First Job : Expectations vs Reality

This week marked my seventh month on my first very ‘real’ job after graduating (if you don’t count my Dobby moments in the Nair household). I finally got my permanent name tag instead of the laminated ‘Probationary Pass’. I had my salary adjusted for confirmation. I undoubtedly learned more things in the past seven months than I would have in two academic semesters. So, what brings me to write this is the monkey which lives in my mind, constantly creating problems and stirring thoughts. So, here it goes, expectations versus reality of my first job.

1.Trust me, I am an engineer.

Graduating from one of the top engineering schools in the country, surviving through lots of projects and papers, 8 months of internship (mine was 9 months, mind you, because my supervisor loved me plenty and asked me to extend, and later enslaved me with documentation for that extra month), I thought I finally was ready for work. *Too long of a sentence, that I missed my point there.* So, the point is that after graduating, I kinda thought that I am finally this engineer who’s ready to take on the world. That little bubble I was in got crushed soon after. When a 56 year old operator uncle with less than high school qualification explains about wastewater treatment processes to you, and you’re trying not to look too confused, that was the end of ‘Trust me, I am an engineer’.

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My first job has taught me that to trust myself as an engineer takes years and years of experience. Trust me not yet, I am learning to be an engineer.

2. I will be rich. 

When I was younger *clears throat*, I used to think that engineers earned a lot. During  final year, in that annual career fair, they distributed a book, ‘Salary Guide in Malaysia 2016‘. I merely rolled my eyes as I saw the figures, thinking graduating from a school with wild boars, pontianaks and drugs would land me higher income anyways *insert haha*. Well, news! That salary guide happen to be true. PTPTN started sending blackmail emails. I had to pay for that red car that brings me around. I decided to continue with school. I have to pay RM 5 for company’s Sports Club. On my first payday, I was happy.  I splurged on myself and others. These days I just watch my bank balance shrinking within 4 days of payday.  I’m  caught between saving and spending. I’m not poor, no. But I kinda thought I’ll be richer?

My first job has taught me the truth behind, “You’ll only know the value of money when you start earning it yourself”. Yes, guys, Amma is almost always right.

3. Pursuing Passion

I wrote a complete list of what I wanted to do after graduating.  From dance classes, to picking up my bow and violin again, to learning new languages, freelance writing, teaching tuition classes, and list goes on and on. What really happened was, I got home from work, showered and slept before 9 pm. The last time I completed a book I picked up was in January. I slept at any chance I got. I can sniff your mockery, Rice! Well, it’s a bit unfair for me to say that my first job made me lose my passion. I also have an equal share for procrastination and being lazy, I must say. It’s just that 9-5 drains me both mentally and physically. All I want to do is to hit the bed at the end of the day. In the past week, I’ve been improving slightly, solely because I have no other choice.

My first job taught me why most adults become boring people. They are just tired. If I wanted more out of life, I must stop whining and work for it. 

4. I’ll be lovin’ it.

What do engineers do? Wear coveralls (I have a thing for coveralls, idk why!), work on site, do calculations and stuff, right? Some days I spend hours to decide on where to strategically locate all the tong sampahs in Operations area. I spend hours preparing slides for presentation and writing summary reports. On my lucky days, I get to learn about processes and think hard about improving environmental performance. Some days, I lie in bed dreading as I watch the alarm ringing. On Sunday nights, as I iron my uniform, I mourn for myself. Am I going to be doing this for the next 30 years? The idea that this is the person I am going to have to be taunts me. Is it the same in other organisations or am I the unlucky one? I don’t know what seems to be the problem, me or my job, or both. And then, out of the blue, some days I just wake up excitedly for work. It’s like my mind zaps from one channel to another. It’s probably symptoms of quarter life crisis. One day, I blurted out to my uncle, ‘You told us to study hard to land a good job. But look at me now’. He answered, ‘You have a good job. I don’t see a problem’. I just kept quiet, rethinking my life choices.

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My first job has taught me how much I should have appreciated campus life. You see, no one could thumb in on your behalf on your bad days. You just have to suck it up and turn up for work. 

This piece is vastly inspired by my current phase of life, obviously. I don’t mean to state that your first job would be a grief (I’m not even sure if mine is, actually). Some people seemed to be genuinely happy. Whether you love it or don’t, just remember it’s just a phase. Try to learn as much as possible, wherever you are.  We will all see better days. We will, right?

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