Entry Level

Entry Level Woes: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

work_blues

Eventually everyone finds themselves wanting to look for a new job. Now that the economy is getting back on its feet, 2013 is predicted to be the year of “I Quit”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean hiring managers will pay any attention to you.

According to HR Resource Executive Online, less than half of employers feel new graduates are ready for the workforce. Of course the grads don’t agree, resulting in a severe gap between what entry level wannabe’s think they’re offering versus what employers fear they’ll get. This delusion of office grandeur doesn’t end when you get a job, either. According to anonymous, it takes a long time before fresh faced grads realize they aren’t God’s gift to the workforce. Anonymous writes,

I was confident throughout the interview process, and on my first day didn’t even break a sweat. When I went in to work and found myself setting up computers and taking the minutes during other peoples’ meetings, I thought my employer was under utilizing my enormous skill set. It wasn’t until a month in when I really started to figure out my position that I realized I had no idea what I was doing! 1 million questions and 2 years later, I only now am starting to really feel like I get it.

My point is this – if new grads are 100% sure they are going to blow their workplace away, only to realize two years later that they were nothing more than empty heads and big egos, how can we be so sure that our confidence on flying the coop is any different?

One way to know if you’re truly ready to move on, whether your entry level or not, is to perform a self-audit. Remaining brutally honest with yourself, and evaluating your true intentions, can save you from making rash decisions or finding yourself on the receiving end of an unemployment check.

The “Am I Ready to Leave My Job?” Checklist

[ ] I’ve Outgrown my Position:

If you’ve outgrown your position, you should find a new one. But, have you truly outgrown your title or are you just frustrated/weary/sad over your current responsibilities? Assess these two options carefully, because frustration over fetching coffee or fixing the printer may leave you thinking your employer doesn’t appreciate you, when in reality you’re simply paying your dues. You don’t become CEO in a few days, or even a few years, and if you aren’t willing to eat a few shit sandwiches, you won’t know how to appreciate the Filet Mignon waiting for you at the top. You’ve only truly outgrown your position if you find you aren’t learning anything (because your employer has taught you all there is to learn… which I already don’t believe), your employer tells you that you’ve outgrown your position (yes, this has happened to me), or if you find yourself naturally taking on more responsibility and work because that of your current title no longer fills up your 40-hour work week. If you are working hard, willing to sacrifice and not just desiring a fatter paycheck, then yes, maybe you have outgrown your position.

[ ] I’ve Worked at my Current Organization for > 1.5 Years:

I often hear employees say that no one should leave a job before their 1 year anniversary. I challenge that no one should even begin looking before their 1.5 year anniversary. Time flies and careers are long. Unless your job had only 1 task, and that task was incredibly easy to master, future employers may find it hard to believe you are really ready to take on new challenges after a single year of employment. Plus, leaving a job after 1 year or less makes you look like a job jumper, and employers from previous generations hate job jumpers. If you’re willing to leave your current employer so quickly, why wouldn’t you do the same to your next organization? Employers want longevity out of their employees, and are more likely to invest in a stable candidate than one that seems to need a new title every 12 months.

[ ] I’ve Been Consistently Unhappy for Months:

If you are working on a really difficult project that requires late nights and weekend shifts, your misery is understandable, but not a reason to leave. Creating traction in your career does often require long hours and more dedication than senior level workers. You are proving yourself, and at times that means being a little rundown. However, if you dread going in everyday and feel miserably during your workweek, your emotions may be a sign that you’ve outgrown your position. Good employees who are underutilized will often become unhappy. If you feel you are idling, and there’s no way to move forward with your current employer, you may be ready to move on.

[ ] I Have New Aspirations:

One of the greatest benefits of being entry level, in my opinion, comes from the opportunity to change your mind. Your first ever post-collegiate title does not have to be your last (and I pray it isn’t), and working in an office environment or particular industry may allow you to realize more of your talents and further your passion. If you find that you would be more satisfied if your career moved vertically, or that a complete 180 is called for, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind, and hopefully your current position has added to your skill set in a way that allows you to successfully pursue your new interests. But of course, wait a year and a half, then go.

Entry Level

Entry-Level Woes: Jealousy

jealousy, facebook, entrylevel

Today I received an “Employee of the Month” type award; my second in 4 months. The $80 reward is welcomed, and the recognition even more so. But, while working your butt off and receiving recognition amidst talks of future promotions and raises is encouraging, it’s not always enough to keep from feeling kind of like a loser.

It took speaking with a few close friends to realize that a forward moving career and gradual incline of success is not enough to make anyone immune to jealousy.

This isn’t breaking news, but social media has a lot more to do with your feelings of inadequacy than you may realize. Scrolling through a news feed of acquaintances becoming engaged, getting promoted and overall looking a hell of a lot better than you is bound to drag you down. Even if you don’t want to get married or have children, and even if your “friends” are excelling in careers you would never personally pursue, their level of success seemingly trumping yours sucks. This comes from me scrolling through Facebook looking for Cyber Monday deals, only to come across a picture of an old friend looking absolutely beautiful with her very serious and very rich boyfriend. She makes double than me as it is, and my breath caught in my throat. I have no idea why; I’m very happy and optimistic about my life and current position. But, for some reason in that moment, I felt like I hated her and her boyfriend, and her beautifully blond highlights.

Everyone starts somewhere, and some start better than others. Your current status does not nullify your overall worth as a person. I think if you feel intense jealousy and rage when looking through your social media accounts, be it Instagram or even Twitter (if you still use that mess), you need to get the hell off. Yes, actually unwire for a bit. Go to the gym, or make a really nice dinner, or take a bath. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do something.

I’m serious. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn since graduation was how to keep from comparing myself to everyone. Learning how to be content no matter what your current title, salary or life status will only make your days easier, and who isn’t for easy days? The truth is, no matter how great your success, there will always be someone better off than you, so accept that and move on. Plus, when did your job or status or bank account start to make or break you as a person? It’s time to get back to reality.

Entry Level

Entry-Level Woes: Use Your Words

Today I sent an e-mail to a coworker, asking him to fix some broken links. We don’t have the closest relationship and I know he likes the Internet, so I took the opportunity as a chance to also become friendlier.

Subject: Broken LINKZ

Message:

Hi [redacted],

On the [redacted] archive, the first 2 links are broken. I need to access the second of these two. Do you haz fix?

The fix ended up being out of his hands and my request had to go up the ladder to Development. Included in this ladder is my boss, my boss’ boss, and my boss’ boss’ boss.

Senior Management x 3 now knows that I used to look at cat pictures on the Internet, because my coworker simply forwarded the e-mail on, rather than erasing my pathetic attempt at creating a friendship through meme-speak .

The Lesson: Some people are mean, and some are clueless, but the consequences of both can be minimized if you choose to talk like a grown-up and leave the faux funny e-mails for non-work related talk. Plus, only the coworkers who send you equally as dumb e-mails are trustworthy enough to receive your attempts at humor, and you can’t salvage a failed work relationship through cat talk anyway, so don’t bother.

 

Entry Level

Forever Disappointing

For the past several weeks, minus the one week of work Sandy stole from me, I have been tediously looking up the author names for the over 6,000 articles on our company website, and plugging them beside the article titles within this massive spreadsheet I proudly “own”. It’s been slow moving, frustrating and at times completely infuriating. Thoughts such as “I’m not a secretary, I’m not a Data Administrator, and I certainly am not an intern” have swarmed through my clouded cerebrum over and over again for the past 2 months.

But, I’m almost done. Thank God. And, in almost being finished, I am one step closer to creating an author database, which is another project I “own”. I also “spearhead” it.

Adjectives aside, I am also a part of the Author Engagement Program, the Social Media Team, the Newsletter Team, and the Production CMS Training Team. That, along with maintaining the site search’s Synonym Table and slowly training to manage Product, is a lot of responsibility.  I went to Chicago last month as the Marketing Liaison, and two weeks ago my house was hit by a hurricane.

All of this to say, I hope you forgive me for having been a non-blogging blogger. Sometimes you simply need to keep the laptop shut.

Entry Level

9 Ways to Live Well on an Entry-Level Salary

Between the excess of beer, the long hours, the rundown shoes you patch yourself and the inability to “go out” or do “anything fun”, existing on an entry level salary is like not existing at all. When compared to living away from home during four, five, six, or eight years of college life, entry level can feel like a punishment for not joining the workforce immediately. Though this week’s episode of Freakonomics proved that college graduates will earn more over the course of the employee life cycle than their less-educated peers, it’s still hard to survive today. Plus, the further away you were from an entry-level salary beforehand (say your parents were supporting you or you lived off student loans), the harder the adjustment.

According to a new study, entry-level jobs are increasing, meaning that more of us are going to start finding work (woohoo!), and less of us are going to start off with great salaries (boo). If entry-level jobs are in demand, and companies can get away with paying recent grads less than those with more experience, it is going to take a lot of flimsy paychecks and hard work to eventually land that leathery, oak finished office you envisioned on graduation day. Do find solace in hearing that the degree is still worth something though, because it means that no matter how far down your current position is on that slippery, gnarled, metaphorical ladder, you are valuable. Plus, you’re doing a lot better than 8.3% of Americans.

But, while an easier future is nice to think about, the fact remains that you are broke right now. I’m not an economist, but I do have some secrets to living well on little.

How to Live on Little

  1. Compare your Bills to your Friends’: After I started working at my entry-level position, I had to get used to making less money a week than what I had been earning as waitress and bartender. In time, I started to ask my roommates and friends what they were paying for car insurance, cellphone service, groceries, etc. I didn’t do this because I’m responsible, I did it because I was sinking. I realized I had been paying $30 a month for a gym membership I wasn’t using, over $50 more a month for car insurance than everyone I knew, and about $20 more a month on my cell phone. So, I quit the gym (because I wasn’t going anyway), changed car insurance providers and joined a family cell phone plan. I saved over $130 a month this way, which was huge. Learn where you can save on your set monthly bills, and then start using sites like Mint.com to set budgets and analyze the rest of your spending.
  2. Stop Going Out to Eat: Okay, not entirely. Try to limit eating out to the weekends, and even then only splurge on two meals or so. You have no idea how much money I saved once I started cooking at home as opposed to grabbing lunch at the office or accompanying my friends to dinner throughout the week. Plus, you’ll appreciate restaurant meals more once they’re a treat and you’ll probably lose weight.
  3. Go to the Outlets: You shouldn’t dress like an Olson Twin just because your salary is low. Well fitting, good looking clothing won’t only help you to feel more confident, but they are absolutely necessary in business. Dressing well at work will help you to move forward and may expedite the process entirely. I should know, I once landed a yearlong freelancing position based solely on my outfit. Visiting your local outlet mall will help you buy designer (or near designer) clothing without forcing you to eat Ramen for the rest of the month. Go online, find the outlet’s website, look up the weekly sales, and shop wisely. Even buying two items a week will help you slowly build up an impressive closet without breaking the bank. Plus, the stores in the malls or the fancy designers in your city are simply not an option right now. In fact, that brings me to….
  4. Be Realistic: I’d love to buy a new car, new pants, and a diamond necklace. I’d love it so much so that I actually have my next few big purchases already planned out. Unfortunately, those are my future plans, because big spending is not currently an option. It’s that simple. Running up a credit card bill just to afford yourself luxuries you can’t actually pay off is as dumb as running up a credit card bill to afford yourself luxuries you can’t actually pay off. You are not only stealing from yourself the chance to feel financially stable, but your also screwing your future self. A good credit score may be all you have right now, and the stronger your credit the more likely you’ll actually be able to one day afford those dream-list items. Think about it: no one is going to give a BWM to someone who can’t afford it.
  5. Look Ahead: Do you need to find a new place to rent in a year? Is your car going to die? Do you have to purchase a new computer? Look at the absolute expenses that are headed your way and never forget them. It’s harder to go to the bar three nights a week when that $1,500 deposit is sitting heavily on your mind.
  6. Drink at Home: Of course it’s important to go out sometimes, but for the most part, do your drinking at home. A six-pack from the liquor store is way cheaper than six beers at the bar. Invite your friends over and make a party out of it. You’ll save money and you won’t have to worry about finding a DD.
  7. Entertain Wisely: I’ll eventually write an entire thing about party throwing, but for now just remember: BYOB. Throwing BYOB parties saves a ton of money and leaves you with the leftovers (usually).
  8. Hang with Broke Friends: If your friends are rich, that’s awesome for them, but don’t expect to keep up with their spending habits. Try to hang around friends in a similar economic situation as yourself. You can plan days around fun, instead of cash flow, and you won’t be embarrassed to say “I can’t afford to eat there/do this/buy that”. If you spend your time with people spending their money, you’re going to want to spend yours too.
  9. Collect Grocery Store Cards: I have a store card to the two groceries stores I frequent and I try to buy store brands and sale items. At the end of the trip, my receipt tells me how much money I saved and I always feel like a good poor person, singing “I win at poverty!” repeatedly in my head. I don’t use coupons and I hate circulars, but if you can stomach such things then go for it. As far as I’m concerned, saving by keeping my eyes peeled for those red “Sale” signs is good enough for me.
Entry Level

Entry-Level Woes: The Company Photo

There’s nothing as nerve wracking as your first company photo shoot (except for your first company meeting, first company presentation, first company review, etc.). You may try to dress well on a budget, wear tall heels to command respect or present yourself solemnly and seriously in response to your age and inexperience, but all of that hard work can be stripped away with the flash of one poorly placed camera. Your greenhorn status will be revealed without proper preparation and unlike the Facebook digital world you’re accustomed to, you won’t have the luxury of erasing your least flattering poses or demanding a do over. These pictures won’t go away either. Hiring a photographer is expensive, and your boss will be sure to get her money’s worth by parading the proofs all over the office. Be smart and plan ahead, or at the very least, avoid looking stupid by learning from my mistakes.

  1. Wear Makeup/Do Your Hair

    Even if you don’t normally wear makeup to the office or run a comb through your mane before settling at your desk, picture day is the perfect day to put forth a bit of effort. Without foundation and a nice shield of hair product to hide behind, you will absolutely look tired and unprepared for your close up. I don’t care if you think your complexion is perfect, or organic beauty is the best beauty, or whatever else the latest Dove commercial has you believing. The truth is that your image is your everything and until you can prove how capable you are, you’ll at least want to look halfway decent in the picture gracing your company website.

  2. Dress Flatteringly

    If your outfit looks okay in your bedroom mirror, it will look downright horrific in a photograph. Worst of all, that picture will be around for a very long time. Companies don’t shell out money for a new picture every year, so you need to be comfortable with your outfit representing you for the next 24 months. Yeah, that’s a big commitment, and since I’m not even sure I want the shirt on my back to represent me for the next 24 minutes, you can understand the importance of proper wardrobe preparedness. That is unless you don’t mind your entire office forever believing you’re club-footed and fifty pounds overweight.

  3. Don’t Look Drunk

    Entry level bad alcohol drinking picture

    Try not to be the only one holding alcohol in your company picture. “That’s just common sense,” you’re thinking. So you’d think, I’m responding.
    And again, let me reiterate the importance of taking the time to do your hair. Here’s more proof for good measure, in case you think I’m being a bit harsh.

  4. Stay Aware

    When your company is taking pictures of an event, it’s easy to lose track of the cameraman in an attempt to enjoy socializing with your coworkers. Don’t do this. Always know where the camera is aimed, and be sure to either a) stay out of the reach of the lens or b) look perfect. There’s really no such thing as an “attractive candid” and the sooner you dash any illusions of how accidentally beautiful and fun loving you’ll appear, the better your chances of actually working hard enough to come off as those things. That is unless you’re cool with being caught sitting at the buffet table. No, not near it, or standing gracefully beside it, but sitting directly in front of the food as if the entire spread is your personal feast.

  5. Be Confident

    Ultimately, if you feel beautiful, your puffy suit jacket, champagne, gelled back hair and blush-free face can’t stop you from looking it. As soon as you stop caring about who everyone else thinks you are, you’ll have the chance to actually show them. Also, thank God for Photoshop.

Ché's Guide · Entry Level

Ché’s Guide to Office Life: Telecommuting!

Congratulations. You got a job and then you did it. To reward you , your boss has decided to forego a raise and is instead allowing you to telecommute.

But, there’s a catch: If you fail at telecommuting, it will be taken away from you.

Luckily, this is easily avoidable by being good at telecommuting. To be good at telecommuting, do what I tell you to do.

#1: Clothes. Wear them!

One of the perks of working from home that people who don’t work from home always talk about is not having to change out of your pajamas. But being productive in slippers is a myth. No one actually does that. It sounds nice, but just try to wear sweatpants to do anything other than watch TV, eat Chinese food and nap. Unless television, snacks and napping are your job, you need to avoid these things. So, take a shower and get dressed. You don’t have to wear office clothes, but do look like a grown-up.

#2: Hairs. Shape them!

You don’t have to blow dry, gel or straighten your hair, but definitely do enough to it that if someone were to knock on your door, you wouldn’t be completely mortified by your appearance. The better you feel and more prepared you are for the day, the more ready you will be to work. Also, if you’re smart, you’ll use this as an opportunity to try a new hairstyle you otherwise wouldn’t have the guts or time to attempt on your way out the door.

#3: Morning foods. Eat them!

It’s hard to find the time to make breakfast before work. Taking advantage of the rare opportunity to relax and reflect over a hot plate of scrambledie-ambled eggs or waffles with strawberries sexily laid over them really does change the course of your whole day.

Other Tips: If you have the time, work out, go for a walk or meditate before working. You’ll be amazed at your sudden motivation to get things done. Also, I’ll be amazed if you actually find the time to do any of that.

#4: Work stuffs. Do them!

After showering, getting dressed, doing your style things and eating breakfast, it’s time to do what you came home to do: work. But first, you need to set up a workspace. If you sit on your couch and work, you’re likely to become distracted by the suction of your cushions or the faces on the television. Set up a patio office or sit near a window. If you have a desk, maybe use that, but you don’t have to. Do find a spot that is aesthetically pleasing, one that is hopefully nicer than the cubicle at your actual job place, and work there. Don’t sit in bed. Don’t lie on the sofa. Don’t take your laptop to the beach. Do enjoy yourself though.

5: Early birds. Be them!

This isn’t a requirement, but I suggest you start working a little bit earlier than usual, especially if you’re skipping out on a long commute. The perks for you are obvious; the earlier you start, the earlier you can be done. Finishing work early on a weekday will free you up to do other things you usually don’t get to do, like grabbing an early bird special or having your hair colored (yay!).

(before, no after)

Also, if you’re sending out e-mails at 8:00 in the morning or doing whatever it is you do for money, your boss will notice. Being on point when working from home can only make you look good, and in the end, looking good is what got you this sweet deal to begin with. If you keep it up, maybe you won’t ever have to go back to the office again.