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7 Steps to Becoming an Adult at Work

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I am 18 years old and just started a full time job. I work 10:30-6:30 at a daycare center and I already hate it. I started working as a sub there and wasn't getting many hours, so when they offered me this job I was really excited about the hours I would be getting. But, I now have no life. Summer is coming and I'm not going to be able to do anything. I feel depressed and sad all the time. I never smile. I would like this position if I didn't have to stay so late and maybe had a day off now and then, but that is just not possible here. What should I do?
Aren't you glad you're a grown up now? Seriously, this is what real life is like. Although, most people I know work from about 8:00 to 6:30 and would be thrilled with your hours.

I suspect this isn't what you wanted to hear. Truth be told, if I had to work at a daycare I'd be depressed. I love my own children madly, but don't find it at all charming when other people's kids wipe their bodily fluids on my sleeve. But, full time work is a reality for most adults, and those that don't do it are either caring for young children or working their tail ends off trying to find full time work.

6:30 is not that late. If I recall from my own past, nothing starts for the under 20 set until way past 6:30 anyway.

I suspect your problem is that it's hit you that this is what real life is like. It's not that blissful imaginary adulthood where grownups do whatever they want and eat whatever they want and wear whatever they want. Turns out that much of adulthood is doing what is necessary so that you can pay the bills and hopefully get a few days off here and there to do what you want.

Here are some tips to making your transition to adulthood easier:

  1. Realize your life is not over. Just because you have to go to work every day doesn't mean your life lacks meaning and fun. You have nights--you don't have to be to work until 10:30, so how great is that--and weekends. Paid vacation days will be rare, they usually are in entry level jobs like you have.
  2. Don't whine to your coworkers. I suspect that you'll quickly find your coworkers don't share your angst at having to work full time. They've undoubtedly been doing it for a long time. If you whine to them they won't like you and if they don't like you, you'll continue to feel unhappy at the thought of work.
  3. Work hard. Work can be extremely rewarding. If you stand around all day, looking at the minutes tick on, you'll find yourself miserable. If you jump in and work hard, you'll find the time goes quickly.
  4. Find a mentor. Someone at your daycare center has been doing this type of work a long time. Talk to that person. Learn about lesson planning and developmental stages. Don't just change diapers and pick up toys. Figure out what it takes to be a really good daycare provider and learn to do that. Even if this isn't your end career goal, the skills you learn here will be transferable to future careers.
  5. Save some money. Everybody should put aside some money from every paycheck. And by putting aside money, I don't mean to save for a new pair of shoes, although you can do that as well. Jobs don't last forever. Cars break down. You will want to move out on your own some day. Start today. This is your first full time job, which means it is more money than you've ever had. Put at least 10 percent into a savings account. Trust me when I say that you will thank me for this advice one day.
  6. Further your education. Just because you have a full time job doesn't mean you are done learning. You don't have to choose college, but trade school, community colleges or online training courses will all help you. If you want to stay in daycare as your career, you'll need child development courses and eventually a degree in early childhood education if you want to advance.
  7. Don't blow your future on temporary fun. I guarantee you have at least one stupid friend who will tell you it's no big deal to blow off work "just this once." This friend is wrong. Jobs are hard to come by, especially for people without experience, which is what your status is. You get fired from this job and you'll find it much harder to get a new job.
All in all, it will get better. Work hard and realize, that while grownups don't have to eat vegetables if they don't want to, they do have to go to work, and most of us eat our vegetables anyway.

Photo by Tabitha Blue/Fresh Mommy, Flickr cc 2.0

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