and love your coworkers.


    Misery loves company, amirite? Hating your job together is a great bonding experience that practically everyone goes through at some point. But it's also important not to take on too much of other people's unhappiness or allow their feelings guide your decisions about how to feel about your job.

    8. Either way, leaving a job because you hate your coworkers isn't a guarantee that you'll be happy at your next one.


    My dad told me this once when I was in the lowest depths of misery at a job, and it's really stuck with me since. There will always be people that just aren't your cup of tea, but learning to get along with them — or do your work well in spite of them — is an invaluable lesson in patience and compassion.

    9. It's hard to maintain hobbies/side hustles/activities when you have a full-time job, but it's worth it.


    It's really hard to do your regular job during the day, and then come home and have the energy or motivation to work out, crochet, or chip away at that novel you'll finish someday. In my first year on the job, all l really did was work, hang out with my friends and...that's it. "Maybe I'll become a workaholic!" I marveled to myself. But I eventually put that aspiration aside and instead focused on two activities I knew I liked: going to bar trivia and doing puzzles. That's it! It was a relief to do something that wasn't intrinsically tied to my professional advancement or competence, and having them as an option was a very necessary pressure relief valve. You don't have to have a ventriloquist dummy hobby or run a bespoke bowtie Etsy shop; you just need something to derive self-worth and satisfaction from that is divorced from your career.

    10. You could wear the same outfit every day and most people wouldn't notice.


    Obviously, this goes without saying if you wear a uniform to work. But seriously, unless your job is contingent on keeping up with the latest fashion ~lewks~, there is nothing wrong with wearing a variation on the same thing every dang day of the week. In fact, it's kind of freeing.

    11. There's more to networking than just going to a young professionals happy hour.


    I wish I'd realized earlier that networking at the office is as valuable as going to the sad networking events at cramped Midtown bars. Doing things like popping into my editor's office to chat about what was going on at the company, having lunch with all the other freshly-pooped-out-of-the-university-butt graduates, and going to work happy hours and other work social events allowed me to do a lot of networking in just a few months on the job. It all felt way less forced and awkward than networking events, and it was a far more comfortable environment for me anyway. I'm not saying that you should mark all networking invitations as spam, but you should take the time to cultivate meaningful relationships with people in your industry and in your actual workplace in a way that works for you.

    12. It's ok if your first job isn't the exact type of position you want, or even in the field you want.


    These days, it's practically unheard of to 1) get your dream job right away, 2) stay in the same job/company for your whole career, or 3) even know what it is you want to do when you first enter the workforce. It might suck to toil away in a low-level job for awhile, especially if it dawns on you that it's not remotely what you want to be doing, but you're not alone! Trust me.

    13. Pooping at the office is normal and necessary.

    Universal Pictures

    Let me be clear: When given the choice, I always prefer doing #2 in my apartment or in a well-appointed, low-trafficked private bathroom at, say, a Banana Republic. But if I have to poop at work, you better believe I'm not holding it until I get home. It felt so uncomfortable (what if my boss walks in?!) and gross (what if people can hear it?!) when I first started working, and articles like this certainly didn't help matters. But I didn't want to destroy my colon! Is that so terrible? Now, I try to time my poops well and be discreet, but at the end of the day, a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do. And maybe my freewheeling poopitude makes other people walking into bathroom feel more comfortable doing their thing, too.

    14. Your professional success isn't a direct reflection of your personal success.


    I, like a lot of people, spent most of my life doing the whole "I need to study hard so I can get good grades so I can get into college so I can get a job" thing. That old chestnut. So when I got my first round of less-than-positive feedback, I assumed that I 1) was absolutely about to get fired, 2) was a complete failure. Yes, I have anxiety, and yes, I'm seeing someone about it, thankyouverymuch. Anyway, it's so easy to get caught up in this tangled web, and I wish someone would have reminded me to chill out. Because c'mon — one round of constructive criticism usually doesn't lead to a firing, and it is ridiculously possible to do well in life even when your professional life is in the pits. Perspective, y'all. It's a good thing.

    15. It's not just you; everyone feels like they don't totally know what they're doing at least once a week.


    On an average day, I feel less like an educated adult who worked hard to get where I am, and more like three toddlers in a trench coat just waiting for someone to rip open the buttons and see the truth. It's sometimes impossible to believe I'm here, in my desk chair, actually doing the thing, and guess what? For a lot of people, it never really goes away. I was not aware of any of this until I explained it to a certified Adult With a Job, and he so cavalierly said that he still feels that way sometimes. Somehow, he — along with a lot of other people, I'm guessing — has managed to compartmentalize it enough to hold down the same job for years.

    Once I realized I wasn't alone, I found a weird comfort in knowing that almost everyone feels like a scammer, just trying to work hard enough to silence the naysayer inside, from time to time. It's like I was let on this fun little adult secret, and even though it means I've got a lot of trench-coat toddlering ahead of me, I love secrets. And let's be real, I probably still have a lot more secrets to learn.

    What do you wish someone had told you before you started your first job?