things I wish someone had taught me before I got my first job

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I learned a lot of things in university. I learned how to calculate the rate of heat transfer from one end of a pipe to the other if it was a certain mix of copper and aluminum. I learned the force it would take to permanently deform an I-beam. I learned how to do a Fourier Transform. I learned that drinking a lot of beer on a beach at the bottom of a cliff makes it really hard to climb back up.

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When I got my first (and second, and third) real jobs, however, I realized there were many things I did not learn in university, that would have been much more helpful.

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Things such as:

  • Learn from other people’s mistakes. Which I have tried to do by compiling the list below (some of these mistakes are mine; some aren’t. I’m not telling which are which.)
  • It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 degrees or hotter outside, you should never wear shorts to the office. Even on casual Friday.
  • Some people don’t appreciate it when other people bring fish or eggs to the office.
  • Though not for the same reason, it is cruel and unusual punishment to make popcorn in the office microwave.
  • Don’t cut your nails in the office. Please. Just don’t.
  • Eat lunch in the lunchroom for at least the first month. It’s the best way to get to know people in your office in a more casual setting—and you’ll feel more comfortable having to approach them when you need something later. Also, you’ll save money on eating out.
  • Perfect your handshake on someone you trust, before you take it out into the real world. A firm grip does not mean crushing someone’s fingers so hard they need to shake their hand out afterwards. Don’t bend at the wrist and awkwardly pinch someone’s fingers.
  • Always ask questions. Your boss has a pretty good idea of when you don’t understand something and just aren’t asking. They’re wondering what you’re going to do about it if you aren’t asking questions in order to figure it out.

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Things I did not learn in university: I did not ever actually manage to learn to code in C++, but that’s neither here nor there.

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I’ve since moved on from engineering, and spend all my time marketing traffic safety products, flying trapeze, and myself online.

Another thing I did learn, though not in university: how to make sushi.

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Sushi

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked white sticky rice
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 package of nori sheets (I think I used about 5 sheets)
  • sushi fillings: I used 1 avocado and half a yam. You could also try cucumber, prawns, fish, or whatever else your heart desires!
  • furikake and/or white and black sesame seeds
  • soy sauce (or tamari), wasabi, and pickled ginger to serve

Directions

  1. Cook the rice in a rice cooker. People who are better at being Asian than me could also do it on the stove, but I always burn it to the bottom of the pan.
  2. In the meantime, cut up your fillings. I used avocado, which I sliced, and yam, which I cut into french fry strips and baked.
  3. When the rice is ready, “fluff” it and then mix it up with the mirin.
  4. On a wooden sushi mat if you have one, or a silpat if you have that, or parchment or wax paper if that’s all you have, lay out a piece of nori. Starting at one edge, spread rice across 1/3 of the sheet, about 1/2″ thick.
  5. Down the centre of the rice, lay out a strip of your fillings. Sprinkle them with furikake or sesame seeds.
  6. Roll it up like a crepe or burrito, but without the edge folds. If you use a bit of water, you can get the nori to stick to itself a little.
  7. Place the seam side down, and slice with a sharp(!) knife. The nori will get easier to cut as it absorbs water from the rice, but you still want a sharp knife to get through it.
  8. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger!

Note: Yes, most sushi restaurants serve sushi with the rice on the outside. If you’re so inspired to try, be my guest—but my past experience has shown that it’s incredibly hard to get the rice to stick to the nori instead of everything else in your life.

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