The Myth of Finding Your First Job
“Your first job is the most important job you’ll ever have.” Like me, I’m sure you’re constantly hearing this. Partnered with unreasonable pressures and heightened expectations, it has almost always left me feeling intimidated and a bit overwhelmed. The job hunt should be exciting, right? Unfortunately, it can get very stressful instead.
Don’t get me wrong - your first job is important. Of course! But it’s not going to make or break the rest of your career - it’s a launching pad. If it doesn’t turn out to be the job of your dreams... that’s okay! Unlike Matthew McConaughey, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be crashing with your parents the rest of your life if it results in a Failure To Launch.
Here are five reminders that will hopefully calm your nerves, help you prepare, and get you excited for landing that first job.
1. Your career is a huge canvas - job #1 only fills a small part of it.
When you look at the work experience of that executive you aspire to be like or whose career path you drool over, you’ll probably notice one thing in common across the board - there’s several jobs that sprinkle their resume. Heck, their first job might not even be listed. When you lay out your options, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with the weight of the decision. It may be your first job, but it’s almost certainly not your last. There will be others after this one and all of those experiences combined will paint your career, not just one individually.
2. You’re not expected to be an expert.
Everyone has experienced the feeling of cluelessness the first day of their new job.
Boss: “So did all of that make sense?”
You: “Of course! Got it.” (To yourself: “Wait…. what?! MAYDAY!!”)
Don’t panic - this is normal. At every new job, it takes time to learn the lingo and understand your role. You won’t show up Monday and be a pro by Tuesday and that’s definitely not what your bosses expect. Every new job has a learning curve, but you’ll get into the groove soon enough! School might be over, but learning most definitely is not. Your career will be a series of learning and mastering new skills. (Don’t worry - there’s no finals this time.)
3. “Now or never” is a bit dramatic. Don’t ya think?
Now is not the only chance you’ll have to take that opportunity you’re on the fence about. You have your entire career ahead of you. Maybe you’re deciding between two jobs you really like, or you have a travel bug and want to live somewhere new for a bit. There’s often a fear that if you don’t do it now you never will. As one of my mentors frequently reminds me, “hope is not a method.” Rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, make a plan. You get to choose your path and your timeline. If the timing isn’t right now, the opportunity isn’t lost forever. You can always mix things up down the road.
4. It might take a few tries to get to your dream job.
Some of us dream about traveling and adventures, others about Netflix and ice cream, and some about that one company you would do almost anything to work for. If that’s you, I truly hope you land your dream job! Not everyone will have that opportunity, but don’t be discouraged. Just because that door has closed for now, doesn’t mean it won’t open later. The best response you can have is to get up, dust yourself off, and move forward.
Each job you have is equipping you for your next opportunity, whether that’s a big project at your current company or perhaps a new job. Continue to look for opportunities that will position you for further success down the road. Maybe you’ll even find your way to that dream job.
5. It’s your job and your decision - nobody else’s.
Job advice often seems to fly at us noisily from all different directions. Talk about anxiety-producing! Seeking council is great, but ultimately the decision is yours and yours alone. Think through what you're good at, what you enjoy doing, and where you can add the most value. This is not for others to determine for you. Own your decision!
Just like Chacos and Apple products were the “it” accessories in college, certain jobs will be trendier than others. Depending on what group of friends you have, organizations you’re involved with, or school you go to, there will be some jobs and companies that are more attractive than others. It’s tempting to look around at your friends and be wooed by their job offers, but a company that’s a fit for them, might not be right for you. Don't be afraid to pursue the opportunities that you get excited about.