Finding your ideal first job can be tough. Really tough. Finding any job is hard. And while you certainly don’t have to settle for any job, you shouldn’t pass up good jobs because they’re not ideal jobs.
How do you know if a job is a good job?
Here are the three most important things you should consider:
Your first job should be about laying a foundation. Be open to opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone and where you’ll be building a skill set that can be used in future jobs.
In my first job (at Koru partner company Investor Group Services), I developed important skills in Excel, Powerpoint, data analysis, and organizing and presenting my ideas. Those are an excellent foundation, but the one that has served me best over the years was the one that I enjoyed the least at the time. I spent a portion of every day cold calling companies to conduct research for our projects. Cold calling is not glamorous. You get a lot of rejection, but that builds grit. Cold calling also taught me how to sell, and sales — in one form or another — is the only skill you’ll use in every job you ever have.
Size of company
Big name companies are attractive, of course, but don’t fix your mindset on working at a household brand. Chances are, you’ll get the chance to learn more and move up faster at a small (but growing) startup.
Why? Because at a smaller company, your role will be more flexible, enabling you to learn new skills by tackling multiple projects. At a bigger company, your role is more likely to be set and while you’ll still gain great experience, you may not get as many opportunities to try new things, prove yourself, and move up fast.
The “Open Doors Test”
Many college seniors and recent grads (and also seasoned professionals!) don’t know what they want to do with their career. It’s totally normal.
While it’s OK to not know where what direction you want your career to take, before accepting any role, you should always ask yourself, “Does this job keep doors to new future opportunities open? Or does this job limit my ability to change careers and jobs going forward?”
For example, if you choose to go into sales as your first job, you’ll have a lot of doors open going forward. As I mentioned before, every job requires sales to some degree. Perhaps it’s not selling a product to a customer, but learning to influence is one of the most important things anyone can learn in a professional environment.
Customer service is another example that many recent grads (wrongly) don’t pay enough attention to. Many companies hire into customer service to get the new employee grounded with the brand and experience what it is like to work closely with customers. From here, all doors are open. Prove yourself in customer service and you can typically switch roles to something else after a year.
The point is — think about the longer term and keep doors open.
So, when looking to start your career, think about these things:
Developing a strong foundation of skills
The company environment
Your first job doesn’t have to be perfect. It probably won’t be. But it should put you on a path to something bigger and better.