9 to 5 or Just High School for Adults?
How to Stop Being a Teenager at Your Job.
Education differs around the world, and your school might have been more progressive than mine, but they still have a common point: they claim to prepare you for getting a job. Then, you also need some higher education (in most cases) and you end up realizing that you will almost never get the job thanks to what you’ve learned in high school.
Let's get this out of the way: high school has its value, and it's needed in order to develop our knowledge, so yes go to school, but don’t take everything as the universal truth.
While the high school didn’t offer a lot about how to get a job, industries, and different career paths (you know the 9 to 5 is just one option) it did prepare us for life at a 9 to 5 job, especially if it’s under a big corporation.
It wired us perfectly for some morning chit-chat over a coffee in the kitchen (catching up with your classmates before class), staying nicely at a desk, pretending to work hard when the boss is around, getting everyday tasks (homework) from your superior, being told to come up with initiatives, which you do because you were a good student, but usually, your ideas will never take form, joking with your teammates while working, following or even being part of the office romance stories or dramas that are happening. Ah, then there is lunch, that hour or half hour when you eat something not very nutritious, usually surrounded by other people, and when you are supposed to recharge your batteries. After that, you just feel like skipping class, but you can’t because this is real life and you need the money.
It’s exactly the same high school structure, just older people. As with everything there are exceptions, if you are working at one of them, that’s amazing, spread the word. Until then…
Even when working online, in some cases, the structure remains, but it is indeed less obvious, and you have more responsibility when it comes to how you manage your workload, that is if someone is not constantly interrupting and checking on you.
Why is it structured like high school though?
Because it works. We are not so disciplined (we never learned how to) that we can be productive without getting tasks, deadlines, someone to respond to, peers that make us feel part of something (so coming to work feels better), and of course payment (which back in the day were grades, but at least the payment doesn’t change every week based on tests).
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Do you enjoy it?
For me every time I feel like in high school at work it’s not a good thing, I see similarities often, and there were meetings in which I felt like being in a math class, which I hated. I liked high school, but it is over. Overall, I like my job, but I like freedom more. I am working on what I can so I don’t feel like in high school anymore. I can’t change the structure of a company, but I can change what I engage in and how I show up for work. You might like that it is so similar to high school, and that’s fine, but don’t just accept it, analyze your work environment and see if you really are fine with everything.
How to stop being in high school at your job?
Take charge. You know what you are supposed to do at your job, so don’t wait for tasks, those will come anyway, but you can determine in which order you do what. Yes, prioritizing urgent matters is key, but also being able to push back when you know you should focus on something else.
Work from home. Not everyone can do this, I know. But for those who have the option to work from home a few days/week, or all time, to that at least 2 days/week. When you are away from the office, usually, you can focus better, arrange the entire day in a different way and be more comfortable.
Be clear. How many e-mails, messages, and calls do you have every day? It’s like being called to answer in front of the class for every subject, no one likes that, no matter how prepared you are. Less back and forth, means that you are clear in your communication and can work better (which is rarely the focus of a teenager in school). Even if it takes longer to reply, write explicit e-mails/messages that answer any possible questions that might rise, schedule calls with a clear agenda, and encourage your colleagues to email you if it’s not an emergency rather than call you. Minimize distraction by being extra clear and specific.
We yearn about our teenage years as adults, but the beauty of being an adult is that you are really in charge. You can structure your life the way you want, and yes you need to respond to some people, but they are adults as well, and if you act like one too, it will feel less like reporting to your high school teacher and more like updating your more experienced colleague.