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Surviving Your First Job: Positivity and Valuable Lessons



After three, four, or maybe even five years of hard work, you’ve finally earned your degree. It doesn’t matter what you earned your degree in right now. Suffice it to say that the degree itself is the focal point. So what now?

As many people who have recently left university will have figured out by now, you don’t get your dream job right away. You may spend a good few years working at a job that has nothing to do with your degree before moving on to something relevant. This can become quite a dispiriting prospect to many who recently stopped being students. After all, you probably didn’t study for all those years to work in cleaning or retail or waiting!

But you shouldn’t be so negative. Your first job may not seem to be the foot in the door you wanted it to be, or the first rung of the ladder of your dream career. But here’s what you need to remember. A job – any job – can give to you just as much as you give to it. That may sound like trite advice, but I’ve certainly found it to be true. How you approach your first job could have resounding consequences for you future career.

Let’s say you’ve just come out of university and you need a job. And let’s say your degree, for example, is in English Literature. You want to be a teacher at a particular school. But maybe the timing isn’t right. Maybe there are no available positions at that school, or you don’t feel confident enough working with children just yet. But you need money, so you go to the high street and hand out CVs. You’re looking at retail – say, a customer assistant position at a clothes store.

This is a common scenario. It’s a scenario that people tend to look negatively upon. You want this first job to be over and done with as quickly as possible. After all, it’s just an interim thing – right?


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That’s your first mistake. Even if this retail position doesn’t seem relevant to what you want to do long-term, it doesn’t mean you should only meet it half way. Approaching this first job with everything you’ve got it going to help you tremendously. It will help with your self-esteem and your reputation. So learn about the position and the company you’ve applied for. Especially before applying as some jobs require health checks such as Health Street respiratory exams or other physical exams. If they do, go for it, go the extra mile for the job to show how much you want it. This presents your commitment and willpower. Treat it not as an interim job, but as something you could be in for the long haul. For a good example of such information, read this. Get familiar with the company’s history, its philosophy, its hours of operation.

One tip is to find similarities between this first job and your dream career. As disparate as they may seem, there are always subtle similarities that go a long way in terms of experience. Let’s take the retail job vs teacher example again. They don’t seem that similar, right? But that’s because you’re not taking your new job apart in the way you should be. You’re not just “working on a clothes store floor”. You’re communicating with the public face-to-face. You’re explaining to them how certain things work, giving them advice. You’re dealing with displeased and angry customers. You’re working late hours, sometimes into the night. All of these things are transferable to other disciplines. What is teaching if it isn’t talking to people, explaining things, dealing with angry parents and working late?

Approach your first job with the alacrity you plan to bring to your future career. It will work wonders for you.