Do you remember your very first professional job? Your very first paycheck?
I remember how proud I was when I came home and told my parents, "they offered me the job!"
How happy I was to retire the food stained baby blue oxford button up and red-and-blue-striped tie I'd been wearing as a waitress throughout the last 4 years of college.
I remember thinking all my problems had been solved, my bank account would start to climb out of the hole it had sunk into, my weekends would finally be free and I could finally start building the career I'd worked so hard for in college.
I was flying high through the first full week of work, sailed right on through week two and onto week three and it wasn't until week four when I realized that being a professional, wasn't quite what I'd expected.
The job description I'd been spouted, wasn't quite the role I was given, when I broke down my salary into hourly pay, I was making below minimum wage and I was working weekends, nights and during free hours.
My boss emailed expecting a response at 11 pm in the evening and if he didn't get one he called or texted.
I came into work five minutes late one day and I was ridiculed, "Look who decided to show up".
I was once told to clean the entire fridge in the company kitchen because I was "just starting out in my career and everybody has to do things they don't want to do in life."
I was banned from taking my lunch break at the same time as one of my coworkers, who happened to be a good friend of mine, and told "next time I see you on your phone at work, I'm taking it" once while texting my brother about when to pick him up from school.
In a year and a half on the job I never once got a raise and when I was offered a promotion without a raise towards the end of that year and a half, I was told that after a three month probationary period, "maybe we can talk about the financials."
I received condescending emails, probing text messages and grilling phone calls from my boss at all times of the day, any day of the week. I was discriminated against I believe, not only for my age but also for my gender.
I started feverishly applying for other jobs. And eventually, I found another, much better job, but I will never forget my very first professional job experience. It taught me so much. Not only about who I am and what I should accept as a professional but also who I am and what I should accept as a young woman.
And I'm here to help you learn from my mistakes. Here are a few lessons I learned that I wish someone had told me sooner:
1.) Never stop standing up for yourself - So what if you're young, so what if you're new, so what if no else will do it for you, SO WHAT. It doesn't matter if it's the boss, or if it's a coworker or if it's HR, if someone is mistreating you, you have every right to stand up for yourself. And don't be afraid to walk away from a situation that makes you uncomfortable or even angry, you deserve better. No job is worth humiliation or self-deprivation.
2.) Never stop negotiating - YES, even if its your very first job offer and you have no real experience and you are going to accept it anyway. I did this for my very first job offer and ended up adding 5k to my salary and I'm damn glad I did because by the time I left, I really deserved even more than that. Don't be afraid, the worst they can say is no, and then you are back where you started, but at least you tried.
3.) Never stop asking for more - In every aspect. More respect, more responsibility, more time off, etc, etc, etc.
4.) Never stop saying "no" - It's okay to say no, "no I don't have enough time to do that today, but I will get to it tomorrow", "no, I don't like to be called Eleanor, my name is Elly", "no, I don't feel comfortable with that". I'm a "yes" person, I have anxiety about saying "no" under any circumstances, in my relationships, at my job, etc. But learning to say "no" has honestly helped me to become a better friend, a better coworker and a better daughter/sister/niece/girlfriend.
5.) Never stop speaking up - You have good ideas and you should share them. Don't let someone else take credit for things you created or let yourself miss the opportunity to do something great. You may be young, old, new to the job, a long time employee, it doesn't matter. The best ideas often come from those at the bottom and its a damn good place to start.
6.) Never stop supporting your coworkers - This is huge. In my old job, the environment was literally so toxic that it pitted coworkers against each other. We couldn't confide in one another for fear of retribution. You never really knew who was your true friend and who was just looking for an excuse to undermine you. But in my new job, everyone is collaborative and helpful and they want to see you succeed, that is what makes a good work environment, that is what retains employees, not the job, not the pay, not the title, the people, the people make or break you.
7.) Never stop killin' em with kindness - Many people have this assumption that as women, we have to be ruthless to make it to the top. Apologetically kicking butt, taking names and stepping over others to get to where you need to be.This literally could not be further from the truth. By all means, kick butt, but you don't have to take down others to do it. And there is such a thing as a kind, loving, understanding boss. In fact, people usually prefer those kind of bosses. A boss at my last job made me cry for going on my lunch break at the wrong time, my boss at my new job asks me what she can do to make the work environment better than it already is (not possible by the way). What do they both have in common? They are women in powerful positions. They just handle their authority differently. Be kind, be loving, be understanding, carry a big stick but speak softly. You'll make it further when people actually like working with you.
8.) Never stop being a positivist - Make it your goal to laugh every day and to make other people laugh. Keep your attitude light and always offer to help even if the only thing you can do is just be there. People will notice and people want to be around people like that.
9.) Never stop creating a work environment that makes everyone jealous - So important. Be the "Google" of your industry. Let your name stand out if for nothing else than creating an environment where other people want to be. You will attract the best for that alone. You won't need to offer the most money, or make the best products, that's what you have the best people for :)
10.) Never stop bettering yourself - Crucial. Never stop learning, innovating and exploring. The day that you think you are the best you can possibly be, try something different. Look at life like the opportunity that it is and invite people to share in your journey with you.
Keep moving, keep shaking, keep working.
You got this ;)