5 life lessons from my first big-girl job

About a month ago, I left my job with WIC to go back to school as a dietetic intern. I could seriously write a novel about my first job experience but I’d like to share some positives I took away from it; the things that will continually impact my future career and attitude.

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~Insert cliché sunset quote.~

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1) Sometimes you just need to let it go.

I am the kind of person who gets hung up on the principle of the matter. In other words I need things to be “right” and if someone doesn’t seem to understand where I’m coming from or even remotely thinks I intentionally did something I wasn’t supposed to I have to explain away. Growing up I always wondered why people in movies didn’t explain themselves when something appeared to be wrong and they weren’t at fault. It seemed silly to me to play the martyr. However, I realize now that sometimes things happen and you don’t need to explain yourself, just learn from it and move on. I’ve felt a natural pause in my thought process urging me that maybe I should keep my mouth shut but I kept on going until one specific experience made me feel like a big dummy and now I get it. A lot of the time a simple, “sorry, it won’t happen again” is all people need to hear because you can’t always be right and you can’t be everyone’s favorite person.

2) Kill ’em with kindness.

*Starts whistling Selena’s song.*

I worked in a field where sometimes I got treated like absolute garbage for no reason and it was extremely difficult not to give in and give it back. One afternoon I got threatened by someone because we had a misunderstanding and things on their end escalated very quickly. I defended my ground on the subject when I should have just kindly agreed and let it go. Was I right? Yes. Do I deserve to let people walk all over me every day? No. But did I sign up for that? Unfortunately. The world doesn’t work the way it should and dishing negativity back to a negative person does zero good. The longest I had to interact with a client in my office was an hour and in the grand scheme of things it’s never worth letting someone get the best of you, especially for that short amount of time. I had a quote posted in my office, “be so happy that when others see you they become happy too.” It isn’t going to work every time but keeping my chin up and my dignity intact with clients is always the best route. There are tons of methods of redirecting the situation or getting help if you need it without ever stooping to their level. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes not budging from a (genuinely) positive attitude no matter what is said or done really does make you feel better even if that person’s demeanor never changes.

3) Workplace gossip is no bueno.

I was hoping that the gossip and cattiness would end the day I threw my cap in the air at my high school graduation. I hate to admit that I still take part in it. For me it comes from a place of not being able to keep anything to myself and needing to talk things out in order to calm down/move on, not because I build myself up from putting others down. Still, that doesn’t make it any better because I’m guessing if my self esteem was 100% and I never doubted myself, I wouldn’t feel the need to talk these things out. Most likely it’s just human nature but I think it’s a terrible way to be because if we put all the effort we spend being negative into something worthwhile this world would be a better place and I would be a better human being. It’s something I’m actively working on every day because if I found out that anyone I’ve ever talked crap about said a single bad thing about me I would probably be heart broken and that’s a crazy double standard to hold.

4) You’re going to do stupid things.

And you just have to brush it off.

Seriously though, when you’ve got expectations to see an average of 20 clients/day (each going to have unique barriers and issues), have to speak 2 different languages and keep up with the 1,000 other unknown tasks that pop up out of nowhere, it’s hard not to mess up. Sometimes it’s genuinely embarrassing and if I had known some of the mistakes I would have make, times I wouldn’t catch on to something right away, or times I would have cry in front of coworkers prior to taking that job, I would have seriously reconsidered it for my pride. Nobody likes looking like an idiot or messing up but each day can be taken as a learning experience to lessen the pain of goofing up the next day.

5) Being the workplace “baby” makes everything different.

Respect-wise, acknowledgment-wise and helpfulness-wise – being the youngest person working in your district has a clear impact on how you are regarded by coworkers and clients. Most of the time I liked it, I felt like I was being looked out for and cared for a little extra but at the same time I felt there was a low level of respect given to me based on my appearance and it being evident that I was fresh out of school. Based on the fact that I have a baby face and have had people continue to guess I am 13 years old for the past 10 years, regardless of my age, my appearance is going to continue to make people hesitant of whether or not I am capable and credible to do my job. It has really made me realize how much I need to step up my game with credentials, continuing education and the way I carry myself so that I can demand respect of others no matter how much younger than 24 I actually look.

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Regardless of the fact that I left my first job after a short 21 months, I feel like I gained 3x that in nutritional knowledge, self-respect and maturity. I regret making it known that I didn’t like my job at the level that I did but I’m proud of myself for owning that something wasn’t for me and moving on to something that makes my heart flutter with excitement each time I realize that I made it to becoming a dietetic intern and all that my future holds. My heart is full of gratefulness for each person that treated me so kindly and for each person who challenged me to a breaking point and in turn helped me in my journey to being the best me.

The stumbling awkwardness of my first big-girl job has come to a close and I’m still standing. So that’s something to rejoice in and of itself.