But there were lessons learned.

Some things I wish I could do all all over again,
but it don’t really matter.
Life gets that much harder,
it makes you that much stronger.
Oh, some pages turned,
some bridges burned,
but there were lessons learned.

Carrie Underwood, Lessons Learned.

Five years ago today on May 2, 2014, the day before my 22nd birthday and a week before my college graduation, I found myself sitting in an insurance office being interviewed for a liability claims job. The manager asked me a pretty standard interview question—“Why should I hire you?” I sat up straight trying to muster up every ounce of confidence I didn’t have because, to be honest, I really didn’t know what the job I was interviewing for entailed. What I knew was that the company paid well, offered great benefits packages, and was close to where my dad was recovering from open-heart surgery. Either that manager didn’t realize how clueless I really was or he recognized that I wasn’t just blowing smoke when I said I was a hard worker. Regardless of why he offered me the job on the spot, he did. I guess he made the right decision since I’m still employed there today. I’ve learned so much over the last 5 years and today I’d like to share with you the top 5 lessons I’ve learned.

1. It’s okay to slow down.

As Baby Boomers head towards retirement, Corporate America has cultivated this notion that we, Millennials and Gen Zs, should constantly be trying to move up the company ladder and take their place. It’s easy to get wrapped up in this job title centric and career growth driven culture. I’ve had 4 promotions while being at my company for less than 5 years. I worked hard for each of those promotions. It was exhausting. I didn’t even realize how burned out I felt until my VP had our entire department read a book last summer by Kim Scott called Radical Candor (side note—I highly recommend everyone buy a copy to read). One of the chapters discusses the concept of rock star associates versus superstar associates. Superstars are the associates who are constantly pushing themselves to progress upwards, while rock stars on the other hand are your dependable, long term team members who are dang good at their jobs and hold the team together. This concept of rock stars versus superstars was an unheard-of concept for me. I had an epiphany reading about this and realized slowing your career down doesn’t mean you lack ambition or drive. It just means you’re ready to spend some time perfecting your craft.

2. Schedule time for yourself.

There isn’t a universal work-life balance formula. You have to decide for yourself what your balance is. Do you need to get off work every day at the same time? Do you need to always have the weekends off? Are you okay working 60+ hours a week during “busy season” and having more free time during slower months? Do you need your work day to start later in the morning so you have time to yourself to read the paper and drink coffee before work? It’s also not enough to just know what work-life balance means to you. Some weeks work can be chaotic and in the moment it can be easy to forget about your personal needs. You need to actively make your “me time” a priority and add it to your schedule. Treat your personal time like a business meeting you can’t push off to next week.

3. It matters who you work with.

Part of my job is leading professional development workshops with college student organizations. Any time I’m asked what advice would I give a new job seeker, I tell them not to forget that in a way they’re also interviewing the company. Job offers are mutual agreements. The company has to like you, but you also have to like the company. Not just the job title or your starting salary. You have to actually like the company—the people that make up it and the culture that they foster. You could have your dream job with an amazing starting salary and a pension, but if you’re spending 40+ hours a week with people who make you miserable your dream job isn’t going to feel like a dream job anymore.

4. Develop healthy habits early on.

This one may sound simple, but I have found it to be one of the most difficult lessons to follow through on. It’s not enough to just know what healthy habits are. You have to make a conscious effort to do them every day until they become second nature. Go to bed each night and wake up each morning around the same time. Yes, even on the weekends. Eat a healthy breakfast each day. Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Swap your afternoon Coke Zero and candy bar for a glass of water and an apple. Cook dinner instead of having something delivered. Schedule some time each day for a 30 minute walk. The sooner you start developing healthy habits, the less time you’ll have to cumulate those bad habits.

5. You don’t have to have everything figured out.

Plain and simple. You don’t have to have and probably never will have everything little detail figured out. Stop putting that added pressure on yourself and learn as you go instead.

Bonus Lesson: Save your work as you go.

Whether you’re working on a business proposal or a financial analysis or even just a blog post, continuously save your documents while you work on them. Learn from my mistake so you don’t lose all but the first few sentences of your document after spending hours working on it because your laptop decided to restart without warning in order to install updates. If this post doesn’t sound as put together as my past ones, I apologize. I guess this is just another lesson learned…

Still trying to figure it out,

Madison

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