Do you remember your first job? Maybe you were a babysitter during high school or you currently work as a barista at a coffee shop near campus. Perhaps you started a side hustle or picked up a summer job for some extra cash, even though you didn’t see yourself committing to the role for a long time (like my partner, who shares funny stories about his first job at a grocery store). Often, you might dismiss your first job as simply “a way to just get by” or as a stepping stone to your future career goal. However, when you think about your first job as “just” a job, you erase the value it has had on your career and life.
If you think back to your first job and don’t feel like you gained much from it, you’re not alone. Maybe your job responsibilities didn’t feel particularly meaningful at the time, or the role wasn’t relevant to your goals. However, in hindsight, there are probably some important lessons you gained. For example, did you learn to cope with stress after dealing with a difficult coworker? Were there other learning experiences that came up? Even the role wasn’t what you envisioned, your first job may have been more pivotal than you think.
“Your first job may not seem ‘related’ to your current career path, but there’s usually a silver lining.”
Maybe your first “job” was a grueling internship where you were told to get coffee and make copies for your boss 24/7. As frustrating as it probably was, maybe you learned about speed, efficiency, and flexibility on the job. Or, maybe you were always put on the bagging shift at the grocery store, which didn’t feel significant at the time. But think again: You not only know not to pack the bread at the bottom of the bag, but you also understand how to think on your feet and quickly adapt to different circumstances — making you a great candidate for any job.
Your first job may not have been “related” to your current career path or the one you’re dreaming about — but there’s usually a hidden silver lining. Maybe your first job involved heavy lifting and stocking shelves, and now you want to work in finance. Although “heavy lifting” might seem completely irrelevant to your career goal, maybe those strenuous tasks gave you the skill of managing small details, which is perfect for a career in finance. If your first job was as a barista, the job probably forced you to retain lots of information and keep track of many things at once — after all, it takes focus to make the perfect cappuccino! If you’re hoping to work in journalism, retaining information from sources and applying it successfully to your story is key. Again, even small, seemingly unrelated experiences can help you in future roles — so never forget that first job.
“Even small, seemingly unrelated experiences can help you in future roles.”
A survey conducted by BestColleges found that of 817 college students, 61% said that they would change their choice of undergraduate major if they could go back — primarily because their passions have changed. Gen Z is redefining the meaning of “work” by striving for goals on their own terms and even leaving 9-to-5 jobs that no longer make sense for them. If anything, this serves as a reminder that it’s okay to pursue different experiences, and your path doesn’t have to stay the same. If your current job has deviated from where you started, you’re right on track.
Remember that every single job matters, whether you realize it or not — so don’t dismiss your early career experiences, especially the ones that seem totally irrelevant! And if your current job isn’t your dream one, be patient and know that every experience can teach you something. And at the end of the day, every job you pick up will give you more skills to push you toward what makes you truly passionate.