Career & Finance

6 Important Things to Keep in Mind at Your Very First Job


Your very first job is undoubtedly exciting—after all, it’s really your first introduction to the big, thrilling real world (if you will). But, that doesn’t necessarily mean your first gig turns out to be everything you ever dreamed it would be. Hey, sometimes it takes a while to settle into a career that truly makes you feel fulfilled.

When I completed my bachelor’s degree, I had anticipated marching off the college graduation stage with my diploma in hand and then immediately taking the working world by storm. Yes, I had plans to use my journalism education to truly make a difference.

But, after a long six months of job-hunting, I finally landed my first full-time position as a receptionist at a commercial photography studio. It wasn’t exactly the grand entrance to adulthood I had been hoping for—especially since the position had absolutely nothing to do with journalism.

However, I simply needed a paycheck to pay the bills. So, I figured I could either wallow in my own misery over my unused degree or I could work to make the best of the situation I was in.

As you can probably guess, I chose the latter option. And, while that first position wasn’t exactly my dream gig, it still ended up being a great step in my career history.

Accepting a first position that may not necessarily check all of the boxes on your “perfect job” checklist might be a little disheartening—particularly when you’re so excited to get started. Believe me, I get it. But, it’s important to remember that your first job definitely won’t be your last, so you should do your best to make the most of it.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, here are six important things you should remember about your very first job. Commit them to memory—they’ll make all the difference in your attitude and outlook.

1. You Have to Start Somewhere

Steve Jobs got his start with a summer job at an HP factory. Oprah started out hosting a low-rated Chicago morning talk show. Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick dropped out of college in order to start a business that ended up filing bankruptcy to avoid a lawsuit.

The point is, very few people stumble off their college campuses and straight into success. Instead, almost everybody needs to start at the bottom first. And it’s really a valuable opportunity to find out more about your strengths and skills.

So, yes, there might be times when it’s tough to be at the very bottom of the pecking order. But, trust me, almost everybody’s been there!

2. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

Here’s another great thing about just getting started: You’re essentially a sponge. You’re just dipping your toes into the working pond and literally every opportunity presents a chance to try something new.

Starting your very first job can be a little daunting—no matter what it is. But don’t be so intimidated that you end up sitting meekly in the corner in an effort to avoid rocking the boat. Instead, be the employee that doesn’t turn things down.

The challenging assignment that will push you to your limits? It’s your chance to hone some new skills. That incredibly tight deadline? Well, it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate your value.

Say yes to any opportunity you think could (or will) benefit you—even if it makes your stomach leap into your throat.

Say yes to any opporunity that you think could (or will) benefit you.

3. Your Dream Job Might Take Time

We probably all have unrealistic expectations about our first positions. But it’s important to keep in mind that your first job likely isn’t going to be your dream job.

Remember that whole lesson about having to start at the bottom of the ladder? Well, sometimes it takes people years to really settle into a job or career that they absolutely love. And, even those “perfect” jobs have tasks and duties that are still groan worthy.

So, don’t be discouraged by your first job’s downsides. Good things take time.

4. Never Burn Bridges

If you’re anything like me, this is something your parents have drilled into your head since you started working your first summer job in high school. And, as painful as it can be to admit when my parents were right, this age-old advice definitely holds some truth.

Your first job is the entry to your entire career, and gaining professional contacts is important for building a reputation and expanding your network. And you also want that network to think highly of you.

So, when you end up bidding adieu to that first position, it’s important to do so with the utmost courtesy and professionalism—even if you secretly loathed the job. So your parents were right—you never know where or when that boss could pop up in your future.

5. Comparison Gets You Nowhere

Seeing how you measure up to others is pretty much human nature. And it’s particularly prevalent when you and all of your friends and acquaintances are landing your first jobs. You want to see where you land on the success scale.

But constantly comparing your first gig to others is really just an unproductive waste of your time. It only channels your energy into something that has no impact on your career and daily life. And you could be using that time toward productive, career boosting activities.

Plus, you shouldn’t forget that everything isn’t always as it seems. Your high school friend that constantly gloats about her “amazing” tech startup job on Instagram? Of course she’s not going to share that she spends her entire day making copies and getting coffee.

Remember, you’re only getting the highlight reel of everyone else’s careers. There’s really no use in seeing how you measure up to something that isn’t even true.

Remember, you’re only getting the highlight reel of everyone else’s careers.

6. You’re Gaining Something

Alright, so maybe you’re the one stuck making copies and doing coffee runs. I know it can be frustrating and discouraging to feel underused and underappreciated at work.

But, regardless of what your daily duties entail, remind yourself that you’re getting something out of this very first job. Whether it’s new and improved skills, more professional connections, or even simply more experience that you can use to fill out your resume, you definitely won’t walk away empty handed. Hey, at the very least, you’re getting a paycheck.

We’d all be thrilled to start our careers with jobs we love and adore. But, more likely than not, your first job will leave a little (or a lot) to be desired. While there are many aspects of your position you can’t control, you can control how you respond to them.

So, if you’re currently in a first job (or, really, any job) that isn’t quite everything you had hoped for, remind yourself of these six sentiments. They’re sure to give you some fresh perspective!

Remember your first job? What did you do to make the most of it?