Lessons From My First Job

“I thought I had to have it all figured out, but I’ve learned that the steps along the way are even more important than the destination.”

Reflecting on my 2018, my quote above is the most resonating thought that came to mind when I think about my year. One major change for me in 2018 was leaving my very first “real” job. It was the job that I interned for in college. The job that brought me so many experiences in my first year after college. The job that blessed me with the opportunity to learn more than I could imagine. And the job that ultimately brought me a lot of growing pains.

Over the course of my two year “career” at a major, multinational company, I learned a lot about how the world works, about how social groups and pressures, and about business. I remember my very first day on my new team. I walked into the audit room, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Shay. Nice to meet you all!” I had 5 people stare blindly back at me, and then, proceed to mumble back half-assed “hellos.” From that moment, I knew it may be an uphill battle in fitting in; but ever the optimist that I am, I kept my head held high and pushed on. And for awhile, it was okay! I got to travel--- being sent on assignments in Orlando, Tampa, Houston, Denver, New York City, and Colorado Springs all within my first year of work! I got to learn about the intricacies of some of the top performing companies in the world. I got to meet some super successful people as well --CEOs, CFOs, Controllers, etc. I got to bond with some great colleagues who had just come into the working world as well; and also, people that I interned with, fellow associates, and super smart senior associates and managers.

But of course, there is always another side to the story. There’s always an undercurrent so rough and raging that you can barely stay above water. So the story goes that while I was gaining a lot of valuable experience, there were still a lot of micro-aggression and power-play issues going on all around me. The senior associates--- on the first team I that I joined---gloated to me about how they had made another girl (on another team) cry at work by intimidating her. They proceeded to wait for my reaction; and when all I said responded with was a nonchalant, “Cry? Cry for what?,” one of the seniors said, ‘oh well, she was just a scared Asian girl, anything makes them crack.” I was appalled by the audacity and disrespect of that statement! All in one, they were telling me that they get a rise out of seeing other people crack, that because I’m Black it may be harder to get me to crack, and that that they definitely had intentions of trying to get me to crack. And this seemed to be the culture throughout the office that I worked for.

Whether it was the numerous times that questionable things were said to me, the times that I had to work far longer and harder than everyone else, the times that I was not recognized for my contributions to the team, the times that I was purposely excluded from the group, or the times that my name or my upbringing were made fun of; I just always seemed to be on the losing end of the dynamics. And what I once looked at as a great opportunity, started to become the pain in my side. I also became a different person at work; very different than the one I truly am. I was more quiet, more reserved, less charismatic, and less enthusiastic. I became less than who I am. It’s something akin to the gradual deterioration of a painting---the paint chips away very slowly, one piece at a time. In many ways, my existence at work also spilled over into my personal life. I started to put on weight; I felt less inclined to go out. I questioned myself more and my confidence took a hit. In all, I became a shell of myself.

I’m so thankful that through it all, the warrior’s spirit stayed within me. Somehow, I just got a jolt of energy in Spring of 2018. I knew that staying on my current path would only lead me to more destruction of self. So I started to set up the plans to truly pursue my passion and a better path for myself. First, I decided to scout positions that more aligned with my interests and my spirit; because honestly, audit was never a passion of mine to begin with. Then, I started to take my “hobby” of women empowerment more seriously. I started setting up the plans to bring to value to my tribe. And, I even got closer to my family and friends again!

I took a chance on myself and now I’m happy to report that I am in a position that much more fits my interests. I’m surrounded by people who are truly invested in seeing me succeed. And I can honestly say that I ended 2018 in a much better space than I was at the beginning of 2018.

I truly believe it is only up from here!

What I will say is that I did learn valuable lessons! For anyone reading this, here are the things that I would recommend about jobs and difficult life experiences in general:

Be aware

Why are you pursuing this opportunity or path? How are you feeling about your job/experience? What is the environment like around you? Are you fulfilled? You should be constantly asking yourself about how you feel about these things and making sure you that you align yourself with what you actually want.

Take the experience for what it is

Don’t take the experience too seriously. Even if it isn't working out the way you originally expected, understand that all experiences are valuable and happen for a reason. Use your experiences to your advantage --- learn and rise above.

Always trust your instincts

You know what you want out of career and your life. Make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people and opportunities that will help you achieve your goals. If something does not seem right or is not fulfilling you, figure out ways to put yourself in a position that is better for you.

Never allow anyone to affect your confidence

Many times we allow others actions' affect how we feel about ourselves. Understand that other people are fighting their own demons and that their actions; oftentimes, have nothing to do with us personally. Always make the effort to keep yourself in balance; whether that is through self-care rituals, therapy, fun outlets, etc. We can only be our best selves when we are fully confident and capable. Never allow anyone to make you question yourself or your own potential.

Follow your heart

You only get one life, make it count! No dream is to big to conquer!

Never allow anyone to dim your spirit. - Shay

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