Lessons learned on work-life balance for driven yuppies

Yuppies graduate college with 18 years of hard work and academic success behind them that was motivated almost exclusively by the thought of landing an excellent, challenging, fulfilling and even “superior” career. Then, we enter the real world, land our first job – which in this economy was probably not the ideal first job – and many of us hit major depression. What happened to being successful? Fulfilled? “Special”? How does printing things for my boss contribute to my future? Here’s why you should chill out:

  • Work is just one part of life, and it takes a long time for most of us to make it a good part. Often, you won’t get promoted from your first position at a company for at least 5 years. In a small company, you may never really be promoted because there’s nowhere to go. It makes sense; the work portion of your life is 50-60 years, so each phase is more drawn out than those of your 18-to-20-year academic career.
  • You’re not being graded, and neither are your lazy peers. While waking up with your academic can-do attitude will still make you a positive person and contribute to your success in the long-term, it isn’t going to lead to anything nearly as quickly as it did in school. Even if you get the equivalent of an “A” from your boss, in this economy it may be as symbolic as a grade on the page anyway – a pat on the back, a good job, a gold star… but not necessarily a raise or promotion. Plus, those earning “Fs” may not fail but rather stay at your level for a long time due to the expense and time it takes to hire a new employee…frustrating after having clear-cut expectations and consequences for so long.
  • Working more hours doesn’t necessarily lead to success. A lot of yuppies I know worked 60 – 80 hours a week in their first jobs. You have to feel out your company culture, but in my experience so far it does not pay to work more hours than your peers, and the pressure to do so is often in your head. Sure, you look like a hard worker, but it seems that people at work tend to just get used to you staying late, offload their work on you and leave. In the meantime you’ll miss out on fun events, stress yourself out, get out of shape and burn out on your job. That’s not going to get you promoted, is it? Workaholic yuppies please ask yourself, is anyone requiring you to stay late? If not, just don’t do it. Work efficiently and leave on time unless there’s an “emergency” that requires you to stay.
  • You don’t have to be a yes-man. And in fact, you shouldn’t always be one. When we start working in the real world we assume we have to do what we’re told. If your professor gives you a deadline, you meet it or fail. But in the real world, you are an adult. If someone asks you to do something and you have other ideas, you can and should express them…politely and professionally. If a strategy seems under-developed, present your opinions on making it better. If you’re asked to stay late and have a personal engagement, ask if it can be done in the morning. My boldest moments have often lead to pats on the back, even if my ideas weren’t used, because they appreciate the proactive thinking and see a leadership quality in that trait. But, be sure to balance those moments with a generally pleasant disposition; if you question every little task you’re given, you’re just going to come off as lazy.
  • Take care of yourself. You may think you were pulling long days of sitting at school, but the fact is college tends to involve active extracurriculars, walking between classes and more “free time” in general between off-days during the week and long vacations throughout the year. Most people in an office job gain weight when they begin working full-time, between the sitting and the stress. I won’t lie, I definitely packed on a few in my first year or two of full-time grind, hence the beginnings of Healthy Yuppies. Getting healthy is difficult at this stage of life and yet crucial to starting our real lives on the right foot, which includes excelling in your career. Make time to eat healthy, get exercise and de-stress. My recipe? Healthy snacks in the break room, cooking at night, a dog that requires twice-daily long walks/runs, and…happy hour (the latter of which is sort of a pro/con for good health).
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About Chloe

I'm a writer, editor and constant student of living (and eating) better. I currently work as an HR communications specialist in downtown Minneapolis, MN, with my very non-writery husband and a gruff little Scottish Terrier named Ginny. View my professional portfolio at http://wordtastic.wordpress.com, or my linked in profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/chloeaoneill/.

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