When I graduated college, the only question I got from everyone was “do you have a job lined up?” So when I was finally offered a job in the publishing industry just one week after I graduated, I was stoked to take the offer, even though that wasn't necessarily the field I want to be in. I started my first big girl job a week after graduation, but little did I know it would be one of the worst experiences of my life.
My first couple of days on the job were great. Everyone was really nice, my training was going pretty well and I even had my own office — something I didn’t think I would earn for a number of years. But then the vibes went from good, to weird, to absolutely awful. My position was supposed to be as an editor, but my responsibilities quickly went from helping with the physical publications to sending miscellaneous email being all I did for eight-hours a day, 40 hours a week. I figured this was normal, and that I was new and young and probably had to pay a few dues before I got to work on the important projects. I was eager to see how I would fit in the publishing industry and ready to learn anything I could to someday advance.
Had I felt like I was learning anything or that I would have gotten a good resume booster from the job, I would have stayed. But since the responsibilities didn't align with my role, I didn't see the benefit, especially since a career in the field wasn’t my endgame.
There’s a lot of pressure on recent grads to take whatever they can get. While you shouldn’t turn your nose up at opportunities, you should always consider whether or not a position is helping you to advance in your career. Read the Glassdoor reviews, and wait for an opportunity that is valuable in an environment that is supportive.
Here are some tips and things to look out for when you’re fresh out of college and eager to get to work, without getting stuck in a role that's not right for you.
Don't be afraid to ask questions in the interview.
When interviewing, I was so anxious and eager to please that I didn’t care about what the company had to offer me in return for working for them. I had the questions in my mind, but I didn’t ask them out of fear of looking like a problem. I wondered about the benefits, what kind of vacation I would start out with, if there were going to be opportunities to advance in the company, what kind of things would I be learning… but I wanted the job, so I smiled politely and asked whatever empty question was the first to pop up on my Google search. Put yourself and your values first, always.
Don’t say yes right away.
Even if you’re absolutely sure you want to take the job, sit on it for at least a day. Do not ever feel pressured to accept an offer right away. Talk to your friends or family about it. If you find yourself saying “yeah, it’s a good start” between deep breaths, you’re probably not excited about the job. Really take time to think through whether or not this is a good option for you personally and professionally.
I stopped applying the moment I got the offer because, well, why did I need to keep applying if I already had a job? I figured I would start applying when I clocked in about a year at this first job. Big mistake. You never know what you could still reel in by keeping your LinkedIn notifications on or applying to that dream job you thought you couldn’t get.
Check in with yourself every month.
Yes. Every month. Really evaluate your time at your job. Are you content there? Are you learning anything? Do you feel valued? Do you think you’re making connections professionally and personally?
Remember that you don’t owe anything to corporations.
You are a human, not a worker bee. Don’t feel like you have to stay in a work environment because you have a loyalty to the person who hired you or the nice girl in your office who ate lunch with you on your first day. Don’t burn your bridges, but don’t stand on the bridge just staring at another opportunity on the other side of it for too long. When you feel it’s time to bow out, bow out gracefully. But bow out.