emily cooney headshot [temporary]

Whether you started working at the fresh age of 16 or later in college at 20, we all go through typical job problems, usually revolving around coworkers’ irritating habits, micromanaging from managers or insatiable customers who think yelling at us for something we have no control over will get them what they want.

As long as these issues aren’t constant occurrences, they are to be expected with almost any job. The real problem I want to address is when your work-related issues leave you feeling deeply underappreciated, doubtful of your work ethic or just plain upset for hours after you leave for the day. 

College students in particular tend to be underestimated and treated as replaceable employees because of irrational assumptions about our age or lack of experience. For the most part, we start a new job with excitement of the unknown, and are eager to show our devotion to the work and receive a well-earned paycheck. As time goes on, we may begin to see red flags in the work environment that we let slide in order to avoid “rocking the boat.”

“Sometimes your managers can take advantage of you and take advantage of the power that they have,” said Maya Tucker, a fourth-year studying statistics and political science.

Another reason many will endure mistreatment or underappreciation in the work environment is because they don’t want to risk losing their source of income, as well as valuable career experience. While it is true these things are important for young adults, mental health also deserves due attention. If students stay at toxic jobs for the money, they may experience damaging side effects, such as anxiety before each shift and much more; these lead to a high probability of prolonged effects on their mental health

“New grads should be cautious of such an open job market and should take a step back from running headfirst into those opportunities,” said Anne Ross Pender, a third-year studying English and Spanish language and literature.

Generational narratives surrounding work-life have been pushed on students for decades, and are another reason most people refrain from leaving toxic jobs. One such narrative is that short terms of employment look bad on one’s resume. However, what goes on our resume does not define us, and staying at a bad job for the sake of your resume will only bring on more mental health issues.

“I think you should know your worth and carry that knowledge with you whenever you decide to job hunt,” Pender said. 

Forbes recently credited  Anthony Klotz, a business professor at Texas A&M University, for the term The Great Resignation, used to define the drastic increase of Generation Z workers either quitting or planning to quit their jobs in the next year. Additionally, CNBC reported in its study that half of millennials (23-38 years old) and 75% of adult Generation Z (18-22 years old) have left a job at least partially due to mental health reasons.

“Young people are just tired of lying down and getting rolled over by old-fashioned corporatism and it just doesn’t make any sense to be unhappy for decades of your life because at the end, what are you gonna have to show for it?” Pender said.

We should be doing all we can to make sure a potential job is a nontoxic work environment. This means looking at Glassdoor ratings, figuring out if companies post salary rates, checking into Linkedin profiles of former or current employees and even walking into the establishment to get a feel for the atmosphere. 

It is imperative that we stay one step ahead before graduation. A prime way to do so is contacting alumni from your major via the Alumni Association. Additionally, you can find contact information of current or former employees of a company you aspire to work for via their published work. 

NC State also has a phenomenal Career Development Center that helps students find resources for their desired job positions as well as internship opportunities. They offer assistance in creating a quality resume, interview practice, job search strategies and much more.

Whether you are one of nearly 1,200 student workers on campus, work in the Triangle area or even remotely, your grievances as an employee are significant. As NC State students aspiring to make our way through the working world, and hopefully to our dream jobs, we must keep this in mind in order to protect our sanity and respect ourselves.

I am a fourth year studying Communication with a concentration in Media and Spanish. I started writing for Technician this summer of 2020 as a correspondent.