Learn to Work or Work to Learn?

I’ve finally made it. After pre-school, twelve years of grade school, and 5 and a half years of undergrad, I have finally gotten my first corporate job. It is everything I’ve worked for for 20 years. I’ve spent my entire life learning how to work. Now what?

Image by Abby Chechele.

The expectation is to continue in this field for the next 40 years, working my way up the corporate ladder and making more money, and getting longer titles that eventually become abbreviated.

I’ve been working an internship for about 6 months and even though it’s given me a great taste of what corporate work-life is like, I’ve still had my head half-focused on getting my assignments done to get my degree and graduate with honors.

I don’t know how to wrap my head around this next 40-year phase of my life. For the last 20 years, we’ve always known what was next. It was always the next year of school with the same people in the same city.

Right as I’ve gotten to the top of this mountain that is school, I’ve been presented with a mountain twice the height that is work. And I can only rest until I get to the top of that one. This isn’t a very sustainable way to process adult life.

From working my internship this summer and fall, I’ve learned there is one interesting difference between school and work. In school, we have been learning to work, but in my job, I feel as though I am working to learn. School was really a test of how much you can handle an intense workload and short deadlines with both overboard and underboard teammates. Yet in work, I’ve realized I’ve been strategically put on projects that will strengthen my skills within a time frame where I am destined to succeed. Not only am I set up to learn more about my field, but I’m also working with cross-functional teammates to learn more about their fields and their role in the company.

This is how I should plan this next phase of my life for myself. I will continue placing myself in positions and places where I am always learning more. Instead of the school mountain, which was getting increasingly harder and steeper as I approached my degree, the adult-life mountain scales with knowledge, wisdom, and perfecting my craft.

I won’t be afraid for this mountain to take me into different fields or careers I am unfamiliar with. As long as I am working to learn and better myself, I will continue up the mountain to succeed and thrive.

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