Kristen Fischer (pictured) is a copywriter and Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW). She is the author of Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life. You can find out more about her at www.kristenfischer.com.
If you’re about to graduate from college, or recently got your degree, you’re likely about to enter the working world. And there are lessons you can only learn when you get your first job and transition into your career.
But knowing what to expect about the professional arena can help you prepare for the changes you'll soon experience. Here are five things to keep in mind as you enter the working world.
- Your first job will likely have nothing to do with what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Many graduates enter the working world thinking their days of picking up Starbucks and answering phones are over. But the truth is, your first job may be full of menial tasks. A first job doesn’t mean you take the job of your dreams. Instead, it means you take a job that will help you build your skill set for the job you really want. So, if your goal is to be a journalist, you may have to start out working as a receptionist at a newspaper. So what? You’ll likely be able to get a solid entry-level salary, benefits, and most importantly, the chance to make valuable connections and a name for yourself.
- Benefits are hugely valuable—take them. My mother always used to talk about my getting a job with benefits before I graduated from college. I didn’t understand it. It was like she cared more about health insurance than my happiness. But, as usual, my mother was right. I got to start a 401(k) and saved so much money by having health insurance. Check into the various benefits you may be able to get—and take advantage of them!
- You have to work harder to maintain a social life. I didn’t realize how difficult it was to meet new people. Even though it’s easy to meet new coworkers who can become friends, maintaining your existing relationships can be tough. While you're meeting new people and getting used to balancing a full-time job, your college friendships may be challenged by distance or the changes that come with working full-time. Instead of coming home and going out, you might be tired or need to prepare for the next workday. Your lifestyle may change a little, but it’s a normal part of growing up. You might have to make more of an effort to keep your relationships going, but put in the effort for those you deem worth it.
- The connections you make are extremely valuable. Even if you’re working as a receptionist (we know, you didn’t go to school to become a receptionist), you can still meet key players for the future. Even if you don’t plan to stay with the company, you can make valuable industry connections. Foster professional relationships because you never know when they may come in handy. And take advantage of LinkedIn by adding contacts when you meet them. Many professionals say that a colleague from a past job helped them in their future. You never know, so cultivate those relationships no matter where you are in your career.
- You need to stay in your first job at least one year. It's easy to want to fly the coop because you wind up detesting your job. But you have to find the positives in it, even if you can't feel them right away. Staying in that position for at least one year will show you have loyalty and don't "job hop." It’s important to keep a solid work record because it will be part of your resume. No first job is perfect; in fact, most are far from it. Stick with it and find the positives. When it’s time to move on, you will.
Like I said, you may not like your first job. Entering the professional world can seem boring. Your entire world will change, and those carefree college days can feel so far away at times. But if you stick with things for a while and get the most out of your first job, it can be a valuable catalyst for future success.
If you're a college senior, how are you preparing for the transition into the workforce? If it's been a while since you graduated from college. What advice do you have for recent graduates or soon-to-be graduates? Tell us in a comment below.
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