St. Paul, MN — The transition from college to my first job has been hella uncomfortable. Since I’ve started working, I’ve cried twice to my boss, I’ve sent emails to the wrong people, and during my second month on the job, I got so anxious that I stayed up until two in the morning in order to meet my deadline on time.
Being a podcast producer and working in the creative industry was not a job I thought I’d be doing once I graduated college. I thought it would take me years to build up to a role like this. So, that part has been great, but I also didn't realize I was signing up to be rocked completely out of my comfort zone. For more than six months, I’ve been put through some of my most memorable growing pains yet, and I’ve been forced to embrace discomfort no matter what.
I remember my second week on the job realizing that college didn’t prepare me for any of this. “This” being the transition from college into my career. And when it comes to doing the job itself, college also didn’t teach me how to use my instincts to quickly do all the basic creative and technical tasks in my position nor did it teach me how to manage my time during a nine hour work day.
When I signed my offer letter, I remembered feeling so proud of myself and like I was blossoming with achievement because I landed this job within months before graduation. I was also the first person in my immediate family to graduate college. So, the other realization I had was that I was extremely blessed. Then the people in my life who graduated long before me would say, “Congratulations, Erianna! You are so lucky to have a creative job right out of college.”
That type of comment has affirmed me and has confused me at the same time. Every week in my job I’ve become more grateful, and also more deserving the longer I stay. But how do you ask for that recognition when there are all these people above you getting the credit? It’s tricky trying to prove your worthiness when you’re lower on the totem pole, and there are so many people above you that your work is supporting.
While I work my way up, I’ve had to learn some key lessons about navigating the work world:
Representation is vital. I didn’t know when I tattooed this saying on my wrist back in my junior year of college that I was actually going to be embodying it in real time. I’m one of few people of color at my job and the only Black woman in my position. For me, this kind of disparity has been empowering yet discouraging to work through sometimes. On a bad day, it feels like everyone is looking at me and deeming the uncomfortable look on my face as an attitude. But on a good day, it has fueled me and taught me how to pave a way for others that look like me and show them that they can belong in any room they aspire to be in.
You’re responsible for your own wellbeing. While catching COVID-19 is the biggest health scare right now, catching the cold or flu can be just as severe. In November, I caught a common cold that turned into a flu. It took me a full week to recover, and about four days of rest to get rid of the virus. Unfortunately, I got so sick I had to take two days off of work, and in my office PTO, or paid time off, is both sick and vacation. This is unfortunate because when you think of PTO, you imagine yourself actually relaxing and enjoying things that have nothing to do with your job. But I had to sacrifice that opportunity in order to heal myself. Another thing I didn’t realize: When you’re salaried, you only acquire so much PTO at a time. For me, two days of PTO converts to two months worth of work. It will take two more months to acquire that time back and a year at my job to even get two solid weeks off. You really do have to expect for unexpected things to come up, and make your health a priority even if it means letting go of a weekend with your best friends in LA.
The age gap is real. Coming out of college into a career is pretty exciting because you’re “the young one” with a fresh perspective on things. I’m the youngest person at my job and there have been times where the generational divide has worked in my favor. For example, I suggested an idea for a podcast episode to make it even more worthwhile for listeners and it worked. But there have been plenty of other times when my supervisor has turned those ideas down and I’ve had to surrender. I’ve had to learn not to let this discourage me from sharing all the bright ideas in my head. I have to simply be aware of where other people are coming from. We are all trying to bring our lived experiences, beliefs, and knowledge to the table and come up with things to make the work more meaningful.
So far in this journey, I’m learning that whatever side of this I wake up on in the morning, and right before I open my laptop - I have to remind myself that I’m right where I need to be - in my own head and in the real world.
Whether you’re graduating, still in college, or applying to jobs right now, I want you to know that whenever this transition takes place for you, you cannot forget to show yourself some compassion, grace, and patience. The new version of you is going to come out and you’ve got to be there to see yourself through.
Follow Erianna's story on IG for more snapshots from her life.