Life & Work Skills

5 Lessons I Learned at My First Job—That Still Apply Today


The first of anything is difficult — your first time riding a bike, your first breakup, and your first move from home, just to name a few. Although we usually have an idea of how these experiences will turn out, they tend to be completely different when we actually face them.

For me, my first full-time job was one that opened my eyes to the world around me and to the traits inside me. With my college days over, I was faced with endless choices on my next move and no syllabus to tell me which was the right one. Through accepting my first full-time job, I not only learned the feeling of having a steady income, but also these five lessons that came out of it.


1. It’s okay if it’s not your dream job.

The reality is that you either don’t know what your dream job is or you don’t have the experience to land it — both scenarios may be frustrating, but both are a part of the process. Your first full-time job isn’t only your first taste of being an adult, but it’s also your first step in your career path.

Since we’re a generation known for instant gratification, we seem to be impatient when it comes to success. As someone guilty of this, I struggled to come to terms with the fact that my first full-time job wasn’t the one I was in love with — I wanted the life I imagined for myself and I wanted it right away. But by letting go of this expectation, I was able to appreciate the knowledge I gained and the coworkers I befriended.

Your first full-time job is meant to shape you as a person and a professional — it’ll challenge you to learn more about yourself, it’ll force you out of your comfort zone, and most importantly, it’ll help you decide where you want to go from there.


2. Showing initiative makes a difference.

Doing your work in a timely matter is good, but doing more than what you’re asked for is what will set you apart. Even if your passion for your job may not be there, your integrity should be. Personally, asking for more work at my first full-time job allowed me to gain skills to add to my credentials — and a nice recommendation letter from my previous manager.

Overall, the more effort you put into learning all that you can, the more skills you’ll acquire to make yourself a competitive candidate for your next job hunt. Who knows — you may even discover something you didn’t realize you enjoyed through keeping your mind open and your work schedule busy.


3. Your self-care should be prioritized.

I know — you’re young, free, and can do whatever you want. Even with this mindset and working 40 hours a week, I couldn’t seem to find the college version of myself that was able to function on three hours of sleep. It was disheartening to have to decline late-night dinners with my best friends on weekdays, and it was even harder to accept that I was outgrowing some of my friendships.

With having less time for yourself, it’s natural to become selective on what and how you spend the time you do have. In general, it’s important to take care of yourself — physically and emotionally. Prioritize the amount of hours you need to sleep in order to not be miserable the next day, invest in people who bring out the best in you, and don’t feel guilty about your potential life change. After all, if you don’t begin taking care of the one mind and body you have, who will?


4. You don’t have to stick to the plan you made for yourself.

Your first full-time job will bring you tears, happiness, and epiphanies. It’ll teach you the work environment you hope to be in, the tasks you love to do, and the direction you want to go with all of it.

If you’re anything like me, you already had a career path paved out in your mind with milestones for yourself at each age. However, this theory quickly disappeared once I realized that what I thought my career would be was nowhere close to what I wanted it to be. As simple as this sounded, it came with many months of me having an internal battle with myself — to take a leap of faith or to take a route I always imagined? (Spoiler: I leaped.)

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes the best thing we can do is to listen to our gut feelings and take a chances on ourselves — dig deep and don’t be afraid if what you discover you want to do isn’t the same as what you planned on doing.


5. Not everyone you work with will be someone you get along with.

We tend to pride ourselves on our ability to relate to others and seem to forget that there’s also an equally important skill — how easily we adjust when we don’t relate.

The truth is that you won’t be everyone’s favorite person and they won’t be yours. Whether you can list off reasons for why you can’t connect with a coworker or you’re at a loss for what the reasons are, the fact is that it’s no one’s fault.

As a naturally friendly person, this lesson was one that was especially hard for me – with my only solution being to accept it. Instead of trying to “prove” yourself or “fix” the situation, it’s important to recognize that you can’t force people to feel a certain way about you. Save yourself the extra stress by continuing to go along with your day and be cordial with your coworker when necessary. By giving the situation less attention, you’ll give your mind a break – and your actual workload the attention it deserves.


What lessons did you learn from your first full-time job?