An open letter to 21-year-old me

Hey Ens,

Congratulations on landing your first job! I know you’re both excited and nervous to start this new journey. Don’t worry, that’s perfectly fine and it’s okay to feel nervous. It is a corporate world out there anyways. It CAN be a scary world, but don’t be. You’ll be fine.

There will be days ahead that will drive you crazy yet there will be much more that will bring so much joy. Fifteen years into the future, you will find yourself still here and you might wonder how you stayed that long. You will change a lot – emotionally and physically. Well, the bangs stay at least? 😂

There will be tears, frustrations, lots of lessons learned along the way and I’m here to tell you that you’ll jump through all that hurdle. You might not know everything now but I will try to help.

Here are 15 things I learned through my 15 years in this journey:

1. Every day is a learning moment

As they say, “you learn something new every day.” No matter how old or experienced you are, there will always be something you do not know. Always keep an open mind for learning. Talk to people, ask people, learn from everyone.

2. Priorities change

There will be moments that you will want to reach for the moon and stars and prioritize your career. But there will be times when you want to focus on yourself or your family. Both are perfectly okay. Priorities change over time. You will learn how to identify your priorities. You will learn when to identify your priorities as well. What’s important is to tell your supervisor and teammates to set expectations. Which brings me to the next point.

3. Communication is the key

People especially your supervisors are not mind readers. For them to know what you want to do and what your priorities are, you need to tell them. You want a different role? Say it. You need to stay with your sick family? Tell them. You need to step out for an hour to exercise once a week? Let them know. Don’t fret, you’re not being a burden, you are actually helping them make their lives easier by planning ahead.

4. Learn to say No. How to say No.

One of the things I learned is that it is okay to say No. If it doesn’t align with your priorities, you can decline. If someone is asking you to do something you’re not comfortable with, just say it. No need to explain. It’s your right.

5. Work-Life balance is BS.

You will hear about this “work-life balance” phenomenon a lot of times. People will try to achieve this balance or offer tips to achieve this. It’s going to be hard if that is your goal because work-life balance is BS. If you will try to balance, there will always be a “battle” or you will need to always choose between the two. Then I learned about “work-life integration.” This way, you can integrate what you want to do personally with work. Want travel? You will get it here. Want to stay healthy and follow your passion? Join different groups or talk to like-minded people at work.

6. Find a mentor

This is important to help you get by and have someone who can give you tips and tricks to stay sane. A mentor can help you when you are at your lowest and provide an objective perspective on things. Your mentor can help you with your career growth as well.

7. Networking is not just for earning lots of moolah. It is an essential skill

Over the course of time, you will meet a lot of people. Get to know them and establish a relationship, you’ll never know when you’ll meet them again and need some help from them.

8. Do not burn bridges

In line with #7, avoid burning bridges. You’ll never know when you’ll need someone or work with someone you’ve had a conflict with. We are working professionals so handle differences professionally as well.

9. It is okay to feel demotivated

We are humans. Truly human. It is okay to feel unengaged or demotivated at times. The important thing is to identify why you’re feeling this and then work on improving your mood. Talk to someone (your mentor or a friend), relax or find a diversion.

10. Know your non-negotiables

Like your priorities, your non-negotiables may change over time. Know what these are and communicate them so that your supervisor and team knows.

11. When tired, rest.

Get a vacation. Take some time off. Everybody needs time to recuperate and find their happiness. When things get rough and you get tired, take a rest.

12. Opportunities are and can be created. Go for it!

There will be times when opportunities will knock on your door. If it does, that’s great! There will also be times when you need to create your opportunities. If you are open with your preferences, your supervisor might just carve out something for you. Remember that you are the sailor of your own boat.

13. You are important. Make yourself heard.

No matter what role you’re in, no role is too small not to be heard. Speak up and ask questions. It will take you places you’ve never imagined and learn things you never existed.

14. Choose your battles

You will meet challenging people and clash with some values and priorities, but remember that each of us is unique. Some battles are worth fighting for and some are just not worth all the stress. If you find yourself in full gear mode, ask yourself: “Is it a battle or is it the war?”

15. Tomorrow is another day

Probably one of my mantra that kept me sane all these years. When things get tough, remember that This, too, shall pass and that tomorrow is another day.

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