After three years in the workforce, I’ve gained life wisdom that's made this whole ‘adulting’ business a tad easier.
When I graduated from university in mid-2018, I thought my life in Singapore was going to be pretty straightforward. First, I’d do a couple internships to figure out what I want out of my career, and then I’d stay in a job I really like for a number of years and rise through the ranks. Easy peasy, right? Well, considering I’m sitting here writing about the wisdom I’ve gained (in hopes you can use it to save yourself), you can probably guess it didn’t turn out that way at all.
Instead, I accepted the very first internship and full-time position that presented itself. Next, I proceeded to switch companies, and then careers entirely – and now I’m in my third job in three years. Okay, I know three years isn’t much time, and I’m (probably) not qualified or experienced enough to share these “pieces of wisdom”. But, if you’re fumbling around in the working world thinking “Oh my god, what exactly am I doing?”, I hope this resonates with you.
Bits of wisdom I’ve gained from job-hopping in three years
1. Do even the little things with pride
When you start work, especially in an entry-level position, you may find yourself being assigned to do tedious, routine tasks like data entry, research and cold calling. Yes, it’s a bore. But what I’ve realised (life wisdom numero uno) is that you should never think that any task is beneath you. There’s always something to learn whether it’s patience, meticulosity or even empathy – so you can lead and understand the people who come after you because you’ve literally been-there-done-that.
Instead, challenge yourself to take on the little things and do them with pride. For example, if you’re compiling a list of contacts for a project, you can think about how to make it the most detailed and organised document in your company folder, or how to convert it into a master list that everyone can refer to when they need to reach out to a particular client or vendor.
2. You’re going to make mistakes
I’m 100% guilty of being afraid to make mistakes, and then beating myself up when I slip up. Thankfully I’ve been surrounded by colleagues who have reminded me time and again that I’m just a human being. Which means sometimes mistakes are unavoidable, and I can’t let the fear of failure prevent me from moving forward and persevering. Remember: everybody slips up from time to time, but what you should do instead of wallowing is reflect on what went wrong and find out how to do better the next time.
3. There’s no ‘I’ in team
Many hands make light work. In this day and age where work from home is default and we’re out of the line of sight of fellow coworkers and supervisors, it can be so easy to just do the work you’re assigned and be on your way. But if there’s a piece of wisdom I’ve come to value most, it’s the importance of being a good teammate – and this means looking out for your colleagues.
The times I hold especially close to my heart are when I was offered help from caring coworkers as I struggled to finish remaining tasks after a particularly long day. There’s a special bond and rapport that forms, and I truly think not being able to experience it is a shame.
4. Do what makes you uncomfortable
If you know me, you know I’m a big scaredy cat. I’m afraid of almost everything, especially making conversation with strangers and public speaking. When I first started working, I unknowingly picked a job that made me face all of my worst fears. I had to speak to people I didn’t know well, hold small talk with clients, present proposals and pitches while sweating in my seat – it was completely awful. However, I have no regrets even though these are skills I’m still perfecting. I’ve gained so much more confidence in my abilities than I would if I’d picked a different, safer route. In short, if you know you’re afraid of something, do it anyway.
5. Make time for self-care
If you’re a workaholic, stop at this point and read it again. Make time for self-care, because your mental health is important. I have most definitely been in the position where completing work was much more important to me than resting. I’m grateful I had a co-worker (turned friend), who would always tell me to take a breather. She would remind me that work is a never-ending process. If my goal was just to finish work, I’d never find the time to take care of myself.
Yes, the occasional need to work overtime especially during crunch time is unavoidable, but where you can, always remember work takes second place after your health. If you find yourself sinking, flag it to your manager or ask for help from your team to manage and prioritise your timelines.
6. It’s okay if your first job isn’t the right fit
When it comes to our individual career paths, some of us are lucky and get it right on the first try. We just plop into a job that suits our talents and personality, end of story. But it doesn’t always turn out that way, and that’s also completely fine. If your first job isn’t the right fit, don’t get discouraged. Use it as an opportunity to better understand your strengths, areas of improvement and what you’re passionate about and want to pursue. None of it is wasted time. You won’t benefit from comparing yourself to others who are on a different journey. Besides, what’s life without some bumps in the road? At the end of the day, the experiences you take away will always be priceless.
After three years working in Singapore, this is the life wisdom I’ve gained. I hope this is useful advice for anyone just starting out in your career!