How to Survive Your Post-Grad Retail Job

1 . Be prepared to be tired.

If your college jobs involved sitting at a desk, babysitting, or an occasional 2 hr barista shift, your body has forgotten the stress and fatigue of retail. The first two weeks back, your knees and feet and shoulders will ache. Invest in some good shoes, pop some ibuprofen, and take a post-shift nap until your body adjusts to the new routine of standing for 6+ hours at a time.

2. Look forward to something at work

I work in a copy center right now, and because I’m somewhat new I am still looking forward to learning new skills (like custom stamps and laminating foam board). There’s also a customer who comes in every Thursday night to have a meeting agenda printed in a very silly font. Knowing he’s coming in around 7:30 gives me a little bit more energy through a closing shift. Consciously picking something to look  forward to makes a long shift or a long week a little less draining.

3. Do something outside of work every day

Before I go to bed at night, part of my evening routine is writing down in a notebook what I did that day. It’s a little bit of purposeful reflection that prevents ruminating in the dark. But when all I did that day was watch Youtube videos and eat chips until I went to work, I don’t close the notebook feeling very good. To prevent this, I try to accomplish one specific thing outside of work every day. Sometimes it’s mundane, like doing laundry or booking a doctor’s appointment. Other times I bake cookies or go for a run or talk to a friend on the phone. Making time and energy for these personal things keeps me grounded and reminds me that we all have lives outside of careers.

4. Remember: you are not your work

In the age of “do what you love”, I feel bombarded by messages that your identity is entirely wrapped up in your major/career/job/parenthood status. Break away from that. Your job is how you make money. Maybe it’s emotionally fulfilling, maybe it’s not. But either way, you have an identity and worth outside of whatever you do to earn that paycheck.

5. Get over yourself

Is there a voice in the back of your head insistently whispering that you should have a ‘real job’ by now? That this doesn’t count? Maybe that voice isn’t just in your head – maybe these are things you actually say out loud. Shut that down and get over yourself. This is real work, real work that millions of people do every day. This is work that keeps society running. I feel very lucky that in my store there’s people at all stages of life: managers who used to work at corporate, high schoolers, students working their way through college, people who studied graphic design, a recent engineering grad who hates offices, middle aged moms. This is not any more or any less of a job than whatever your old roommates are doing in Manhattan. I’m not saying you have to work here forever, but please, quash those elitist thoughts before you sabotage your relationship with your coworkers. Take some ibuprofen, pick something to look forward to, and put on your nametag.

It’s time to go to work.

The Job Search Is Lonely

I don’t know if it’s the seasons changing and the sun setting earlier or my mom and brother going back to school. I’m sure everyone feels like this sometimes. But right now, for me, the job search feels lonely. Maybe you’re in a similar boat, becoming numb and isolated from afternoon after afternoon of just you and your cover letters at the dining room table. To prevent this from turning into a period of low-productivity/high-anxiety, I’ve been developing some habits to quell the loneliness and keep me connected.

1 . Leave the house

Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but there have been countless days where I notice the sunset and realize I haven’t left the property (maybe I walked the dog up the street). You gotta leave the house. I follow a lot of freelancers on Twitter and Snapchat and I greatly admire their commitment to working in coffeeshops or group work spaces. It gets them out of their apartment and even if they don’t talk to anyone but the barista, being around other people who are moving and doing keeps you from feeling stagnant. Even my grandma does this – while she’s retired, she has a routine where she goes to the diner every morning. Sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone, this routine gets her out of the house in the morning and guarantees human contact, even if it’s just the waiter. Read More

Should I Graduate Early?

Are you a little burnt out from school? Trying to save money? Have a fantastic job opportunity you would need to leave school to take? Last year, I decided to graduate a semester early from college. It was a really hard decision to make and I spent many months thinking about it, but now I have been out of school for 8 months and I know it was the right choice for me. Is it right for you? Here are five things to think about as you make the big decision.

(This is geared towards people who, like me, only started thinking about graduating early right before senior year. Many people plan from the start to graduate a semester or year early and I hope that some of this can be helpful to those people as well).

1 . Is it too late?

Most colleges have a deadline to apply for early graduation. Check at your school – if it’s already past this deadline, congratulations! The decision has been made for you and you can wonder no more. Focus on enjoying the rest of senior year and know this happened for a reason.

2. Do I have the credits? Will I finish my major? Read More

First Not First Day of School

I can hear my dad cooking eggs at 6:27, the whites just starting to sizzle in the pan. This early morning cooking is an effort to get this school year off on the right foot for my brother, who is starting his junior year of high school. My mom is back at school this week as well, a middle school teacher, and there’s an egg on an English muffin for her as well. My dad comes upstairs to say goodbye to me before he leaves for work. For him, it is just another Tuesday.  Read More