Your First Job: What To Expect When You’re Accepting

Congrats, you got the job! It should come with more than a firm handshake.

You’ve received your degree. You’ve had your interviews. And now, you’ve landed a job. This is it… What all the old folks meant when they said, “you think school is bad, wait until you get a job.”

The good news is, it’s not so bad. And, if you land the right job, it’s pretty great. You’ll be well on your way to a long and rewarding career.

But how do you know if you’ve landed the right job?

Depending on how many interviews you’ve had, you might feel like you’ll be happy with any job. My advice: Don’t settle, you’ve earned this! You’ve invested years getting ready for this, and your reward should be a job that is exciting, engaging, and fulfilling.

Your first job (or any job for that matter) won’t be perfect, but there are some basic things that I think you should look for.

In a nutshell, your first job/employers should:

  • Pay Appropriately – A professor once told me to “find a job you love. Don’t worry about money, it will come.” While I agree with his sentiment (i.e keep your expectations realistic), you should absolutely be paid appropriately for your efforts (the company you work for is making money off of you afterall). While I can’t tell you how much your services are worth, you should be able to live off of a starting salary. If you can’t make ends meet, or feel like you’re being taken advantage of, you probably are. And remember, by accepting a job for less than you’re worth, you are potentially lowering the pay-scale for all your peers.
  • Involve You in Projects – You are a member of the team now, and you should be thoroughly involved in projects. If you find yourself doing random, unrelated tasks everyday, talk with your boss and let them know (it may not be intentional). When random tasks are provided, you should be given an explanation of the project to help you understand how the task you’re completing fits in the broader project.
  • Respect Your Opinions – You may be nervous at first about providing your opinions, but this will change quickly as your confidence grows. Regardless, when you give an opinion, it should always be received and considered. Even if it’s a terrible idea (I’ve been there), your colleagues should provide constructive feedback – this is how you learn.
  • Encourage Your Growth – Employers and colleagues should know your interests and strengths (you told them, right?), and whenever possible, involve you in projects that will foster these. Similarly, you should be allowed and encouraged to obtain credentials, attend conferences, etc. that will help you grow professionally. Anything you achieve professionally reflects well on your employer, but you should look for opportunities that are mutually beneficial and help to further your long-term goals. Note – Conferences are often very expensive to attend, so you may be expected to present if you are looking to attend – don’t be shy, this is awesome!
  • Respect Your Time – Next week’s post will focus more on overtime, and what’s an appropriate amount of overtime to work. Spoiler alert – Your first job will likely require a fair amount of overtime. Much of this is because you’re new, and less efficient at getting tasks done (though your employer should recognize this as well). Bottom line – there are times when overtime can’t be avoided and you should bite the bullet. However, you should always be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you are (or even think you are) working overtime so your company does not have to hire another person, you are being taken advantage of. This is especially true if you are on salary and are not compensated for the extra hours. You may also hear people say, “so and so works a lot of overtime because they won’t say no.” Ignore these people – even if this is true, it does not make it okay. As a new employee (in a tough job market), it’s very hard to say no to your boss.
  • Treat You Equally – Aside from a general adjustment period (where you get to know everyone), you should not be made to feel like “the new person.” There are elements of every job that are not very glorious – these should be shared among all staff. You should help out wherever you can, and have a positive attitude, but unless you want to, you should not be the person who gets coffee everyday, cleans the kitchen, does the tasks that no one else wants, etc. Just be careful not to confuse this with tasks that you’re asked to do because they are appropriate for your experience level. Chances are that more senior staff were also responsible for these tasks when they started, and this is an opportunity to be involved and gain valuable experience.

These are things I think you should be aware of when accepting a new job, and that you should keep in the back of your mind through your first few months (and even years) on the job. But of course, this pales in comparison to the potential awesomeness of being a working-person, and finally getting to apply the skills you’ve worked so hard to obtain. And while no job will ever be perfect, my general rule of thumb is that “as long as you do not dread Monday’s, you’re doing okay.”

As always, if there is anything in this post you would like me to follow-up on, let me know!

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