I think sometimes people feel like they’ll fall into their dream job immediately after college. Some people do and that’s fantastic for them! I, however, wasn’t one of those people. I was excited about the job when I was offered the position, but I knew it wasn’t my dream job. And once I was in it I discovered that it certainly wasn’t. But, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to be in that position for a while. Here are some of the things that I learned as I settled into my first job after college–and a few from the job search. (These might even come in handy for those of you who were able to snag your dream job right away!)
Be open to different possibilities.
When looking for a job I think it can be easy to focus on one option. I want to be in this industry, I want to be in this type of position, what’s available? When I was looking for a job after college I knew what industries I was interested in and I knew that I wanted to get out of the industry that I was currently in. I ended up finding a job that was with the same company, so I didn’t go in the direction that I was hoping to right away. But, I gained so much experience in the time that I spent in that position. I had the chance to work with a lot of fantastic people and I picked up a lot of skills that have come in handy in my current job as well as in my personal life.
Don’t limit yourself.
If you see a position you’re interested in, but you’re not sure you’d get it, apply anyway. I saw the position that I eventually took when I first started looking for a job, but it was a big enough jump in level and pay that I didn’t think I’d get it if I applied. I eventually applied for a job that was just one step up and when I got to that interview the supervisor told me that she wasn’t going to hire me for the position, because as soon as I was able I would probably be looking for a new position. Then, she told me that she had looked through job postings and she thought I’d be suited for the position that I had passed by. It’s worth a shot to try!
Learn as much as you can.
In that position, I worked with Adobe InDesign, but I didn’t have any knowledge of the program before I took the job so they sent me to the Science Museum for training classes. My coworker and I received seasonal booklets with the computer classes that the Science Museum offered and whenever they’d come in, we’d flip through and think about what classes would help us develop skills that would be useful in our position. We also knew that these were skills that would look great on a resume. If you work for a company that is willing to train you, let them! Don’t take advantage of them; be sure that the training you receive will beneficial to them, but also keep in mind that the training will benefit you too.
If you work in an open office, be respectful.
When you work in an open office, people are going to be able to hear what’s happening at your desk. It can feel a little stifling at times to worry about how much noise you’re making. (My concern was always the questionable noises that the exercise ball I’d sometimes use as a chair made as it rubbed against the rubber mat by my desk whenever I moved.) But I also had the cubicle neighbor who played One Thousand Years on repeat one summer and fought with her ex-husband on the phone every day. That gets a little awkward!
Be sure to take breaks, even when it’s busy.
For a long time I had the hardest time stepping away from my desk–especially if we were busy. During those busy periods it was easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out with everything that needed to be done and the extremely short deadlines that we had sometimes. Eventually I started working for someone who would always end phone calls during busy periods with, “Make sure you go get lunch” or “Go take a walk.” I would always think, I don’t have time for that! But once I started taking her advice I learned that I didn’t have time not to take a break. Stepping away from my desk, even if it was just for five minutes, and getting out of the office was like a breath of fresh air. It helped to ease my stress and I didn’t feel as overwhelmed. I always returned to my desk feeling slightly rejuvenated and more prepared to tackle the task at hand.
Don’t burn bridges.
When you find a new job and the time comes to say goodbye, don’t burn bridges. Keep in mind proper etiquette when leaving your position. I’ve watched people leave their jobs on a blaze of glory that wasn’t so glorious or in ways that have left people scratching their heads. You never know when you’ll run into the people you once worked with again and, as former colleagues, if you leave on good terms, you might be able to use them as references in the future. I also think it’s nice to do what you can to make things easier for your coworkers after you’re gone. It’s something that I would appreciate if the situation was reversed and it will, hopefully, leave a lasting impression.
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