Fresh out of college the expectations of where you’ll go with your degree and the roller coaster of emotions that accompany trying to figure it out can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Finding a job in your desired industry can range from nearly impossible to surprisingly easy depending on timing, location, and of course a bit of luck. You also have those situations where you find your dream job only to find out that the industry you thought you wanted to spend your career in may in fact not be the right fit.
As I receive graduation announcements and see the photos splash across my Facebook timeline, I think about how I felt 4 years ago, the anticipation, excitement, and fear. I try not to focus not the actual fact that it has been 4 years since I graduated, but rather what I have seen, learned, and experienced since accepting that diploma. My post grad experience fell somewhere in the middle of the difficulty scale, landing a job 4 months after graduation in a position related to but not completely in my dream industry. It has been an interesting ride so far and looking back there are some things I would tell my 22 year old self as I headed into the professional world.
1) Your first job does not have to be your dream job, or even in your dream industry: The first part of this statement is a common piece of advice given to new grads, but what about the second? There are some positions, such as doctors, where you will stay in the same industry for the duration of your career. However, in business in particular, gaining experience in a variety of industries can be beneficial. You want to do graphic design for a high end fashion magazine but can’t get that position? Exploring options where your skills are utilized in turning something less exciting than fashion into something beautiful and engaging hones your skills and adds to your portfolio. By expanding your personal brand and vision you become a more valuable recruit to the companies you aim to work for in the future.
2) Work hard, give your all, but be loyal to you: This is something that is hard for me personally but is incredibly important. The phrase “it’s not personal, it’s business” holds true from Fortune 500 companies to a 5 person office. Especially in small companies, it is easy to get into a routine and not want to rock the boat. However, if you find yourself in a position where your goals are not being achieved or you find yourself in an unhealthy environment, it is time to move on.
3) Never stop learning: We live in an ever changing world and no matter what industry you land in, there will always be something new to learn. Even if you find your dream job and never want to leave and do something different, push yourself to explore what is new in your industry and those related to it. Learn about the jobs that support yours and those that you support, the tools used in each, and if there are any skills that can make you better at your job. You never know, you may end up finding that your dream job evolves into something different.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Starting your first job there is plenty of pressure to impress, to prove to your new company that they made the right choice in picking you. With that pressure often comes the fear of asking a question or making a mistake. Don’t let that fear hold you back or worse, end up hurting you. If you are unsure of how to do something, from how to set up your company email to how to use the office software, ask. Unless you lied on your resume saying you were proficient in a program when you’re not, most employers will respect your desire to learn and your direct approach that ultimately saves them time and money wasted if you have to redo a project or are unaware of company dealings.
5) You will be TIRED: This one is more of a personal than professional piece of advice, but it will have an impact on both. I’m not talking about the not wanting to get up for an 8am class tired, I’m talking about an all consuming, I slept for 9 hours and could still stay asleep tired. This was unexpected on my part. As someone who had carried a full class schedule, multiple internships, extracurriculars, and a daily trip to the gym I did not expect sitting in an office all day to be as draining as it is. You will eventually get used to the change of pace and schedule, but know it is coming and plan for it. Make sure to make time for yourself, take a mental health day if needed, and find your stress outlet before seeing negative effects.
Have any other advice for the class of 2015? Let me know in the comments.