You know when you are good at something, and you have been doing it for years, and your whole life has been built upon this one belief that if you just do your best and work hard enough you will eventually be rewarded in the best way possible… with three months of time to be spent however you like it? How can you give up something like that, that sweet sweet certainty and stability, from one day to the next?
I think everyone knows how scary it is to give up being a student and enter real, adult life. Either because they’ve been there or because it is imminent. I, for one, knew I was not ready yet to start my professional career after I finished my first Master degree. So… I graduated twice.
You may have been reading about my second year as a Master student in the 3C Adventures Series, which was published live throughout the year on my Dutch blog and which I am now translating for my Anglophone readers. So you know that by now (SPOILER ALERT) I have successfully graduated and am working. Yes, with a real job! As an employee. On a payroll.
After finishing my final degree, I got depressed. My whole future was open, there was no certainty, no plans. I had never before been in a situation like this in my entire life. It was uncomfortable, scary, maddening even. As a last resort, I threw myself on the job search as if it were a full-time job, because it gave me a bit of purpose and something else to think about. I made a whole study of the recruiting agency market by identifying all of them and registering to every single one.
In July, I did some trial applications to practice writing my motivational letters for example, but mostly to see if there was any response for someone with my profile. I felt very flattered when there was! So in August, I went to the Brussels airport every day at 3-4AM, like I have for the past four years, to start my morning shift at Starbucks. A little after noon I went home, took a shower, and started filling out applications again. On a free day, I would go to one or two agencies to present myself.
How I was able to keep this pace up? Well… my goal was to sign a contract before I went on my three-week trip to India. I wanted to be completely care-free on my holiday. While I was finally in the running for three amazing job positions and didn’t hear back from any, the company I am working for now actively approached me.
I had been approached by a dozen recruiting agencies who wanted me to work for them instead of them looking for a job for me with one of their clients. I declined every time. Why? Well, the job search made me feel like I was “one of the many”. Not that I wanted to get “special attention” or anything, but when you are really pining for a job and they “forget to tell you that they found someone internally” it is really disheartening. Also, who would want to work for a recruiting agency?! I mean, I didn’t even study for that…
When my current company invited me over for a talk, I only went because it was a family friend who got me in. They have really high standards and I was flattered that I was even invited, even though I had already written off the whole business. However, by the end of the 2.5h interview, during which I was already made a full-blown offer, I found myself reconsidering.
I will not make this look any better than it was. At first, I was ecstatic that I had a job literally the day before I left for India! And the day after my return, I would be starting immediately. There would be no time to be lovesick. The first week in the office was amazing: colleagues were great, everything was new, I had a purpose again in the shape of an agenda that was completely filled up for me. There were a lot of trainings and the thrill of putting them in practice right away kept me motivated.
From the second week it went downwards and by the end of my first month I was ready to quit. I was sent for a training day in the office in Holland and let’s say my brain was completely rewired there. I understood again what the beauty is of working for a headhunter’s agency, the value I could bring to the company, and the possibilities for my future professional career development.
From then onwards, I just started doing everything my way, I started going places in the weekends instead of working on the trainings, studying and stressing. I have been trying – and am still trying – to find a balance and routine between work and private life. Even though I don’t believe there will be any balance any time soon, I am feeling better in my skin.
I have regretted quitting student life at least once a week. I miss having a lot of free time and not having to go to class if I am having a bad day. I miss being being able to work at the kitchen table at home or on the couch without anyone watching or listening in to everything I’m doing. But I have to admit that I also feel incredibly lucky to get such a nice, complete package, including amazing colleagues and an exemplary boss.
It will all work out eventually. I know it will for you to. So if you ever feel scared to take the leap into adult, working life, just know that you are not the only one. We have all been there!
How do you feel about entering adult life? What was your experience like when you got your first job?