You’ve graduated university, you’ve got yourself a job and you’ve moved down/up to the big city! For many, that city is London but it could equally be Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh – anywhere that’s new and exciting. This first step after university is often a girl’s first experience in a professional environment and in a city sans family/friends/fellow university goers. It can be quite challenging so I’ve put together my top tips for surviving while young, female and trying to make it in the real world.
1. Never discuss age. In your first few jobs, people more senior to will make comments like ‘you probably weren’t born when this happened’ and ‘you’re too young to know what I’m talking about’. While these comments aren’t meant as insults, senior co-workers will inherently treat you differently if you’re young. Being young obviously isn’t something you can help, but try refrain from accentuating your youth (read inexperience) by ignoring these comments, and do not discuss your age! Being ‘young’ is one thing, being 21 is another. If you can, try to be vague about your age and ensure you (politely) brush off comments about your youth when you’re in the office environment. Of course, different places of work have a different culture and this won’t apply everywhere but it’s good to bear in mind until you’ve sussed out the lay of the land.
2. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. I once experienced a meeting in which a comment I made was completely dismissed (by an older male) and then the very same comment was applauded when another (older) male repeated it. In these kinds of situations, stand your ground. There’s no need to kick up a fuss but a simple comment like ‘I agree. As I stated earlier, we could tackle this using x, y and z’ makes colleagues aware that you aren’t afraid to speak your mind and can do so in a professional manner. And then think to yourself ‘nobody puts baby in the corner!’. This goes for pretty much anything in life even outside of work, for example, if your landlord is trying to worm their way out of fixing your boiler, stand up to them! Don’t let people push you around just because you might be new to a city/company/area/experience.
3. Say yes! No, not to drugs. But to new experiences! You’ve been asked to get involved in a project at work, which isn’t in your job description and you’ve never done before. Say yes. It will give you great experience and exposure within your company. A friend asks if you want to go to a random event with her in an hour in a part of the city you’ve never visited, no further details. Say yes. It’ll either be fun or make for a hilarious story…Another friend wants to set you up with her boyfriend’s cousins brother’s best friend. Say yes. That’s one more person you know in this brand new city. What I’m getting at is, the world is your oyster and, in your twenties, an abundance of opportunities throw themselves at you. Feel the fear, and do it anyway.
There are lots of tips to help you settle in to ‘real life’ and hopefully this gets you started. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and have fun!
About the author
Babs Ofori-Acquah is a marketing & business development professional, and founder of Working Girl London – a blog and network for young working women. Babs blogs about everything from careers advice to the best fitness classes to where to eat and drink in the city. She aims to bring together a community of young, ambitious individuals who can provide support and advice to each other, and to introduce them to more experienced individuals who can offer ‘approachable inspiration’ for tomorrow’s leaders.