Lessons That I Learned From My First Job
Updated: Feb 21
You know the movie The Devil Wears Prada with Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep...right? Well if you do, you will have a pretty clear image of what my first job looked like after college.
As I've noted before, I changed career paths pretty abruptly right before graduating in 2016. I went from wanting to be a teacher my entire life to suddenly searching for something completely different. After multiple temp jobs and random gigs I randomly fell into the career that I would be doing for the next 4.5 years, and that was in the advertising world. Specifically in photography and film production. A world that I had absolutely no experience or knowledge in because not long before I was student teaching with four-year-olds. Ultimately, I did find this job through a connection...a key ingredient to actually landing a job. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, however I knew I was ready for something exciting and I was willing to learn and work my ass off.
While I didn't work for a magazine like the character Andy in The Devil Wears Prada, the production side of the fashion industry had most of the same attributes when it came to what you were working on and the types of people you were either working with or for. Working for a production company, I specifically helped to coordinate and produce multiple components for still photography shoots and film shoots for various fashion brands. Brands including: Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Sephora, Jennifer Lopez, Vogue Magazine, and more. What I loved most about this industry was being presented a creative idea and then putting all of the pieces together to create a beautiful final product.
The work was hard, but the payoffs were usually pretty awesome and rewarding. There were a lot of moments when all I wanted to do was scream and cry out of frustration. And there were days that I was traveling internationally and didn't care if I was working 24/7 because I was in a beautiful location and had room service on speed dial. At the end of the day, I can't imagine not having said yes to this first job of mine. I look back now (as I am again back in teaching) and sometimes can't believe that I used to do all of these wild things and accomplished so much. It makes me feel really proud of myself.
I have a couple of close people in my life that have recently graduated from college. And boy, what a year to graduate with all of the Covid-19 going on! I've heard their frustrations with trying to find jobs and to start a life for themselves, just like so many others that I hear about on the news. It makes me think back to when I first started my career and what it was like for me. I wanted to share some lessons that I learned during those few super crucial years of my life...
It might suck for a while.
Starting a new job can be an awkward transition, but kicking off your very first job can be plain old overwhelming. When I first began working I remember being super excited. I was meeting new people, had an awesome office space in Manhattan, and was actually making money. By the time a few weeks went by and your "honeymoon" phase is out of the door the realness definitely starts to sink in. *That realness of...oh so like this is just what I am doing indefinitely now and I don't have a month off for Christmas break anymore.*
If I'm being completely honest, it took almost two years for me to feel like I knew what I was doing everyday. I'd have major panic attacks when I got something wrong or didn't know what I was doing, but over time I figured things out and realized that I’m it was okay to ask for help. Remember: Stay patient and trust the process.
A good notebook is key.
Remember in The Devil Wears Prada when Miranda Priestly (Andy's boss) just walks into the office each day and rambles off all of these things that she needs Andy to do? Yes, at times that would happen to me. As I said before, I was always being asked for updates on specific things and had lots happening all at once...so I went to a cute ass store and bought myself a cute ass notebook. I also realized when I started working that my memory wasn't as great as I thought it would be. I am a visual person, so I need to hand write all of my duties down to digest what I need to do.
I would start each day with a to-do list. I look back at all of my notebooks today and cannot believe how much I have written down -- it's pretty fun to step back in time to see all that you have accomplished!
P.s. This is my all-time favorite notebook.
It's okay if not everyone likes you.
You will quickly learn that not everyone will be your cup of tea and you may not be their's, and that is okay. I always envisioned myself as a very friendly person. but when I first began working I was woken up to a lot of different personalities that I never had to deal with previously. Learning how to deal with multiple personalities in the work place is extremely important and probably one of the largest lessons I have taken from being in the production industry as a whole. While some personalities can be positive and uplifting others can be pretty toxic and frustrating. I've walked away with some incredible friendships and I've met some people who I wouldn't mesh with outside of work. The important thing to note here is that life will always be throwing multiple personalities at you, you just have to learn how to work with each of them to get to where you have to go.
Side note: At times it can be hard to stay true to who you are because of others influencing you, but it's worth sticking to your own beliefs and gut feelings in the long run.
"Let me check on that and I'll get back to you."
One of the biggest lessons I learned was saying the above when I didn't have an answer right away. As it was part of my job, I was constantly asked by others if I checked in on certain details that pertained to shoots. When I first started I would get so nervous and overwhelmed that I would just say, "I don't know." That's not the answer anyone wants to hear. So, my boss plain out told me that if I didn't have the answer to say, "Let me check on that and I'll get back to you." Since then, I have taken this with me in all aspects of my life. It makes people feel like you are on it and it is 100% on your radar, you just need to confirm those details.
Be proud of your accomplishments even if they seem small.
It took a long time for me to give myself the praise I deserved after doing a task well at work. This primarily was because I was so nervous and it wasn't like anyone else was getting pats on the back for doing a great job. I ended up building a wall and started to not give myself props when I truly deserved it because it almost seemed silly, but that was a mistake.
Over time when I was given more responsibility to do full shoots on my own and started traveling on my own I then realized that I really did deserve to give myself a round of applause! I would work my ass off! It's so important to treat yourself when making milestones, even if they do feel small. To treat myself, I'd do the smallest things that made me the happiest...having a drink and watching a movie on a flight home without looking at my emails, getting a mani, pedi, or massage, or even just laying in bed for most of the day. If you work hard every day and are making strides make sure to look into the mirror and appreciate yourself!
Enjoy the perks if you can.
I was lucky enough to travel a lot during my first gig because of the type of work I was doing...it was a huge perk. This job gave me the opportunity to travel the world (on someone else's dime) and see places that I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise. While I would be working 24/7 on these work trips (you can ask my family and friends), I was extremely stoked to be flown all over the US and countries in Europe. I remember being in the headspace of not caring about how hard I had to work, as long as I could book a flight and be working on my laptop in some other beautiful country. I had the privilege to stay in incredible hotels, meet insanely creative people, and learn about different cultures around me. I was able to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Stay patient and trust the process.
Just wanted to reiterate this point. Super important.
You'll feel like you just want to know it all right away when you start working, but it takes time. Stay patient with yourself, work hard, and it *usually* all pays off.