Ready to launch your career? Here’s what to expect from your first job out of college.
You’ve graduated college — congratulations! You are now ready to enter the professional world and start building your career with your first job out of college. The prospect can be very exciting and more than a little intimidating.
Remember how big your college campus seemed when you first arrived as a freshman? You were unfamiliar with the buildings and there were a lot of new people. But by your sophomore and junior year, you had it all figured out. As a senior, you felt as comfortable at college as you did at home.
Get ready to feel like a freshman again. Your first job out of college is a foray into the unknown, but that doesn’t mean you have to go into it completely blind. Here are few things you should expect from your first job after college. But first, what does "entry level" even mean?
What does “entry level” mean in terms of your first job after college?
Just like it sounds, an entry-level job is meant to get your foot in the door at a company. It may not require a lot of the specific skills that are expected of higher-level employees — it’s a training ground for new employees. However, the competition can be steep, so don’t assume you’ll get the first job you apply for just because you have that shiny new degree. You’ll need to think carefully about what you accomplished in college outside of the classroom and frame that properly on your resume. Did you have a part-time job, an internship, or work-study? Perhaps you were the leader of a campus organization. Anything that you can leverage to show that you’ve learned discipline and leadership skills can help give you an edge over the competition.
Now that you know what “entry level” means, here’s what you should expect when you land the job.
You need to be communicative
The ability to communicate clearly and effectively both in person and in print is an essential part of most businesses. Employers look for that in candidates — especially when it comes to entry-level candidates. An applicant with a strong resume but poor communication skills may lose out to a lesser qualified candidate who knows how to get his or her point across clearly.
Why? Because the same holds true after the person is hired. In today’s workforce, the ability to communicate is crucial. Whether it’s person to person, in meetings, or via email, communication skills are a must-have for employees at any level. But don’t just declare that you’re a good communicator; employers need to see it in action.
Make note of any internships, jobs, or even hobbies that showcased your ability to communicate verbally or otherwise. Most importantly, when you are looking for that entry-level job, make sure that everything they see shows how well you communicate. Your Linkedin bio, other social media, and especially your cover letter should be interesting and clearly get your message across.
If you do all of those well, you’ll set the table for a great first interview.
You won't get paid a lot
Most entry-level jobs come with entry-level pay. Think carefully before you accept a job offer. This will likely be your pay for the next year. Most employers do not negotiate or give raises after three or six months anymore. On the bright side, while it may not pay as much as you were hoping to make, it’s probably a lot more than you were making in college.
Remember, it’s not about this job; it’s about where this first job out of college can take you. Do you know what you want to be doing in five years? Think about it because employers will ask, and they want to know that you have a plan.
You won’t get the “fun” tasks
You chose your field of study with certain jobs in mind. However, those jobs are probably at the higher end of the pay scale. For your first job out of college, you will find yourself doing things that may seem menial or beneath you. There are a few reasons for this.
First, as an entry-level employee, you’re at the lower end of the pay scale, therefore the lower-end tasks go to you. Secondly, and this is really important for you to realize quickly, you’re being tested.
If you want to get bigger, more exciting tasks to handle at your new job, you need to knock those trivial ones out of the park. Don’t just shuffle through them. Take care of your assignments and maybe even see if there is a better way to do them. When you show that you can handle these little jobs, and handle them well, you’ll earn the opportunity to get cooler assignments.
You need to embrace variety
Not only will you be doing things that may seem trivial to you, but they may not be relevant to your field of study at all. This can be challenging or even frustrating, but at this stage of your career, you can do yourself a big favor by embracing these diverse tasks. Why? By engaging yourself fully in a variety of jobs, you will give yourself a chance to discover what you really like to do. Maybe what you thought you’d like isn’t what you do best.
In any case, you’ll want to work to the best of your ability at this first job. Even if you find out what you don’t like doing, that can help you guide your career.
Your attitude matters more than ever
In college, you just needed to get your work done and done well. Once you enter the workforce, there’s a lot more to it. It’s not just what you do and how well it’s done — it’s how you do it. Do you roll your eyes when given an undesirable task? Do you pay attention in meetings, or are you zoned out or playing with your phone? Once you have a foothold on your career path, it’s not just about getting the work done, it’s about finding better ways to do it. Always be engaged and enthusiastic.
Does this mean you can’t challenge your boss on certain things? Absolutely not. If you believe you’re being treated unfairly or need a change of scenery, you need to speak up for yourself. Get your thoughts together and have a detailed argument for your points. A good boss respects an employee who is willing to speak up when they have a legitimate complaint.
You have more to worry about than just yourself now
You’ve grown used to being on your own and realizing that the choices you make impact your life. Once you join a new company in your new first job out of college, there’s more to it. It’s not just about you. The choices you make can affect those in your department or even across the whole company.
Sick days are a great example of this. They’re willing to pay you not to come to work when you don’t feel good. How cool is that? However, think about what will happen at work if you do call in sick. Who has to cover for you? Will they have to call someone else in on their day off? Will another worker be responsible for their own job plus yours?
You’re part of a team now, and while it’s okay to use sick days when you’re really sick, you have to be aware of how your choices affect the rest of your team. This same mode of thinking needs to go into every work decision that you make. Your employer needs to know that they can depend on you.
Learn all you can
Just because you’ve finished college doesn’t mean that you’re done learning. If you’re smart, you’re just beginning. First jobs out of college come with their challenges: the pay is not great, you may not love every task assigned to you, and everything that you do will be judged.
Still, accept the challenge. Think of it as a one-year boot camp to gain entry into the career of your dreams. Don’t just do the job — excel at it every day. The fastest way out of the entry-level category is to do exceptional work. In no time, you’ll feel like you did as a senior in college. You’ll be comfortable, happy, and in charge of your own destiny again.
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