How do you adjust to a more structured life after school and find a positive work-life balance?
It is interesting that you say a “more structured life after school,” because I feels like the opposite happened for me. School was more structured because there was always a commitment I had, be it homework, study groups, group project meetings, or club activities. In contrast, upon graduating and starting my first job, I had to be in the office during set hours of the day, but outside of that, there were no obligations for homework, clubs, or even family, since I had moved to to a different state. My main adjustment for life after school was finding things to do outside of my job.
I was lucky because both my company and New York City, where I had moved to, offered a lot of resources. My company heavily invested in employee resource groups, which are like the cultural or social clubs we had in UVA. I joined the Asian and Pacific Islander group as well as the young professionals group. These groups often held meetings, workshops, or social gatherings during and after work hours, and I was able to expand both my professional and personal networks. Some of my best friends and mentors came from these groups, so I highly recommend you look at your own company and see what is available. If your company does not have a group that fits what you are looking for, try a regional professional network. Ascend, the largest pan-Asian business professional network in North America, has chapters throughout the United States. Or, you could do an online search for “professional networks” in your city and search by categories such as industry or ethnicity.
New York City offers a wealth of activities to cater to any and all interests. I am not much of a clubber, but I did sign up for dance classes, which I had not taken since middle school, learned Spanish for free in exchange for teaching Mandarin, and checked out many of the city’s parks, museums, and restaurants. Since moving to Boston, my husband has joined a running group that he found through Meetup.
That being said, having a job where there are responsibilities and more immediate consequences for being late or absent does add more seriousness to the idea of “structure.” No more scheduling classes around your sleep schedule; you now have to schedule your sleep around your job. For certain unavoidable factors, such as if work starts at 8AM and you are used to afternoon classes, you will have to set a few extra alarms and force yourself to get up on time. Other factors, such as finding new hobbies or a new friend group, takes time and trial and error. And still others, such as balancing work and life, is something that everyone struggles with throughout their careers.
In thinking about work-life balance, it is important to realize that it is a scale. Sometimes, it leans towards work, perhaps when there is an important project or you are studying for a qualification. Other times, it leans towards life, such as when there is an important family commitment or performance with your local theater group. Maybe you are working towards the next promotion, or you just had a baby. The scale is not always in balance, and it is okay if it is not. Ultimately, you are in control of it, and you determine where you are on the scale.