Chicago — It’s funny how even as a young professional entering the workforce for the first time, you can still feel like a new kid at a new school despite your degrees and your diplomas.
That’s how I felt when I took on my first job at a newspaper in North Carolina. My colleagues seemed to have these deep working relationships, many of whom had worked for the paper for years and had been in the news writing business even longer.
My first team meetings, which were held on Zoom because of the pandemic, felt like a chance to sit at a table with the cool kids even though I didn’t belong. I was new to journalism, I was new to the city and I was new to working.
Here are a few things that helped me cope with all the newness.
Get to know your colleagues
When I first got to the paper, I saw my colleagues as these untouchable and infallible writers who were way better at their jobs than I’d ever be. But as I got to speak with each one and heard how they started their careers, I realized that many of them began their careers in a similar place as me.
They began in jobs that were far away from home with little experience, little pay and all the fears that accompany those things as a new employee. But overtime, they kept honing their craft, continued to gain experiences and advanced in their careers in ways they wouldn’t have predicted.
That gave me hope that one day I’d do the same.
Prioritize your health
At first, I didn’t deal with my transitionary period in healthy ways. To distract me from the sadness that came with being in a new city and not being near my close friends and family, I frequented the local bars, spending too much money on unhealthy food and drinking.
Other than taking a hit to my finances, that path took a toll on my self-esteem as well. I began to lose weight and physically feel like a 40 year old in a 20-something's body. That was enough to push me to get a gym membership and prioritize my physical health as a way of strengthening my mental well-being. It was one of the most effective tools in helping me adapt to my new life. Not only did I start to feel better physically, but I found a way to decompress when I was off-the-clock.
Find your clique outside of work
Prioritizing my physical fitness also led me to meet people who shared my passion for staying active. After sparking up a conversation with an Uber driver who picked me up from the newsroom, he invited me to join a group of guys who met in the mornings to do a lot of military-style and calisthenic workouts. Though no one could replace my loved ones in Chicago, the group helped to make the city feel more like home. Meeting with them consistently, building relationships and sharing my passions gave me a sense of belonging that I never thought I’d have.