10 Things You Learn in Your First Real Job


I’ve been a Chemical Engineer now for 75 days! This means many things: 
A. I haven’t blown anything up (I have actually fired a shot i.e explosive, but that was meant to happen, so maybe I should be saying I haven’t blown anything up that I wasn’t suppose to.)
B. I’m a grown up! Okay, the fact that I’m referring to myself as a ‘grown up’ may mean that I am not quite there yet but in terms of having a full-time job, responsibilities, etc – I theoretically am. 
and C. I have learnt a lot. So here is a list of lessons I devised, condensed from 1662 learnings to 10.

1. Coffee is your friend. Your best friend. 
There will be times – more specifically, afternoons where you’ve had a big lunch and just want to nap – where you will not be able to concentrate. No matter how much you want to read the journal articles (reading in this context includes understanding, unlike Uni) you just can’t. Coffee is your resuscitator.
We have a coffee machine in our office which makes terrible Lattes, Cappuccinos, Mochas, but for some reason I’m a fan of instant. A large mug of instant later – I’m alive! I can concentrate. I can’t speak highly enough about the magical powers of coffee. Don’t even try and resist it. I was off coffee for a few months because even though I love it, I wanted to be caffeine free but when you’re working full time, it’s just not possible. That sexy brown bean will seduce you and then satisfy your cravings (so it’s okay).

2. You’re going to have to remember what you learnt in your degree. 
Just the other day I was on the verge of pulling my hair out because I couldn’t figure how to solve a problem that had been presented to me. I finally gave in and asked my boss, who replied : “You use the Ideal Gas Law“, and then went on to explain how to solve my problem in two different ways.

Now you may be thinking, what’s wrong? Your boss sounds lovely – well yes, you’re right! He’s wonderful. The problem is, that I forgot the Ideal Gas Law. PV= nRT, the very first equation a Chemical Engineer learns and gets drilled into their brains for the next four years of their degree. I forgot how to utilize what I had learnt throughout my degree! Take note people, you’ll have to remember things you learnt at uni. All that cramming for the exam the night before may have worked before, but  now you have to dig out that information jammed in the corner of your brain and use it again.

Also, I’ve just shared a highly embarrassing anecdote as a Chemical Engineer here so let’s stop laughing (and/or pitying me) and admire my bravery for admitting this. Thank you.

3. You still don’t know anything. 
A supplier rings you up and questions the information you sent to him, “So what kind of signal would you like on your valve? Do you want a 4-20mA or pneumatic? I’m not quite happy with your upstream pressure, do you have a regulator before the valve?” Did that sound like gibberish to you? Same! I understood what he was saying, but I had no idea what the answers to those questions would be.  Tell me to recite the types of mass-flow controllers, I’ll do it easy (Yes, this may be hard to believe after my second point) but I will. Because, although I know all the types of mass flow controllers, I’m yet to learn how to apply that knowledge to real life situations. And, guess what guys? That’s okay! (Or so I’ve been told).

Your first year on the job is the hardest, because you don’t know the lingo. You’re not expected to know these things. So, just tell the supplier, “Alright, I’ll have to check on those points, can we schedule a meeting for next week”, and go and ask someone who knows. That’s how you’ll learn. You’ll feel stupid – believe me you’ll feel stupid – hell you might be stupid, but you’re learning, and that’s important!

4. You’ll pick up a hobby that you didn’t particularly think you were interested in i.e Cooking. 
I come home from work and I have nothing to do for a good few hours. What do I do? I cook. I have got the time and I’m enjoying experimenting with different ingredients. I’m becoming quite the masterchef (but then again, I’m the only judge hah!).

5. You’ll suddenly become more homely. 
“I’ve to vacuum the house tomorrow, it looks so dirty.”
“Wow, that spice rack would look great in the kitchen!”
“Well yes, I do need new linen and pillows to decorate my bedroom”
” I just purchased 18 mason jars online and I can’t wait till they arrive” 
“Scented candles, yes please! Every flavour? Why not!” 
“Oh my god guys, in case any of you wanted to go shopping this week. Harris Farms has beetroots for $1 per kg.”

Oh and by the way, I’ve done/said all of the above.

6. You will romanticize college. 
You know why? Because humans can never be happy in the present. Don’t fall into this trap! Working is awesome, you’ve lots of free time (minus the full time work), you have money, and you’re heading somewhere. Don’t let endless parties, staying up studying till 12am with best friends cramming for a test, or not turning up to classes if you don’t feel like it put you off. Oh wait…. Noooo!

7. People bitch. 
a lot. It’s like being back at high school. This has possibly been the most shocking revelation for me. I thought past a certain age, people outgrow these childish habits, but it seems that people just love to talk about other people. Correction: Put down other people. Just take note of it and sit back and don’t participate. Just observe and you’ll learn a lot about people, and be able to pick out the ones that you can trust and befriend. Because, friends, good friends at this stage in life are very important.

8. Taxes Suck
WHAT?? How much percent of my salary is going to towards taxes? Are you for real??? I’m paying for these bogans’ beer who can’t get up off their ass and get a job?

9. You’ll learn to always keep (healthy) snacks at your desk.
You’ll get hungry, and you will want to go out to the vending machine and grab a Coke when you’ve sworn off carbonated drinks and are doing pretty well. Hide muesli bars in some drawers, cereal in others (this should probably be packed in a box first), wholemeal grain crackers in another drawer, and fine have that odd chocolate hiding somewhere.

I may have over 100 mini chocolates in my drawer right now but they’re courtesy of a role I do at work and are just left overs. Left overs which are depleting, day by day. uh oh!

10. You’re worth a lot more than you think.
There will be crappy days, days where you think, why did they even hire me? You may feel like you need to be super(wo)man and do everything well, and perfectly because they chose you, they chose you of all the people who applied! But don’t. They hired you for a reason, so just remember that. Remember that when you’re having moments where you want to break down because you just can’t seem to get your excel sheet to work. Go to the bathroom, go to the kitchen, or go do whatever you do to procrastinate when working, come back and smile – because you deserve to be there, they chose you, and you’re worth it! Side note: Have I been watching too many L’Oréal ads?

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4 responses to “10 Things You Learn in Your First Real Job

  1. All of it is so true! Coffee has become my life support. And I really surprise myself at how homely I’ve gotten. A knife stand on sale? I absolutely need one! Wait…since when do I cook?

    • Thanks for stopping by. I love your blog!

      hehehehe I know right!! I’m so into home decor now and have to stop and remind myself, “Anna.. it’s not even your home yet, you’re flatting!” Can’t imagine how crazy I’ll go when I get my own place ><"

  2. Love your honesty and humour in this post! All truths for sure. I really like #10, and we all need to be reminded even those of us who have been working for quite a few years now, so thank you for the reminder! 🙂 Keep smiling!! 🙂 xo

    • Yay glad you appreciate it! It’s a great reminder isn’t it. I always find it so interesting that we, as humans, have a tendency to always criticize and put ourselves down rather than complementing ourselves once in a while. Thanks for reading 🙂

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