Career Advice from a New Grad

Lessons learned while jaywalking



It’s been a week since I’ve become a bona fide, working New Yorker, and I’m starting to learn the ins and outs, the peculiarities, and the faults of the City and my new job. Residing smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, my grocery bills have doubled, I’m compelled to always look up at looming skyscrapers, and the density and diversity of people makes for good people-watching. But the largest adjustments have been my new role at work and the metropolitan traffic.

Like acclimating to any new job, I’ve stepped in with caution and care, eager to make the best first impression I can. I have a new supervisor and team dynamic to adjust to, a clean slate chalk-full of expectations, and an extensive list of acronyms to familiarize with. But it’s hard not to feel the paramount pressure and overwhelming anxiety of “Am I doing this right?” And outside of my work, getting to and from my office I have discovered “New York jaywalking” (which is a separate classification of jaywalking). Jaywalking in New York is the norm; I was shocked on my first day here to see pedestrians crossing red lights in plain sight of NYPD officers without as much as a scolding. But I’ve also learned that jaywalking in New York is both an art and a sport – like jumping into a new job, it takes skill, finesse, and ample amounts of courage.

And as I acquaint myself with both this art-sport form of sorts and work, I’ve noticed amusing similarities in how I approach them. As a week-old New York jaywalker and a working professional, here are 3 lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Hit the ground running: You’re never going to get anywhere in the Big Apple if you don’t assert your dominance over other pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicles, and pretty much anything moving on the City streetscapes. The extensive grid system means that every 40 steps in any direction, you come upon another intersection. So be fast and be confident. My first few days on the job, I had 5 meetings scheduled into my calendar. I went in expecting nothing more than lighthearted introductions and to be a fly on the wall; I walked out with a heapful of deliverables to accomplish. No matter if it’s your first day, last day, or the days in between, expectations of your commitment to the job are the same; so be a proactive contributor who strives to make a big impact.

  2. Assess your options and don’t be afraid to take a (calculated) risk: There’s a difference between a jaywalker and a smart jaywalker. A smart jaywalker always looks both ways at red-lit intersections, quickly assesses the situation, and ventures on only when safe – clear of speeding cars, potholes, or other road hazards. At work, there’s always room to analyze the situation, whether big or small, and take those calculated risks too. My supervisor at work is a busy body with a plateful of responsibilities, and her management style lends a lot of freedom to her reports. This has meant less reliance of her time and knowledge, and more independence on thinking outside the box for alternative resources and solutions to reach answers to the plethora of questions I have.

  3. Never follow blindly: As one of the most densely populated cities in America, Manhattan streets bustle with throngs of pedestrians. And I’ve made the near-fatal mistake of succumbing to herd mentality, following some gutsy jaywalkers through intersections without so much as a thought. It’s easy to assume that your coworkers know more than you – they’ve worked for longer so they must be more seasoned, they’re older so they must be wiser, they use big words you don’t understand so they must be right. But it’s so important to think for yourself. Just this week, one of my coworkers provided me with a brief she had wrote to inform my own work. And as I copied and pasted the info she had provided into a PowerPoint deck mindlessly, I noticed a spelling error. I read the paragraphs more closely and noticed other problems. Turns out, the brief was just a very early draft, and had I used the info my co-worker had provided verbatim, my deck would have been littered with unchecked facts, grammatical mistakes, and concept errors as well.