I almost can't remember not having a job. I started babysitting in my neighborhood pretty much as soon as I could hold a baby, and the day I turned 14 and could get a worker's permit from my school, all five-foot-nothing of me marched up to the manager of the local grocery store and told him I'd bag groceries faster than any of the other baggers out on the floor. I've been working part-time and full-time jobs ever since, and all those years of balancing regular life with work life are how I know that there are plenty of rules that apply to your personal relationships that apply to your professional ones, too.
Sometimes the line gets a little blurry, especially in cases when you are best friends with your co-workers, if your co-workers are competitive, or if you all work in an untraditional setting. And I'm sure the line gets especially messy when romantic relationships in the office are involved (although thank god for that, or my parents would never have gotten hitched and I wouldn't be here.) But even just on a strictly ordinary, day-to-day basis, we have to be careful to make sure we are respecting the unspoken rules in both our personal and professional lives, which have plenty of overlap:
Listen To What Other People Are Saying
This may come as a shock, but sometimes you're wrong. It's easy to try and tune someone out, whether it is a co-worker expressing an idea that you don't agree with, or a friend saying something that you don't necessarily want to hear, especially when you already are invested in an idea or a way of living that you think is the "right" one. But you'll find that your perspectives change both in your personal and professional life when you allow yourself to be more open to what people around you are saying.
I feel like as human beings we experience unreasonable self-doubt with approximately fifty percent of the things that come out of our mouths, but we always feel better when people encourage and support us. Maybe your friend is considering a crazy move across the country -- you don't want her to go, of course, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't support her when she needs it most. Or maybe a co-worker is implementing a new idea or taking on a new role, possibly even a role that you wanted. How productive is it going to be, both for you and for your workplace, for you to waste time stewing over it? Congratulate them, work just as hard as you've been working, and good things will come to you, too.
A lot of the problems we have inside and outside of work are totally solvable, if we just have the guts to bring them up. If something a friend or significant other is doing or saying upsets you, tell them. If they really care about you then they will understand and curb the behavior. And if something is frustrating you at work, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to express your concerns to a boss or to human resources. Letting them know something that bothers you is nothing personal, it just makes sense both for the efficiency of business and the comfort of everyone there.
But Not Too Honest
Some things in life do not merit your honesty, and usually that domain is pretty simple to navigate. If, for instance, you don't like your friend's significant other, and they are still in a happy and healthy relationship, it's not really your place to say anything about it. And as far as professional life goes, there is a slew of things you shouldn't be too honest about, including and not limited to that same grocery store manager who hired me all those years ago seeing me a while back and exclaiming, "Wow! You gaaaain-ed weeeight!" (I think he was happy for me, in his defense, which did nothing to diminish the extreme awkwardness of that moment.)
Be Careful What You Leave On Your Computer Screen
Did you think I was going to say hide your porn? Then you've got bigger problems with your work life, friend. But seriously, if you're going to be doing work-related or even relationship-related work on your any of your screens, make sure you're not just leaving it out there for everyone to see, or else your boss might wonder why you're looking at job listings in another state or your significant other might figure out they're getting a toaster for Christmas. (That's right, y'all: date me. You might get a free toaster.)
Respect People Who Have More Experience Than You Do
This makes sense at work, of course, because the people who have more experience there know how the company works, know what the expectations are and have seen how ideas have failed or succeeded in the past. While you're also learning the landscape, it's important to respect that although you may disagree with them on something, odds are they have a better idea of the outcome. And same goes for your personal life. There are plenty of things that your friends have more experience with than you do, which is something you should never take for granted when you need advice the most.
Learn To Accept Flaws
You are not a perfect person, and you can't expect everyone around you to be perfect, either. Can you imagine how boring your life would be if we all were? So yes, occasionally there are going to be some things in your work relationships or personal relationships that are less than stellar, but you have to decide if those flaws are really a be all, end all situation. At work, it's about prioritizing what aspects of the workplace culture are really the most important to you. There might be one co-worker you don't like, but is it worth throwing the whole job out the window if you love what you're doing? Personal relationships are similar. For instance, I once dated someone who "didn't really like sweets." Was it inconvenient? Yes. Was it worth dating him anyway? Absolutely. (More cake for me.) Really, though, there is wisdom in picking your battles.
But Never Settle For Less Than What You Deserve
If you are unhappy with a personal relationship or a work situation for a long period of time, you have every right to leave. Sometimes even when you try your hardest to make something work, it's just plain not a good fit. It doesn't even mean it is anybody's fault. In both cases, though, it does mean that you have the chance to move on from it and be happy working somewhere else, or finding someone else.
Go The Extra Mile
Be the kind of friend a friend would like to have, and the kind of worker a boss would like to have. If your friend is going through something and you think you might be able to help them out, take that extra time to check up on them, to let them know they've got someone on their team. And if work is crazy, jump up and find any little way that you can help. You'll make life easier on everyone and also get some great experience while you do it.
Think About The End Game
Most job interviewers will ask you, "Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten?" And while that's a daunting question to consider when you're young, it's arguably the most important one. If a job isn't helping you attain your overall career goals, you might want to reconsider whether or not this is the right position for you in the first place. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense to apply this question to romantic and personal relationships, too. Do the two of you ultimately want the same things? If you're not someone who wants to settle down and the other person is, are you going to feel that strain down the road?
But Also Let Yourself Live In The Moment
At the end of the day, the only question that really matters is, "Are you happy?" Do you look forward to waking up and going to work, even if it isn't what you want to do for the rest of your life? Are you all fluttery at the idea of seeing your significant other even though you're pretty sure the odds are you staying together long-term are the same as a snowflake's in hell? No matter what you're planning to do in the future, you're learning something about yourself right now. You'll walk away from a fun job or a fun relationship understanding yourself better than you did before, and possibly with a few extra kickers on your resume in the job department. Make sure that you have a clear idea of where you're headed and what you want in the future, but let yourself enjoy this. All the pieces in your life don't have to fall into place right this instant.
Never Steal Marked Food From The Fridge
You might think I added this one on at the end as a joke, but I'm deadly serious. I'm all about sharing, y'all. But if you take things that I was planning to consume from the work fridge or from my dinner plate without asking, I will Hulk out and eat you alive.
Images: NBC; Giphy (12)