Job Jitters

First Job

Speaking to recent graduates, they all have advice about life after college. What are the major issues facing students in their first job?

You probably asked the same question about the shift from high school to college. Graduating from college and entering your first job is both exciting and stressful. Gone are your concerns over term papers and finals; now worries about corporate politics and proving yourself are major issues. There are ways to leverage your education, intelligence and values to establish yourself in the professional world.

The pressures mount up as you approach your finals and face the prospect of getting out into the working world. This is one of the most stressful times you'll experience and there will be many questions about what the future holds. You'll be balancing the need to wrap up your college time with the need to apply for jobs after graduation. It's a chaotic time.

A number of issues arise when making the transition from college student to productive employee. You'll need to radically change your lifestyle to adapt. Firstly, your time management will be challenged, especially if you're used to late classes and days off. In the workplace, you will need to be punctual, every day. Bosses do not look favorably on those that are often late. At college, you'll have been used to a lot of vacation time and long weekends, this is all about to change. Companies are generally not generous with time off, you'll be lucky to get a two-week vacation the first year in your first job.

You quickly discover that college has not prepared you for the workplace. Being a professional employee has different demands from being a student. You need to master teamwork, inter-personal relationships with other colleagues, networking, negotiation, decision making, and project management. On top of those, you need to manage your own finances and balance your working life with your family and social lives. Professionalism comes with a greater level of responsibility than you are used to at college. Getting it wrong in college resulted in a lower grade, while getting it wrong in the workplace can have far greater consequences.

Be prepared that your first job is not what you expected, as many graduates change jobs after the first year. It takes that long to figure out what you want in your career and personal life. Another misconception is that your college major dictates your field of employment, which you soon learn is false. The vast majority of jobs just require a college degree, some only a high school diploma, and only the specialist ones such as engineering or accounting need a specific major.

Having a college degree does not entitle you to a job and finding work will be harder than you anticipated. You'll learn that employers are not impressed with your academic qualifications. A single job opening can get hundreds of resumes, so do not get discouraged when you are not hired quickly. Perseverance and patience are two qualities you need over the coming year.

Your career is your business. It’s time for you to manage it as a CEO - Dorit Sher.

(Suzanne Hite is a former publications editor serving the technology services sector).


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