What They Don’t Tell You About Real Jobs

So you just landed your first real job, congratulations!

Let me prepare you with the reality of a real job before it slaps you in the face. Every job is different, so some of these things may never happen! But, you may come across some of these things eventually. With my first — and worst — job experience, I’ve been able to pick up the red flags I was never told about, and I hope to warn others about them as well. A lack of boundaries, bad bosses and office politics took a toll on my life and on millions of others every day.

  1. 1. Boundaries

    Just like a relationship, boundaries need to be established at work as well. Set a steady schedule, and hopefully you won’t have to remind them that you aren’t working. Having to constantly do “little favors” every day is adding more time to your work schedule than you think. Especially with COVID and everyone working remotely, many employees feel like their bosses have too much access to their lives. Examples of this are when your boss is emailing you for “urgent favors” when you’re off, or texting your personal phone number…yikes. Establishing these boundaries early on — and not responding until the next day, when you’re working — will allow your co-workers to take the hint!

    Keep your personal life to yourself and your work life away from your personal life. You don’t have to tell your co-workers and bosses your business — even if they ask about it. This will save you from unnecessary work drama and gossip. You should also avoid bringing up your stress with work frequently to people in your personal life, unless you feel it's necessary, in order to prevent unnecessary stress and burnout. This was a big mistake I made when I was going through a toxic job.

  2. 2. Bad Bosses 

    I believe everyone will face a bad boss in their life. Whatever you do, keep in mind who you are! Some bosses will try to manipulate you, make you feel like you’re the problem when you confront them, neglect your wants and needs, or commit defamation…yes, that happens. After my previous job, I questioned myself and my morals. Am I a crappy person for bringing this to their attention? No! You're allowed to have your own viewpoints and opinions. Am I capable of doing my job? Yes! 

    Note: Some bosses will appreciate you more than others. Many people don’t want to quit their jobs, they just can’t stand their boss!

  3. 3. Not All Advice Is Good Advice

    One of the biggest lessons I've learned in my life is that you don’t have to take every piece of information a mentor tries to feed you. You're allowed to believe your manager is not a good mentor for you. They’re going off of their personal opinion of you and their experiences. The only person who knows you is you. Sometimes bosses may be setting you up to fail; I know it sounds crazy, but it happens more frequently than you'd think. One boss, in particular, knew I was interviewing at a different company and was bragging about sabotaging me…it happens!

  4. 4. Office Politics

    When you first get this job, you may think: “This culture is amazing! Purpose! Vision! Values! They care about all of these things!”  I'm sorry to break it to you, but that’s just how they want to be seen by customers and clients. If you’re lucky, they will care about those things, but it’s more common that “low-level” employees fit the culture and “higher-ups” don’t. Sometimes they'll preach about inclusivity, listening to others and being kind until you have a problem — now you're the problem.

    Don’t feel bad if you feel like no one understands the double standards that are placed in the workplace. Why do men get to communicate clearly but when women do it, they're looked down upon? I've been guilt-tripped for not being nice enough in my constructive criticism. As a woman in this particular workplace, I was expected to use exclamation points and sometimes emojis when messaging my co-workers and boss. My intention was to be clear and honest, and it was taken as mean.

    If a man sent the same message as me, however, they would be praised for their honesty and hard work. You may not be taken seriously when you want to bring up how you’ve been feeling, even by other women. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. Ever had a manager who was secretly dating the boss?

    Think of your job like high school: unnecessary drama, the popular kids, cheating, gossip, sex...I think you get the idea. 

  5. 5. Coping With Bad Jobs

    Be prepared to make time for yourself far away from work. Don’t let your bosses make you feel bad for only working when you’re scheduled. At the end of the day, there is always more work to do. Don’t get trapped into thinking you have to finish all of the work that has to be done — you can’t. That's why you go in every day and work your hours, because you simply cannot get it done in one sitting. Clock out and relax!

    After my experience with this bad job, I’ve been going to a therapist and was diagnosed with anxiety. I've never struggled with mental health to this extent before, and I want to help others prepare and overcome it if they end up in the same place I did. Toxic workplaces are real and scary. Here are some resources I’ve used to help me throughout my entire healing process:

    UCF Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) — Call to make an appointment at (407) 823-2811. They provide FREE counseling (as frequent as bi-weekly!) and a referral to a psychiatrist if needed.

    Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) — TAO provides self-guided and digital resources for overcoming anxiety, depression and other concerns. You can sign up for this through UCF!

    Coloring — Coloring has helped me relax and only focus on what colors I want to use!

    Change of temperature — Hot showers or ice on my face helps me when I am feeling anxious or about to face a panic attack.

    Support system — Don’t be afraid to lean on loved ones. They love you and want to help you through this.

I hope this article helps bring more awareness to a scary part of life that I, unfortunately, had to face at 18 and 19 years old. It’s important to put your mental health first if you can, and in the end, you'll be better off without that job and boss. You are capable of overcoming the aftermath of toxic workplaces. You are enough.

pink mug on stacked books Photo by Ella Jardim from Unsplash