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Career Advice for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke

Career Advice for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke

After over four months of job hunting, I finally landed a new job. The experience was humbling, frustrating, and enlightening. Perhaps more on that later. 

I start on Monday at the new job and when I feel comfortable, I'll share some more details. For now, just know that it's at a non-profit (yay!), but a 22% salary decrease over my last job (nay!).

A few years ago when I was fresh out of grad school and before getting my first "Big Girl Job," I happened upon a Suze Orman special on PBS, Young, Fabulous, and Broke based on her book of the same name. I used to love me some Suze and was familiar with her books, TV show, and general financial advice.

I was young, fabulous, and broke (and I guess not much has changed on those fronts) and wanted to see what advice Suze could lend.

A good portion of the special was on starting your career. You see, millennials tend to get a bad rap in the workplace and Suze wanted to help us out. Apparently, in addition to being glued to our devices, we crave constant reinforcement, and Revanche from A Gai Shan Life insists that we need to stop making it Bring Your Parents to Work Day (and on that point, I wholeheartedly agree).

In the special, Suze harped on hard work. She said that as a young, new employee, your goal is to make yourself indispensable. In short, get to work early and stay late, report to work on the weekends, and "do everything that they ask you, and everything that they don't ask you."

The end goal for Suze's career advisees? "Be the greatest worker they've ever seen, bar none."

I was leaping into my first salaried job and Mr. Spendy was at an entry-level job but wanting more. We both heeded Suze's advice; one of us succeeded and the other failed.

Mr. Spendy became the go-to guy at his first, entry-level position. He would get to work early and stay late to finish projects. Unlike the other IT people, he had better social skills and genuinely liked helping the users resolve problems. He carefully developed a social and professional network. Lastly, he spent hours each week reading up on the latest developments in his field. Five years later, he's doubled his salary.

Miss Thrifty became teacher extraordinaire at her first (non-TA) teaching job at a local, private high school. She would get to work early and stay late to finish prepping. Unlike the other teachers, she sought to get to know the students in order to craft lessons and projects incorporating their interests,  She maintained a positive rapport with her fellow teachers and presented at regional, national, and international education conferences. Lastly, she spent hours each week reading up on the latest teaching theories and methods to implement in her classroom. Four years later, she's burnt out.

I was among the greatest workers they had ever seen. I was nominated teacher of the year and the College Counselor told one parent that she wished all new teachers were as committed as me. 

What did I get in return for this successful first year? The second year brought fuller classes, a more challenging teaching load, more responsibility with student activities, and flack from a couple other teachers. Some reward, right?

All in all, I feel like Suze's advice screwed me over. I got nothing but a few empty words of praise, a persistent rash caused by stress, and a strong desire to change careers.

At the end of year two at the school, I went in and tried to negotiate because my work life was completely unsustainable. My workload was so much more than my colleagues and I needed a concession, any concession. None were offered. So, after I put in my letter of resignation, they hired two men to replace me. The feminist in me finds it hilarious and necessary to say that I did the work of two men, for the pay of 80% of just one.

This week, Our Next Life penned a post about how much they care in the workplace, especially as they gear up for an early retirement. In their Continuum of Caring, I've historically been falling off to the left of the extreme side of Caring Too Much. The goal, of course, is Balanced Caring, an equilibrium that seems oh-so hard for me to strike. 

One thing is for sure, I'm doing some personal evaluation before heading into my new job next week. Perhaps it's from being burned before by caring too much, perhaps it's a few more years of maturity, or still, perhaps it's the salary decrease making me not want to care as much?

I have some work tips for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke to avoid total burnout.

I'll be keeping these nuggets in mind to establish some semblance of work/life balance.  In these new rules for myself, you might infer just out of whack I used to be when I followed Suze's advice.

If you're already prone to over-commitment, people-pleasing, and self-imposed high standards, scrap Suze's crap advice and follow these guidelines instead:

  • Leave work on time 4/5 days a week
  • Work on weekends only when asked to do so
  • Take a lunch break, don't eat lunch at desk
  • Engage in only 1 outside-of-work social activity per month with coworkers
  • Say "no" to doing other people's jobs
  • Don't answer work emails after 8pm
  • Take sick days

What career advice would you give to millennials? Have you taken career advice that caused you to flourish or perish?

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