With nothing to your name and your résumé as your only form of currency, you may be at the stage of your life where you’re saying “yes” to everything. Yes to the extended hours at your internship, yes to taking on additional projects, yes to working a couple hours a day as an administrative assistant where all you do is clean (or so it seems) and actually does nothing to benefit you, yes to things just for that line on your resume and, of course, that professional reference.
However, saying yes all the time can leave you exhausted, overrun, and unable to fully function to do the things you actually want to do either at work or once the day is over. It can leave you frustrated, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied with your early-career life.
While the line on your resume and the reference may be nice, you have also remember to take care of yourself. You won’t feel motivated to give all you’ve got if all you’ve got is what your exhausted self can whip up. That’s not good for anyone. Moral of the story? Saying yes isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
So, what’s the solution? It seems obvious, but start saying no.
You can’t do everything; We know you feel like you should, but remember that you’re only one person. Going to school full-time with an internship every day while working twenty hours a week sounds like a good idea, but it really isn’t.
So here’s how you say no:
Beyond the straight-up “no,” which can come off as a little rude, soften the blow by explaining that you already have a lot more on your plate.
First of all, if you’re a student, people understand where you’re coming from. They know that school is the main priority and projects and homework don’t always line up with minor work to-do lists. Give your employer a basic idea of what you have coming up during the semester so they have a heads up for days you might be missing or not fully there mentally. Sure you might be able to come into work during finals week, but you’ll probably be a zombie and not produce your best work possible. Your employer will understand, I promise.
Secondly, if you’re working three jobs at once, tell your boss and coworkers that once your schedule is set, picking up new hours, such as staying overtime, covering for coworkers, or picking up more shifts is impossible. Don’t be afraid to set limits for yourself–and enforce them.
Thirdly, know that people might not understand why they’re not your first priority. They’ll be hurt, they might get mad, but you need to stick to your guns on this one. They’ll learn to live with disappointment.
Finally, set one day a week that you don’t do anything work or school or not-fun-or-relaxing-related and stick to it. I once went a semester where I had at least something going on every day (some days I had school and both my jobs) and I was burned out halfway into the semester. On your day off, do something you enjoy: sleep in, create something, play video games, cook a nice meal for yourself – whatever it is; this day is all yours to spend as you like.
All in all, it’s okay to put yourself first and turn down offers, even if you’d be able to put it on your resume. You don’t want to regret working your tail off in your early years only to be exhausted for the rest of your life.