The euphoric highs and crushing lows of your first job

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|Emotional Roller Coaster Job

“Hey Rohan, how’s it going… how’s work?”

Anyone who’s recently entered the professional world receives some variation of this question on a regular basis.

For my first year of working, I used to answer this question very literally by explaining how work has been for the last couple weeks.

But after answering this question repeatedly throughout the year, I noticed something interesting.

My answer to “how is work going” changed dramatically depending on when it was asked and what was going on at work that week.

It was very flavor of the week.

On one end of the spectrum, I would tell my friends that everything is going well. Raving about the fascinating challenges I get to work on and how I feel like I’m growing.  

On a bad week, I would tell my friends that work is frustrating. Venting about whatever most annoyed me that week and how it feels like I’m stagnating.

Despite considering myself incredibly fortunate to work for a company and program deeply aligned with my interests, the bad weeks still exist.

My first jarring experience with bad weeks happened earlier in my career at LinkedIn. After dedicating months of my time and energy towards a project, my responsibilities shifted and I wasn’t able to see the project through completion.

This was especially painful because the most exciting part of this project took place towards the end. And despite my dedication, I no longer felt like an owner of the project and its results.

It’s a frustrating experience to spend hundreds of hours on something and not feel any sense of control or ownership. I felt crushed for an entire month.

It was my first time experiencing a sudden and sustained low with my job, and I didn’t know how to react.

Luckily, a more tenured colleague saw the situation unfold, coached me to let it go, and helped me move on with the next project.

He had been through similar challenges in his career and knew that frustrating situations will come and go. It’s impossible to control.

His perspective enabled him to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Something I had not yet developed.

Shortly after letting go of that incident, I found a new project and rebuilt my energy and optimism.

Every job, even the best job in the world, is a rollercoaster of emotions.

There will be euphoric highs and crushing lows. It’s just part of having a stimulating job in the professional world.

It’s important to intentionally develop perspective by acknowledging and experiencing the emotional rollercoaster.

Otherwise every frustrating situation at work (and there will be many) will quickly compound into an energy draining experience. You will feel in a rut and convince yourself to quit your job early.

I’ve seen this happen first-hand with peers who experience their first few dips in the emotional rollercoaster. The tendency is to react by planning their exit and quitting their first job prematurely -- despite having only started months before.  

To clarify, there are great reasons to quit your job -- even prematurely -- in the right context. I will discuss this in future articles.   

But if you’re going to quit your job, you want to make sure you have enough perspective of the highs, lows, and everything in between. This is a decision that must be made with a level head, not flavor of the week roller coaster emotions.

Furthermore, taking drastic actions in response to a rough work week conditions you to develop grass is always greener syndrome.

It’s natural to think that changing jobs will solve all your problems in the workplace -- especially when we see friends at other companies having a great week.

But life is never always euphoric.

If you’re having a rough week, resist looking at other people having a good week and drawing conclusions about your career decisions. That train of thought will make you feel crappy.

It doesn’t matter what new job you take or how you temporarily fix the situation.

The emotional rollercoaster will always exists.

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