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  • Writer's pictureMaruta Ignatoviča

10 Lessons From 10 Years In The Workforce

Recently I realized it's been more than 10 years since my first official job that I got in 2012, at the age of 18.

It's been a long and winding road since that first job and as I started thinking about all that I've learned, I realized I can sum it into 10 things, so here goes!

  1. Go where it's exciting, not where it's cool. The beginning of my career was very random - I didn't have one and couldn't decide on a specific one. So I decided to have fun with it - I always accepted challenges that made me excited or where I could learn, grow and utilize my talents. Even if it was a super small company with no promotion opportunities, that no one knew about, as opposed to a “cooler” company - but where the job was way more boring. And then, about 5 years into my career, something suddenly clicked, and all those different experiences and skills came together, like a puzzle. In retrospect, everything I did led me to where I am now. So when in doubt - if you don't have a map, follow your heart and it will take you where you need to go.

  2. Always say "yes". I'll be vulnerable here - one of my biggest fears is realizing I'm 90 and having a million regrets about things I didn't do. So I say yes to (almost) everything. In 2017 I accepted an offer in a new field. It turns out I hated it. But at least now I know I don't like it! In 2022 I was offered a speaker slot at a conference. Had I done it before? Nope. Would that stop me? Nope! I designed a speech, I practiced until I felt comfortable, and I delivered. Was I freaking out? Yes. Was it also super cool and I felt like a badass afterward? Also yes :) And always being open to things has, literally, opened many doors for me and helped me grow as a human and as a professional.

  3. Don't take everything so seriously. I'll be honest, this actually took me years in therapy to understand - there is nothing you can do, that will ruin your life forever (disclaimer - let's be reasonable here). You can always get a new job. You can always rebuild yourself. Take the leap. Have fun. Experiment. Accept a job out of your comfort zone that makes you excited. Quit your job to raise chickens. What's the worst that's gonna happen? If you realize you hate chickens, you can always go back to work. Most importantly, don't take yourself so seriously. Be authentic. Your best shot at finding your perfect environment is, to be honest about who you are.

  4. Know when to say “no”. Because I often say Yes to things, these decisions take me places. Wild places... While I regret nothing, I've also learned that sometimes it's okay to say “Ok, I tried it, it was fun, but not for me.” You don't have to commit to something forever just because you said Yes initially. And while I often freak out about letting others down (friends, colleagues, employers), that changed when I realized that the alternative isn't just letting no one down - it's letting myself down.

  5. You don't need to have all the answers - but you need to be good at finding them. I've never had a job where I know everything I'm doing. Honestly, between you and me, I think one of my biggest talents is pretending I know what I'm doing (imposter syndrome, y'all). My strengths, however, are a “can-do” attitude and great research skills. No one knows everything. What makes you stand out is an optimistic attitude and the absolute, unwavering belief that you can figure it out. And that's how you will.

  6. You are not your job. In a good and bad way. If you hate your job - luckily, it doesn't define you. If you love your job - sadly, it doesn't define you! You're allowed to like your job and you're allowed to hate it. Not everyone has a super exciting job (what does that even mean?) and not everyone has to. Whichever you chose, that's just something you do, but you are more than that (and if you're not - room for growth). Keep this in mind and it will be easier to get through an unpleasant job, layoffs, or just the good ol' identity crisis.

  7. To continue on the previous point, no work is worth your life. Remember I said I'm scared I'll wind up an old lady and have a million regrets about things I didn't do? That includes my life. I would never forgive myself if I missed out on my own life because of a job. While it's good to have a purpose and goals and ambitions, a good way to approach this is to imagine what people will say at your funeral. I'm hoping for “She was kind and laughed a lot, and we have many great memories together” as opposed to “She was all right, but she worked so much I never really saw her.”

  8. Always do your best - but be honest and kind to yourself. Some days I'll be on top of the world, fast and productive. On other days I'm slow and my mind is cloudy. When I get the urge to blame myself for not being at a certain level of productivity, I ask myself, hand to my heart - did I do my best today? Maybe the answer is no. Maybe I know deep inside I could have done better, but I was lazy and browsing yet another ASOS sale online. But maybe I did my best - even though I was tired or crampy, and even though I didn't do objectively much, it was the best I could do that day. And that's enough. Tomorrow is a new day and I'll do better.

  9. Tech is here to serve you, you are not here to serve tech. Take control of your gadgets to improve your work-life balance! You're allowed to turn off notifications, delete Slack from your phone and draw boundaries. While tech is cool and it allows us to be accessible, and work at never-before-seen speeds, it also often enslaves us, because we think we have to always be accessible. But no. You make the rules, not your gadgets. And if your gadget stresses you out more than it helps, then you need to make new rules.

  10. Compete with your parallel universe self. This, actually, is what my amazing therapist told me. Imagine your best self, your parallel universe self. Not the richest or skinniest or the most productive - but the happiest, the most authentic, the trauma-free, the most you. What would this person be doing in this situation? Compete with them! The first time I heard this, I thought - that woman is def never lazy, always hustling, always on top of her game. The TikTok version of the “It” girl! And then it slowly dawned on me that, actually, that woman is at peace. She doesn't have to prove anything. She doesn't have to burn herself out helping others. She has healthy boundaries. She gets plenty of sleep. She eats good, healthy meals. And so I started competing with her, not my peers or any other standards. This has moved me more towards my best life than anything else. And sometimes my best life is sleeping in, saying no to mandatory but pointless social engagements, reading my favorite novel, and eating a lot of cheese for breakfast.


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