3 Lessons From My First Year in the Workforce

College students know more than anyone just how brutal the business environment is for the unemployed. The first job is often the hardest to land as more and more jobs increase their educational and experiential requirements. It’s now been almost a year since I started my first job at Chick-fil-A and there are definitely some things I wish people told me before I started.

1. Your Job’s Description Isn’t Your Job’s Description

When I started working at MyCorporation, I was assigned the title as Social Media Marketing Intern. Although that title has maintained, my job duties have expanded over time. And that’s a great thing. At first, I was in charge of the LinkedIn. Then, it was the analytics. And now, my job reaches much further than just one platform. I wish someone would have told me that everyone’s job changes over time. I think many who start their first job are scared of stretching the boundaries of their job’s description. They are so scared of messing up that they never take risks.

2. Respect Fast Food Workers

My very first job was at the Chick-fil-A by UC Irvine. A family friend of mine put in a good word with the owner and I was hired the same day as my interview. When I started, I thought it would be pretty easy. I mean, it’s fast food. How hard could it be? Turns out, Chick-fil-A housed some of the most hardworking and grateful people I have ever met. I will never forget the day I was ringing up an order for one of the chefs in the back, and she didn’t have enough money to pay for the half priced chicken sandwich (around $4). This was a woman who worked over twelve hours a day and still couldn’t make enough money to pay for lunch. Then, I realized that she was the same woman who may be looked down on because of her job. I recognized how much people take for granted how hard fast food employees work to give the absolute best customer service possible, regardless of cost. So next time you’re at Chick-fil-A, really thank the employees.

3. This is a Man’s World

I’m sitting in my high school’s college counseling office. I ask my counselor if I will have an advantage as a woman applying for the male dominated field of marketing. He quickly corrects me and says

“Business is not a male dominated field anymore. You won’t get any special treatment in your application because of your gender.”

Fast forward a couple years and I’m sitting in an entrepreneur meetup in Santa Monica. A woman approaches me and asks me to name just one other woman I’ve met in the room of 70 people. I could not name a single one. What I realized in that moment is that for my whole childhood, people had been telling me that business was no longer a man’s world and they were wrong. Out of the crowd of 70 people, there were only six women. I also learned that I was wrong in thinking I would have it easier being a woman in business. In 2014, there was almost double the number of male sales representatives than female and the male sales representatives earned an average $200 more a week! At a different meetup, a man blatantly told me that I am at a significant disadvantage because of my gender. We both agreed that the label of “bossy” that some of lovely fraternity guys at college given me had far more to do with my gender than my attitude. It will always be harder for me to make the same wage or land the same jobs as my male counterparts. This was possibly the biggest wakeup call of my entire first year in the workforce. I am extremely lucky and grateful to currently work at a company that isn’t male dominated and does not treat me any different from my male counterparts.

Overall, this was a very eye-opening year. I was at times shocked at the level of sexism in business, and other times I was pleasantly surprised to see such altruism in my coworkers. Like most 17 year-olds, I thought I knew everything about the workforce. Now years later, I know I still have a long way to go before I feel comfortable in this new world.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn in the Summer of 2015.