To all those people out there who managed to get a job straight out of college and actually stayed there until they retired: Please tell me your secret. Seriously.
It felt like it took FOREVER for my career to take off. Actually, sometimes I still wonder if it’s taken off.
The first couple months after college were so exciting. I was able to find a full time job at a custom kitchen design studio immediately after my practicum and ohmygoodness guys I was doing it! I was actually doing it! I was taking on the big city with a [just over] minimum wage job and I was still managing to afford rent, groceries, and furniture for my downtown apartment. I was starting to feel like those girls in the movies who just effortlessly have their life together. Everything was falling into place.
But then I got laid off.
Lesson 1: If you are new to a job but not given any work to do, that’s probably a REALLY bad sign.
Thank goodness I saw the writing on the wall well before I was laid off and had already been sending out resumes for weeks. And about 3 days after getting laid off, I got hired by an Interior Designer whose entire job was decorating and designing show homes. At the time I truly believed I had found my dream job and I couldn’t have been happier. But when the work slowed down about a year and a half later and my boss had to take a leave of absence to focus on her family, I was laid off.
Lesson 2: Smaller companies can’t always offer the job security that a larger company can so when the work slows down, they may not be able to afford to keep their staff.
Thankfully, I was able to work full time for my boss’s husband’s company until I found another job. And as it turned out, I found two.
One was working with a home builder, but the downside was that it would have involved sales which was something I never wanted to get involved with.
The other job involved working for another Interior Designer who’d been in business for over 40 years. The job seemed like it would give me a ton of opportunity to grow my career, but the designer I would be working for had a bit of a bad reputation. In the end though, I chose the position with the Interior Designer in the hopes that the bad reputation was just a false rumor.
But not even halfway through the first day on the job I knew it was not what I wanted. In all honesty, I hated every minute of it. I remember spending most Sunday evenings crying on the couch because I knew the next morning I would have to go back and do it all again for 5 days. The worst part was, not only did I HATE my job, the whole experience made me realize I didn’t want to be an interior designer at all.
But do I wish I took the other position? Not at all.
Lesson 3: Never regret a decision because it didn’t turn out the way you expected. You made the decision because you honestly thought it would be the best thing for you at the time. You can’t blame yourself because it turned out differently then you’d expected.
After months of searching, I finally found another position with a medium sized home builder. It was an Interior Design/Architectural Technologist position which meant I would be able to transfer out of interior design and into the drafting field. This was huge because one thing all those months of job searching had shown me was that drafters and architectural technologists are sought after MUCH more then interior designers are. If I ever wanted to leave the interior design field for good, this was my chance.
For the first few months life at work was perfect. I loved my job. I loved my co-workers. I loved the company. We even had an office bulldog [seriously, we had an office bulldog!] And about 3 months into my new job, the girl that was training me left on maternity leave which meant I was responsible for filling her [very big] shoes. This was great! This was my opportunity to prove myself! I was going to be so good, they’d be begging to promote me to be the new department manager.
This was the time when I should have checked my ego because I failed. I failed miserably. Countless times my boss should have fired me. I would have fired me. My one saving grace was my work ethic.
Lesson 4 [and possibly the biggest lesson]: Never ever, ever, underestimate the power of a hard work ethic, especially when you are just starting your career. No one expects you to be perfect. No one expects you to know everything. But they do expect you to show up, bust your butt, and prove your worth. every. single. day.
Despite being horrible at my job, the company hung on to me for the entire duration of my co-worker’s mat-leave. Unfortunately though, when my co-worker finally did come back to work I was laid off. But this time it was due to a lack of work caused by the Alberta Oil Crash in 2014.
Lesson 5: No one is safe from an economic downturn. Having a savings or emergency account that can tie you over when the unexpected happens is super important.
Shit just got serious guys. Like really serious. I can’t even begin to describe how much I felt like a total failure. Do I go back to school? Do I take any job I can get? Do I switch fields entirely?
For 3 months I was unemployed. Applying for jobs became my full time job. I even applied to college just in case I was still out of work when my EI ran out [on the plus side, Matt was thrilled to be coming home to an impeccable apartment and home cooked dinners every night].
Just before Christmas an opportunity opened up with a land developer that was going to be absolutely perfect for me. It was the first posting that I had found in months that I was jumping up and down excited about. I spent HOURS prepping for those interviews [seriously, there were 3]. Actually, I’ve never prepped for any other job in my life so much as I prepped for this one.
And about 3 weeks later, I got the job! And I’m happy to say it was [and still is] the perfect job for me right now.
But here’s the thing. The market is and will always be unpredictable. Companies will always put themselves first and reality is, no one can promise me that I’ll never be laid off again.
And that is a terrifying thought. But you know what? As much as the last thing I want to do is start over, every time I’ve had to things have turned out better then they were before.
So the final lesson [so far]?
Lesson 6: It’s the unexpected challenges that help us grow and become successful.
I truly believe that every time we are faced with a tough situation, it’s an opportunity to grow and become a stronger person. And as much as it sucks going through these challenges, at the end of the day we need to face them if we want to grow as a person and improve our life.