Why Your First Job After College Matters Less Than You Think
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The summer internship season is now in full swing. Whether you're one of those interns or now managing an intern, you may be thinking about the next step in your career. Today we're taking a moment to celebrate the fact that careers unfold in many different ways. Your first (or even second) job out of college may not be what you envisioned, but that doesn’t mean you will be suffering the consequences for the rest of your career. Here are 5 reasons why your first jobs after graduation matters less than you think.
1. Job-hopping is more common these days, which means that in a few years, nobody will question that you took a couple years to “find yourself”, or experiment with a career interest.
Perhaps you started out in the workforce thinking that your ideal job was to try to make a difference in the world at a non-profit you believed in, only to find that you were weighed down in daily bureaucracy rather than truly having the impact you imagined. Or perhaps it’s the opposite situation and you feel that your first job has turned you off corporate life forever.
Whatever the situation, few employers think their employees will be “lifers.” With the average job tenure under 5 years across the entire labor force, and an even higher rate of job-switching among millennials, job hopping simply isn’t stigmatized as much as it used to be. You will still need to have an explanation for why you are changing jobs, but with a little rehearsing, you can frame a compelling story.
2. People understand a difficult economy can limit a post-college graduate’s choices.
Sometimes the reason you end up taking a job is as a distant concession to getting a paycheck, or moving out of your parent’s house. Depending on the economy, that might be a totally reasonable (partial) explanation for a job-switch in a subsequent interview. It shows responsibility, the ability to take action on a back-up plan, and honesty. Reasonable hiring managers who have lived through economic peaks and troughs understand that timing and luck matter in terms of getting your first job. While you don’t need to dwell on this explanation if you need to make it, there are ways of talking about this without “playing the victim.”
3. If you really need to make a big detour, you can still go back to get a graduate degree.
Many times, graduate school (whether that’s to get a Master’s Degree, an MBA or other professional degree) is a way for people to really make a big career change. Sure, it takes an investment in tuition and years of additional schooling in some cases, but if you’re looking to make a big change, this is a well-trodden path.
4. Time is on your side.
If you’re a typical student, you’re in your early 20’s and nobody who’s been in the workforce for a few years expects you to have a perfectly linear resume. In fact, detours can be easily made and explained during the interview process because hiring managers and interviewers will assume you were exploring your career options. Skills earned in entry-level positions are often easily transferrable — powerpoint presentations, and social media accounts, anyone? In other words, you have time to change industries with the skills you learned in your first job, even if it’s not your ideal position.
5. You are learning something valuable in your job, even if you think you aren’t.
Whatever the situation may be, remember that possibly the biggest lesson your first job teaches you is what it means to have a job, period. First and foremost, it means fulfilling responsibilities, being punctual, getting along with colleagues and learning what it means to work for money. If you’ve realized you made a turn in the wrong direction, you decades of your working life ahead of you to get back on track but those learnings are as applicable whether you are working at Starbucks or at Goldman Sachs.
With your LinkedIn profile for all the world to see, it may feel like there’s incredible pressure to start building a picture-perfect resume and professional career path from the day you leave college. With a few more years, you’ll be able to see that your anxiety wasn’t necessary and that in reality, almost every career option was still open to you during the years right after college. Hopefully, you’ll realize that now and be able to plan your next move with greater confidence.
What career advice would you give young women starting out in the job market? Join the conversation in our community and share what you know with other women in the workplace!
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