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If Someone Had Told Me These Things About Working Life…

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Mai Le

mai

I graduated and embarked on my work life almost a year ago. The transition from being a student to a full-time employee wasn’t as smooth as I had imagined. In my third year at LSE, I was eager to start working and had several fantasies about being a working adult. I almost thought of graduation as a “switch”: believing that once I started earning my own income, I would immediately immerse myself in the adult lifestyle I had envisioned.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Fast-forward a year, and I’m still learning how to be a working adult. There are several things I wish someone had told me about transitioning into working life.

  1. Managing Finances

To be frank, this has been a significant struggle. Learning how to manage one’s finances is a critical life skill that isn’t taught in school. My parents haven’t been around since I was very young, so I had to learn this on my own. I’m very generous with others and myself, which means my wallet suffers regularly, even with a relatively high starting salary.

Personal finance is an extensive topic in its own right, but I’ll share my experience and what has worked for me. If you constantly go over your budget, you have two choices: spend less or earn more. At university, since I’ve always been a big spender, my solution was to work more to increase my income. Now, with a fixed monthly salary, I’ve had to learn to spend less. Here are some methods I use:

Use cash more than a card: I find that using cash makes me more aware of my spending. • Wait until tomorrow to buy something: This helps curb impulsive spending. If you truly need an item, the desire will still be there the next day. • Set up a direct debit to save a portion of your salary: Having a lower bank balance can make you more cautious about spending. • Have a significant amount in savings: My immediate goal is to save up to six months of income as a safety net, and my long-term goal is for larger investments, like a mortgage deposit.

Ultimately, managing finances requires balancing self-control over material desires with generosity and discipline.

  1. “You are not a student anymore…” / The Importance of Developing Better Tastes

Focusing on quality over quantity is a lesson I’ve learned in adulthood. The difference between being frugal and being cheap lies in the focus. Being frugal means getting the most quality for a price you can afford, while being cheap emphasizes the lowest price possible.

A friend highlighted the importance of refining my tastes when she said, “You’re not a student anymore…” in response to my spending habits. As a student, it’s typical to prioritize instant noodles, fast food, cheap clothes, and noisy bars. But as a working adult, the focus should shift to quality. This doesn’t mean spending more, but when you do spend, it’s about getting the best value. For instance, I now buy fewer clothing items, but each is of higher quality. This principle also applies to experiences: I might go out less frequently, but when I do, I opt for quality venues with excellent services.

Having refined tastes means directing your consumption towards essentials that deliver quality. One of my significant investments recently was a high-quality mattress, while I minimized spending on other furniture. The logic is simple: I spend a third of my life on my mattress but much less time on other furniture, so my budget should reflect this. Embracing quality over quantity not only streamlines your lifestyle but also earns respect from others. When you showcase high standards, people notice and appreciate your values.

  1. Taking Care of Myself

At university, I neglected my physical health. I often slept less than 8 hours, ate poorly, and didn’t care for my hair, skin, or overall health.

I remember watching evening skincare routines on YouTube and wondering why anyone would spend an hour on such rituals. Over time, I realized the importance of self-care. Inadequate sleep dulled my thinking, and poor dietary choices affected my mood. I’ve since established routines to nurture my physical well-being. For example, I now have a “Drink water” sticker on my desk as a constant reminder.

Before I can tackle bigger problems in the world, I need to care for myself first. If I don’t prioritize my well-being, no one else will.

While I have more insights on “growing up,” I’ll save them for a possible follow-up post. Unlike other philosophical pieces on this website, this article is more experiential, representing a new writing style I’m experimenting with.

 

Written by Mai Le

My name is Mai. I am originally from Vietnam. After my university years at LSE, I worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. After a wonderful time there, I started several of my own business as well as helping others on theirs. I've always been building communities and businesses for as long as I can remember, and absolutely thrilled to see others enjoy what I've built.

Comments

1 Comment

  1. hoang

    Thank for your useful tips 😀

    Reply

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