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7 Things College Grads Wish They Knew Before Entering The Workforce

Starting your first job is extremely exciting. You’ll need to shop for a new wardrobe, get into a new routine and open yourself up to a world of learning. Though beginning your first job is a great step for your career, there are a couple things you may not be prepared for. We talked to recent college grads to have them weigh in on what they wish they knew before starting their careers!

1. There are generational differences to get used to

No matter what company you work for, there is a high chance you’ll be collaborating with someone who is in a different generational bracket than you. While you may think sending a quick text to your older coworkers is okay, non-millenials might rather you send them an email or pick up the phone to get your message across.

Use your first couple of weeks to feel out your coworkers’ personalities and quirks.

2. Your first job may not be your dream job

There aren’t many people who start off their careers in their dream jobs—it’s a bummer, we know! If you’re lucky enough to grab an internship or an entry-level position in a field that you’re interested in, you may have to work your way to the job that you’ve always dreamed of.

“Your first job may not be your dream job—and that’s okay!” says Kayla Lewkowicz, a Marketing Coordinator at Litmus Software. “Be prepared for the post-college letdown… just don’t let it drag on for months!”

Think about the experience you’re gaining and how much stronger your resume will be after any job you’ve held. If you focus on the positive, you’ll be able to move on from the fact that though you may not be in your dream role, you’re working your way towards it.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Your Focus at Work

3. Your social life may take a hit

Now that you’ve started your new job, you may be super busy learning your new role, networking with your co-workers, and getting used to your new routine. You may no longer be able to hang with friends during the week nights because you have to get up early the next day, or because you’re exhausted from working a 9-to-5.

“It’s much more difficult to maintain friendships in the real world,” Kayla says. “I didn’t know how much effort it would really take to stay connected and see my friends, but the effort is always worth it.”

4. Company culture can make or break you

As much as you’re focused on getting the job, you should also be honed in on the company’s culture. When you go in for an interview, ask to take a tour of the office and pay attention to how the employees act. Do they look like they’re enjoying their jobs or are they sulking at their desks? Is it a social atmosphere or is it more quiet? You might not think it’s a big deal while you’re on your interview (you may be excited to just have one!), but making sure the company culture fits in with your personality is important.

“The company culture matters just as much as your role and your daily responsibilities,” says Alaina Leary, a graduate student at Emerson College who works in publishing. “After I graduated, I was a paid, full-time intern at a terrific start-up. Three times a week, we went out to lunch. We watched Shark Tank and Silicon Valley together on a weekly basis. We had fun team meetings. We went for walks around Cambridge and talked about MIT and Harvard. The company culture was relaxed, but hard-working, and everyone stayed late and worked to get things done and problems solved.”

Kayla Alexander, a 2015 graduate of the University of South Carolina, also thinks company culture is a big thing to be aware of. “Company culture really impacts your job,” says Kayla. “I’ve had two jobs since I graduated, both with extremely different company cultures, and I definitely saw a tremendous decrease in my productivity level, going from a family-like structure to a more conservative one. Of course it takes time to get to know people and build those relationships, but it was definitely a shift!”

5. Time management skills are a priority

Having great time management skills is a priority in any job. It allows you to complete your work in an efficient way and you learn to prioritize which tasks need your immediate attention and which tasks you can leave on the back-burner for a little while.

“Not only is working full-time for the first time a huge life change, the 8-hour day is long and it’s important to know how to prioritize without getting stressed,” says Jenna Kapsis, a graduate student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “I feel like there was minimal preparation for the real world in college, and I wish every college would offer a time-management course. It should offer tips on how to plan your days, how to maintain a healthy work-life balance and how to effectively work with other team members and managers.”

Related: 5 Steps to Take After an Interview to Ensure You Get the Job

6. Don’t settle

It’s important not to settle for a role that you know you may not be happy in. Just because the offer is attractive and it’s a job, make sure that you’re working for a company you’re interested in, and that you’ll be doing a job that can be a stepping stone for the future!

“I took a high-paying job at a company because it was an attractive offer and I had secured it before my second semester of senior year,” says PhyuSin Tan, a 2015 graduate of Mount Holyoke College. “I thought I had it locked down and was very enthusiastic about working, only to be faced with disorganization within the firm that really killed my motivation. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do, but understand that job satisfaction is incredibly important!”

Meghan Gibbons, a 2014 graduate from Boston College, makes another great point. “In applying to jobs in general, I wish that I had went more for something of interest [and] that I had more personal skills in than what my degree should get me a job in,” Meghan says. “There are many skills that I acquired outside of the classroom in college that I miss applying daily and feel would make my work day more enjoyable and eventful.”

7. Admin work can make you go far

Being an administrative assistant might not sound all that exciting, but taking on this role can potentially propel your career to new heights—so don’t write it off right away!

Take it from Emma St. Laurent, a 2013 graduate of Salve Regina, who is in a different career than where she started, and believes that her admin experience is what got her there. “My degree in college was Communications and all my internship experience was public relations-focused,” says Emma. “By the end of my internship, I decided to switch gears. I ended up switching to the real estate industry and worked as an admin for a developer. I’m still with the same company and I’ve honestly learned so much about the industry through the people I work with. If you are an admin and are serious about your job and work hard, people will notice. I’ve had two promotions and I’m training for my third now!”

Landing your first job can be a mixture of excitement and nerves, but as long as you do your best to prepare yourself for what’s ahead, you’ll be ready to take on anything!

Kristen graduated from Rutgers University in 2010 and holds a BA in Journalism and Media Studies. She fulfilled her childhood dream of writing for a teen magazine when she interned with J-14 and Popstar! magazine. She's also gotten the chance to write for Teen.com, OK! magazine and Clevver.com. Some of her favorite things include iced coffee, summer, travelling, and all things yellow. Kristen's claim to fame? She can lick her elbow!
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