If I could go back in time and tell my friends and I not to sweat the whole post-grad experience I would. Because in retrospect, we ain't doing too bad. We are the fortunate ones. Fresh from our undergraduate degrees with full-time jobs or consulting gigs (ahem me) it would be wrong of us to really complain about anything because life is good. However, in the last few months since turning the tassel, I’ve noticed that a lot of us are feeling the side effects of full-time employment. Long hours, exhaustion, and a dwindling social life are really starting to take a toll on a lot of us. After talking with few friends there are a few things about working full-time that came up.
So today I’m talking about how to set boundaries and avoid a burnout so you can continue to work smart, work hard, and work guilt-free. Because it’s important for you to know that it isn't your responsibility to change the “Millennials are lazy” narrative that has been hoisted upon us. Actually, when you think about it, we are the generation of unpaid internships, long hours, and answering work emails over a 9 pm dinner. So not wanting to work overtime every time doesn’t actually make us lazy or ungrateful at all. It does, however, make us feel extremely guilty. Here are a few ways and reasons to get rid of that feeling.
The most important thing to realize is that everyone’s boundaries are different. If you like working until 7 pm then that’s great - that’s exactly the standard you should set for yourself. But no matter what time you prefer it’s important to set that boundary early. In fact, one of the questions you should ask your future employer during the interview/negotiation process should be about company culture. Ask about the work you will be doing and the timeline. Ask if there is typically a lot of late nights. Double check and see if you are allowed to get some work done at home. If all the questions are answered to your liking, briefly break into a happy dance in the privacy of your home, then start to plan the ways you’re going to let your boundaries be known.
If you like to be contacted solely by email let that coworker who keeps sending you instant messages know that. A quick “Hey thanks for the heads up, would you mind throwing this into an email? I want to make sure I don’t forget this,” will solve some issues. If you have a long commute, let your supervisor know on the first day. Setting boundaries is all about communication. So speak up! Be respectful but don’t forget to stick up for yourself and your needs.
If you set your boundaries early it cuts down on a little something called millennial guilt. But sometimes no matter how hard you try that feeling of dread, that cold looming feeling of someone’s eyeing you like a hawk to call you out on your inherit millennial-ness keeps a lot of us from speaking up and speaking out. Millennial guilt is a subset of a little pesky thing called imposter syndrome, and there is no way quicker way for your confidence to take a beating than believing that you're not meant to be there in the first place.
The first and best way to assuage chronic millennial guilt should go without saying - work your butt off. Utilize your time at work wisely, work passionately, and make sure you get your work done in a timely matter. Sometimes you will have to work late because that’s what it takes. But that should be because you are determined to see your project through. If seeing your project through requires you to work until dawn five days a week, then ask for an evaluation. Maybe there’s something you can do to use your time more efficiently or maybe your boss can give you a helping hand or at the very least a coworker/intern to help.
Beyond that, here are a few other ways to relieve millennial guilt.
Engage your peers and superiors. Keep them updated on a current project. Check in once or twice a day and ask if they need help with any projects. Make researched suggestions on what you think your next move should be. Because It’s not enough to be proactive, you need to be vocal your work as well. This way when it’s time to leave at 5 pm you’ll be able to walk out the door knowing that you’re updated on what’s going and that you put in a lot of hard work.
Work Life Balance To Avoid The Burnout
Going to college made me an overachiever. Late nights spent writing papers and sobbing into my large cup of Wawa coffee while wondering if I got that internship completely changed the fabric of my social life. Now that I’m working full-time and laughing not crying into a large cup of green tea from Wawa, I have time to think about what I want my social life to look and feel like. Which means sometimes I need to literally pry myself from my work, shut my laptop off, and enjoy life. So if your work schedule is packed to the brim but you still want to enjoy your life consider these few things.
First things first, let's dive into your commute! If you have to take a car, a bus, a ferry, get on a camel, hitchhike to a shuttle stop, then walk 15 minutes to go to work then you should really consider how much time and money your commute is taking out of both your work and home life. Not everyone has the luxury of leaving a job because the commute is bad, so if this is the case don’t hesitate to ask for alternative hours, virtual options (if that applies), or even volunteer to start an old school carpool group with your co-workers.
This next one is going to be a real sign of how #grown I am but hear me out. Schedule your free time. Yeah, I said it. Pull out your calendar and physically pencil in activities, hobbies, and things to do with or without your squad. As a work-from-home consultant, It’s really important for me to remove myself from my work so on Wednesday nights, the squad and I go for quizzo (For all of you non-Philly people, Quizzo is bar trivia). This is a scheduled item on my calendar, heck I even get a good alert about it. Whether it’s quizzo, movie nights at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal, or starting a book club with your friends - SCHEDULE THAT ISH DOWN. Setting a physical reminder to do things you actually enjoy doing allows you to focus on the whole "Life" part of the whole work-life balance thing. Plus, it’s also a great motivator for you to get your butt in gear during the day so you can make it to happy hour with the girls.