By ATALIE GIMMEL
As the 2015 Temple University graduate approaches her seventh month since entering the workforce, relaxing isn’t so high on Alex Tung’s agenda. Though Tung’s honors communications degree helped, it was plain gusto that got the 23-year-old an entry-level position in pharmaceutical advertising. As a project coordinator working in health marketing, the young women is in charge of overseeing the work of an office full of employees, young and old alike. On a Sunday morning, hours after arriving back home to her parent’s house, post a night-out with friends — getting a job doesn’t mean the fun ends — Tung spoke on the phone about what it has been like to be an entry-level millennial in today’s working world, while living at home.
So you’re officially an adult — how’s the working life!
It’s really high science — the first few months were really challenging for me because the learning curve was very steep, the language was very difficult to learn in the beginning when you’ve never heard it before — there’s a lot of acronyms — and you can’t mess up because there are lives involved. It’s a really stressful job, but because the content of the job is very stressful the environment at work is really fun because everyone needs each other. So my work life, in the office, is so fun. I love all of my coworkers, we have so much fun, and they’re some of my closest friends now.
Are your coworkers mostly your age?
There’s a huge range, most people are about to retire. Then there are people who are in their late twenties, early thirties. I’m one of the youngest people in the office.
How does the age range affect you in the office?
One major challenge that I’ve found as a new working person is that a lot of people, it’s kind of hard to garner respect from people who have been in the field for thirty or forty years. In my specific role, I interact with people and have to sometimes push about deadlines and push back on things, and sometimes it’s tough to have them take me seriously, for the most part. And that obviously comes with time — and I’m totally okay with that — but it’s definitely one challenge.
Do you think that has anything to do with how millennials’ reputation in “the working world?”
Absolutely! I think that the older generations — I don’t know if they look down at us — they definitely know that we’re different and think that we’re entitled. They think, ‘I’ve been doing this for [blank] years, you can’t tell me what to do, what do you know.’ I do only have six months of experience so I do know where they’re coming from, and I agree with them, kind of, it’s just that when you graduate you don’t expect this to be a challenge. I just thought the learning curve would be difficult.
Does the age-range affect how your coworkers use technology?
Oh definitely. An example being in the way people send emails — I was taught a certain format and some people just do not follow that, but that’s not so important. It is interesting to have older people who are used to having face-to-face conversations, and when they don’t feel like they’re on the same page with other employees, even if they are. Not having that human-to-human aspect leaves many things to be lost in translation.
Did you start looking for a job straight after graduating?
I traveled for the summer right after college. I didn’t even bother looking until I got home, and once I did, it took one month from the time I got back to the time I got the job. I know that’s nothing compared to some people; I know people my age who are still looking, so I feel very lucky.
Would you say that your job now is directly linked to what you majored in?
Not at all! I majored in communications from Temple University — maybe it’s in the same communications field, but I did not get this job because I searched for communications positions. Aspects like being able to send emails to complete strangers and being able to reach out professionally are things from my major that have definitely helped, but otherwise, this job has been a complete learning experience.
So how did you get this job?
Through a connection — that’s how anyone gets a job these days. Circumstances brought me to this position, and I’m so glad they did because I don’t think I would’ve chosen it by myself. I really love my job, and not a lot of people can say that for their first job. There’s a bunch of people who do and don’t like their jobs. A lot of it just has to do with who you work with. I feel like the content of your first job doesn’t matter that much when you’re still learning who you are and who you are in the workforce, and how you like to get things done.
Do you think that anything or anyone has been a guiding force in how much you’ve loved this job so far?
Yes, my manager! You need to have a good manager; one who kind of molds you and makes sure that you’re confident in your decisions. That’s another big thing for me so far, it’s becoming confident in your decisions. It’s feeling confident in the way you think about things and how you solve problems, and feeling confident to make an independent decision. I feel like a got a leg-up on that because of all of my internships; I already felt comfortable sending out emails and using this kind of language, things like that.
Have your other friends in entry-level positions felt the same about cultivating that independence?
In these jobs there are two buckets: there’s one where you’re a support role, and the other where you’re in an independent role. When you’re in a support role, like an assistant, your job revolves around other people and what they tell you to do. When you have a more independent role, you’re more helpful while coexisting independently. I still ask my manager a million questions everyday, but if she didn’t exist I could still do my job. It’s tough when you’re right out of college to realize that’d be the kind of job you’d have.
How is your work-life balance? Do you check out on the weekends?
I’m sure I’m like most people my age where I have a nervous tick to check my emails. I also have phantom vibrations. When I first started working I would even dream about being there.
Have you found there to be a degree of anxiety in starting your first job?
I guess whenever you start a new job things will be physical, especially when you’re a millennial and working with people who aren’t. I work with a lot of millennials too, but I know my friends who only work with people who are older struggle between the parallel of being so young and working with people who aren’t.
What do you miss most about your pre-work life?
I really miss thinking deeply about something in a critical way — you just don’t do that at work. For example, taking a class on millennials is “so-college.” I don’t get to think about the way that my life is as a millennial; I’m constantly running around like a chicken with their head cut off, trying to get things done.
But at least you still have the comforts of home! How is it, being a professional adult but still living at home?
Yes! I love it. All of my friends are living home in Long Island for the first year too, so it’s perfect. We commute every morning into the city together — I actually look forward to it. If I were to actually rent an apartment in New York on my salary, I’d be below the poverty line. I’m very lucky that my parents were on board with me coming back.
Did your parents see this as the right move to make?
Yes they’re so supportive. Of course they make jokes all the time about when I’m moving out — I joke back and say never — but my goal is to definitely move to the city come this summer.