During these past few months of jobhunting, I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about work. Apparently I was not alone, according to a recent study by PEW Research Center, Millennials (adults ages 18-34 in 2015) make up one third of the working population in America today. Personally, I discovered so many of the “one-third” unsatisfied in the same workplace we will one day eventually dominate.
So, I enlisted the help of three of my friends, all with different jobs and career goals: Molly– Client services manager with a Pharmaceutical company, Kristen– First grade teacher at a Charter School, and Caroline– Knowledge management coordinator at a law firm, to discuss working and happiness as a Millennial.
Welcome to Madly Megan’s first of a three-part round-table-discussion, #wineandwords, on Millennials and our satisfaction and happiness in both the workplace and life.
Megan: Let’s dive right into this discussion. As Millennials, what is the biggest stress of your job? Whether it is something you deal with on a day-to-day basis or a future stress that causes you anxiety? Please spill.
Molly: I can start because I have a lot of high stress lately. I will say that part of that comes from being new in my role, and still proving myself. Right now I’m in a place where the project that we’re working on is HAM, and everyone is overwhelmed and can’t get anything done, so it becomes a snowball effect. But, I have to keep trying to do my best so I prove myself.
I also have internal personal stress because I don’t work out anymore, I buy all my meals out cause I don’t cook anymore, so it’s internal personal stress snowballing because of the insaneness at work.
Kristen: For me it’s more general, daily stress for all teachers that comes with dealing all the students and their different needs and learning styles. So I have to try to find balance everyday, which is something I think lots of people can relate to.
Caroline: I would say my first 2-3 months I felt extremely well equipped to handle my job. I was receiving comments that I was doing awesome, and lots of words of affirmation, which I think comes from having three female managers and then a female head of our entire department. They really build you up in the beginning and keep your workload even keeled so I felt like “wow, I am on top of the world”.
This past month because I did well, now I have a big project project to work on, but I’m forgetting to do minuscule things because I am so worried about the big picture.
I just feel like I’ve been missing a lot of steps lately. I think that my greatest stress is messing up to the point where I feel like I’m inadequate now. It’s like a constant mental test, “can you do this?” because the projects are only going to keep adding on at this point.
Megan: Do you guys feel that you cope healthily with this stress? Or do you feel like it comes home with you and you can’t separate mentally from work when you leave the office?
Kristen: I feel like this year I’m better at separating it as a second-year-teacher, but last year I took everything home with me, as you guys know.
Megan: What was the change? How did you make the change this year?
Kristen: Just realizing it’s normal to feel stressed, and it’s also part of the job to have parents complaining and reaching out to you and dealing with students with bad behavior. So experience has definitely helped me stay calm in situations I would’ve freaked out in last year.
Molly: I totally unhealthily cope with it, I do not do cope with it well. To the point where when I finally have two hours at my desk alone, my hearts racing because I feel like I’m not working fast enough to get it done. I also can’t sleep at night and I have dreams about my different programs at work.
Caroline: I think a new job will do that to you. I’m four months in and I feel that when I am done at five I can’t think about anything except eating away my stress. It overpowers all mental ability to go for a run, or eat a salad, it’s just like I need wine and instant gratification.
I feel like every night I need to veg out, and turn my brain off and as soon as I’m in the door. But then I dread my alarm going off the next morning. I am hoping I’ll start to feel mentally motivated at 5PM as much as I am at work, because now it’s starting to feel I am using up all my energy at work, and by the end of the day I have none left.
*Opens Chips-A-Hoy bag, and pours more wine.”
Megan: So what I’m gathering is that we are all stressed in our own unique ways and deal with it in our own ways. On a more positive note, what is your favorite thing about work?
Molly: I could never put into words how much I’m learning, especially about being in front of a client and acting professionally. It’s just, like, insane. I couldn’t put into words. I think it’s really good experience for my future. Secondly, the people that I work with motivate me to do better. Like, I love the people that I work with, straight up to the girls on my level, to wanting to do well for my manager and his manager because I like them so much as people.
Kristen: Yes, I agree completely. One of the main parts of my job I love are my coworkers. I feel I’ve grown so much as a teacher from watching them and working with them.
For me it’s also all about the kids, as cheesy as that sounds. When they learn a new concept, or understand what I am teaching, like when they learn how to read I get major personal satisfaction. It’s a great feeling like okay, it’s clicking, my students are actually learning what I am teaching.
Caroline: Yeah, I think I’m excited everyday to see my coworkers, I think coworkers can make or break your experience. If you have good ones around if you can ask them questions, and it’s honestly a saving grace. Even just where you sit, I know people who sit isolated away from everyone are more stressed and more confused because they don’t have people around they feel comfortable asking and checking in with. I just feel like if you have people you can talk to and bring humor into every day, it makes it way more fun.
Megan: Somewhat off topic, but there is an idea amongst Millennials about “mindless vs. meaningful work.” Where do you identify with that phrase? Essentially, how to you weigh the importance of work in your life; is work just work?
Molly: My new thing is that I have to put life into perspective. So when I’m feeling so overwhelmed to the point of bursting, I’m just like no one is going to die if I don’t hand in this excel spreadsheet. I just try to remember this is not life or death; this is corporate America. This is capitalism at its finest: people killing themselves just so this corporation makes sick amounts of money.
Megan: Do you guys feel like in the future your job will be as important to you as other aspects of life? When you think about future, does your career cross your mind at all? Do you want your career to be important or will you just work because you need money to survive?
Kristen: I feel like I chose teaching because it’s what I wanted to do, and it’s a meaningful career, but it’s never going to take priority over my family. I feel like people underestimate teaching when really it can be a major struggle. Nothing compares to having 25 students in your own room and their ability to learn lifelong concepts in all on you.
Caroline: I definitely started out working to make money, to support the life that I want to have outside of work. So originally I didn’t really care what I was doing because I wanted to be able to do fun things on weekends. You want to be able to enjoy life, and unfortunately a 9-5 is usually what provides that security, unless you’re lucky enough to figure out something else.
But now I’m realizing you can enjoy what you do and want to succeed, but still have an outside life. I think it’s very important to separate them. I don’t think I will ever choose work over a family, I think that’s just how you’re wired and what motivates you. I want to succeed but I don’t ever think my career will be a priority over external factors.