Instead of working that nine-to-five you’ve always dreamed of after graduation, you might be starting a job that isn’t exactly a perfect fit for you. Maybe you have few responsibilities, long hours or a lengthy commute—but don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world! Besides making money to pay off those troublesome loans, here are a few more reasons why it’s okay you didn’t land your dream job right away as well as some tips from experts on how to work towards it.
1. You’ll be able to gain helpful work experience for the future
Although it may not be your number one choice, your current job can serve as an opportunity to gain experience in your field. If you didn’t have enough time to balance an internship while taking classes during the school year, this is the perfect time to gain the hands-on experience you need to get the job you want. Most employers typically want job candidates with a year or two of previous work experience in the field, whether it’s for an entry-level position or higher. This job will give you a chance to build your resume, and since you’ll have more time on your hands, you can take on more tasks to improve your skills within your desired field. You’ll be ready to wow your dream employer with what you’ve learned in no time.
2. You’ll have the opportunity to network effectively
Networking at your current job is important for many reasons. Just knowing the right people can help you advance your career by opening up job opportunities or landing you a great recommendation. Lesley Mitler, president of career coaching service Priority Candidates, Inc., says you should definitely take the time to get to know your coworkers and participate in any events you can. Holiday parties, sports teams and volunteer work with your coworkers will help you establish relationships you can count on in the future. “You can learn something of value from everyone you work with and work for,” she says.
Marcy Williams, CEO of Commonwealth Management and Consulting, says “in order to obtain your dream job, you should surround yourself with people that already have what you desire.” Attending work functions will help you create contacts and introduce you to people in your field and possibly a job opportunity. “Oftentimes, your dream job is waiting for you, but you need to be in the ‘know’ in order to know,” Williams says. Who knows, maybe one of your newly found contacts has a friend at your dream company who can help you out!
3. You can define your dream job more narrowly
You might have an idea of what your dream job looks like, but oftentimes the reality is different from the image you have in your mind. Your current job can help you figure out exactly what you want and what you don’t want in your dream job—whether that means the size of the company or its structure. You can also learn about your preferred specifics, such as travel time, location or career advancement opportunities.
“There will be aspects to any job that you enjoy and other parts that you find less enjoyable,” Mitler says. Not only will you learn what is important to you when you search for your dream job, but you will also learn more about yourself. For example, what type of management style do you respond to best? What are some of your strengths and weaknesses at this type of job? By figuring out which tasks you do well and which ones need work, you can gear yourself towards a specific job within the career you want.
4. You’ll have more opportunities to move up in the future
Your first job right after college can be the first step in moving up the ladder of success. Sometimes starting out at the bottom end of a company is the perfect way to prove you belong there, even if it’s at a different department or branch. “No matter what job you are in, your goal should be to excel and impress,” Mitler says.
While you may not be doing exactly what you want to be doing, this is the perfect opportunity to show employers what you can do. Working hard at your current job can help you get noticed and maybe even promoted, but it’s also a good idea to take on more responsibilities outside of your job description. By helping out another team or department, employers are sure to notice you!
5. You can polish your skills
This is your chance to acquire the necessary skills in your field in order to perform better at your dream job. Research the required skills of the company in which you want to work and perfect them in order to make you a better candidate. Use your current job to show potential employers that your skill sets align with what your dream job requires. Take advantage of opportunities at your current position to learn new leadership or time management skills you will need in the future. Asking for extra responsibility can help you become more knowledgeable in the field. Mitler says you should understand the skills you need to transition to your dream job and build them at your current job.
6. You’ll be able to earn a higher salary in the future
Since some salaries are based on work experience, your current job can actually help you when it comes to making more money! More work experience after graduation could potentially mean you’ll be earning a higher salary when you do finally land your dream job. Employers usually want job candidates who really know what they’re doing, so what you learn from your current job will give you more room to negotiate your pay.
Landing your dream job right out of college is definitely challenging for many collegiettes in today’s economy. If you have a job but it’s not exactly what you wanted, remember to always do your best work while continuing to work towards your goal. Sometimes your current job can actually benefit you in your search!