Diploma Diaries: Riding the Rails

By Emily Roseman, Alumna of American University

When taking on a career in a big city, you learn quickly it’s all about compromises when it comes to achieving your goals.

No greater compromise exists in the world than life of a commuter. The ups and downs of becoming a commuter are plentiful, but knowing what lays ahead of you on the road map to commuter life is crucial and important when making that decision to go full-time transporter.

Know Your Limits

Before you commit to a commute, take time to understand just what is in store for you. Find the best means of transport to your office, whether taking a train or driving into work, make sure you know what works easiest for you every week. At first, commuting doesn’t sound terribly taxing, but knowing a traffic jam or some downed wires on the train can keep you from making it to the office on time, or worse, even getting back home, is a reality many commuters face. It’s also crucial to know your physical and mental limits. Ever see those businessmen on a train home from the office looking worn to a frazzle? That’s because even after a full day in the city, the last thing they want to do is deal with the ride home. Become accustomed to the idea that not every day of commuting will be easy, or rather, short. Take a test run of your commute to see if you can picture yourself doing the transportation cha-cha day in and day out.

Commuting Costs

The biggest misconception about commuting is “think of all the money I’ll be saving!” Budgeting your finances with commuting costs is the most important part of taking on this newfound lifestyle. If you're thinking about driving into work, it helps to talk out your budget for each month with a friend or family member. Costs on gas can and will change given the season but also aspects like insurance, roadside assistance or just basic wear and tear on your vehicle are all very important factors to account for when thinking of taking your commute on the road. Train travel also has its pitfalls with finances. Monthly tickets for mass transit from Connecticut to New York City alone can put a commuter back almost $400 a pop. Research how many days you plan on working a week and budget accordingly with your local transportation center.

Commuter Assistance

All is not lost for the daily commuter these days. Companies are now creating commuter assistance programs to accommodate employees who may live a distance from the office but also to promote a greener option to get to work. Companies within the New York City metro area embrace commuter assistance to promote the use of fewer carbon emissions. You would be surprised just how many cities are like-minded in this sentiment, so bring it up in your interview! Provide your employer with the costs it would take to get into the office, and they can provide you with a travel stipend or monthly allowance to get to work.

Have The Travel Talk

Letting your boss and coworkers know that you intend on commuting into the office allows them to know your time at the office is on a tight schedule. Letting coworkers know that you will be making a train or hitting the highway at a specific time every week allows them to adjust your time well spent at the office. Many commuters in the New York area understand firsthand that a stalled subway train can alter your ability to clock in on time or trek home. Make sure your boss is also on your side; don’t let your means of transportation hold you back from proving to be a capable employee. Suggest earlier start times in the day in order to leave the office at a decent rush-hour time. Keep both your boss and coworkers in contact when traveling. At first sign of any major pileups/delays, keep your employer looped in on your late arrivals and offer to stay later if needed. Your distance from the office should never appear to be a hindrance on work productivity; it should show how willing you are to get the job done no matter your location.

Adopt Proficient Planning Skills

If you aren’t the most obsessive when it comes to time management, get ready to change your habits. After a month of sticking with a commuting schedule, you begin to know the best timing to your workweek. Getting dressed for an early morning train becomes a nighttime activity. Plan out your week's worth (or day before) of work outfits. This cuts down on time spent wondering, “if these pants go with that top.” Adopting the “night before” mentality will also prove efficient when making meals. Saving an extra dollar for gas or tickets can become a cinch with making your meals at home instead of buying at the office. Adopt your elementary school behavior and pack a day’s worth of snacks and meal into a lunch bag, and everyone at the office will observe with envy. And for those who lack time management skills, take on the early bird catches the worm mentality. While many of your coworkers have the luxury of living within the vicinity of the office, planning out how much sleep you will need to stay fresh and your limit to staying out and maintain that social life becomes religion.

Image courtesy of Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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