A How-To Guide

By Ariel Walovitch

When I entered the “real world” two years ago as a Hillel International Springboard Fellow in Pittsburgh, I thought having a job meant I would instantly know all the answers. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I was alone in a city I knew nothing about, working with a group of students extremely close to my age, who I could not rely on to be my social circle.

Being caught in between two stages of life and adjusting to a new city was an isolating time for me. I learned a lot in college, but no class really taught me how to be an adult.

Two years into my career, I’m still no expert at #adulting (last night I asked my mom what to do with chicken sitting in my fridge). But I have learned a thing or two as result of my mistakes. Here are my top tips for finding success personally and professionally as a new adult, the advice I wish I could go back and give my younger self.

Go home and call your mom (or your bff).

If something happened at work that you’re not happy about, let it out to a third party you trust. Don’t spread negativity around the office. Confiding in a loved one will help you put your problems into perspective, especially if they work in a completely different workplace or even profession. You will quickly realize that whatever you’re dealing with is not the end of the world.

You don’t have to double dip.

If you’re a Jewish professional now like I am, mazel tov! Emphasis on the professional. This does not mean you have to be “doing Jewish” every second of your personal life, too. If participating in Jewish young adult events is what you’re passionate about, then go ahead! That said, try not to let the pressure of your job make you participate in extracurriculars that you wouldn’t otherwise be involved with. It’s all right if intramural soccer is what you’d rather do outside of work than Jewish events. Your outside interests make you a more well-rounded person and make you relatable to more people.

No more naps.

When you enter the real world, you’ll most likely be following the 9-5 grind. This means there’s no time to schluff. During my first year on the job I was struggling to adjust to a work schedule. Outside of my work, I was constantly napping. I could have spent those hours at the gym or cooking a new recipe. Adjusting to a full workday can be a challenge. The only way to have more energy is to get on your feet! I made a new goal for myself to cut out naps over the past year, and it has made me a more active and happier person. Plus, I get up a lot easier in the morning because I wasn’t up until 1 a.m. watching “Dance Moms.”

Check your bank statement before you go to Trader Joes.

You’re making more money now than you ever have before – it’s exciting, liberating and terrifying all at once. But, it’s important to remember that many parts of your paycheck are going in different directions. Managing personal finances is an aspect of adulting I’m still working on. The best piece of money advice I have is to download an app for your bank on your phone to make it easier to see how much money you have. I learned this the hard way when my card got declined at the grocery store and I had no money to Uber home. Sitting in the parking lot crying with nowhere to go was not a good look. This could have been avoided if I checked my bank statement before I left home.

When in doubt, write it down!

The name of someone who’s leading a staff training. The new caterer. A student you have to contact. Whatever the information is, write it down! Get a colorful planner that will make organization enjoyable. Open a special notes section in your Google Docs to type it out. Whatever you do, at all costs, find a space to put down all the random requests, comments, thoughts and assignments you’ll hear about during meetings and supervisions. When it comes to planners and notebooks, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Dont be afraid to take a risk.

Just because you’re the new person does not mean you can’t innovate. As a recent grad, you’ve received the latest insights that can help benefit your team. Not everyone is going to love your ideas, and that’s okay. Confidence is contagious, and if you believe in your ideas, others will catch on. As long as you have your supervisor’s permission, nothing should stop you from going forward and trying something new. Don’t be afraid of the nay sayers. Push yourself to think outside the box and find areas where innovation is needed. Nobody is going to tell you how to create something; it’s up to you to implement it and be fearless!

Be where the people are.

To “get yourself out there,” you have to get out there! This means getting out of your apartment and looking for opportunities to meet new people. As convenient as it would be, your new best friend is not going to come knocking on your door. Hanging out in the courtyard of your apartment or attending a new volunteer event will increase your chances of meeting new folks, especially if you’re in a totally new place. I met my best friend Rachel because she overheard me talking about Birthright Israel in our building’s pool. If I would have stayed inside my apartment that day, scared to join the crowd downstairs, we might have never crossed paths.

Don’t you know things can change? Things will go your way. If you hold on for one more day.”

Sometimes cheesy girl bands say it best! Hang in there. Whenever I’ve had a challenging day or I’m being too hard on myself, I think about what I’ve already accomplished. I am a young woman with an amazing job who can afford to live on her own. At 24, that’s pretty good! It takes people a while to find the right job or opportunity. Never forget that it’s not a race. Everyone is in their own lane heading towards different definitions of success. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t sweat the small stuff!

Ariel Walovitch is the director of engagement at the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh.