So you’ve landed your first job after college — but it doesn’t quite fit into your career goals. It pays the rent, but it’s not what you hope to be doing forever.
That’s OK. The question is: How can you take this experience and use it as an opportunity to learn, grow and get where you want to be?
No matter what your first job is, it’s almost guaranteed to provide you with skills and information that you wouldn’t want to replace. Here are some suggestions to help you maximize each opportunity you get.
Focus on the Positive
It’s common advice, but that’s because it’s effective.
Once you realize that your barista or server job after college can provide enjoyable interactions with people, or your simple data entry job gives your brain a rest from all the tough thinking you did during college classes, your days will become easier to handle.
A good relationship with coworkers, as well as work in which you feel competent, can go a long way. So can small things, like your morning coffee or the view during your commute.
Take Note of What You’re Learning
Remember those required classes in high school or college where you wondered when you were ever going to use this information? Often, the skills you learned went far beyond quadratic equations or five-paragraph essays. You learned how to think critically, how to manage time and how to meet high expectations, among other things … and you may not have realized you were absorbing these skills at the time.
A first job after college has a similar effect. Only now, you can slow down and pay attention to those resume-worthy skills you’re building. Are you working as part of a team? What are you given responsibility for? When you make mistakes on the job (which we all do, from time to time) what do you learn to do differently?
Make Yourself Valuable
Maybe you don’t want to stay in your first job after college for a long time. Even so, there are plenty of reasons to go above and beyond in your duties. Employers and coworkers will think of you as someone who cares about the job, works hard and takes initiative.
Cultivate good relationships with your colleagues, as well. You may need your employer as a reference for another position, and you can never tell what opportunities might come your way from coworkers. Besides, it’s a better work environment for everyone if you’re all working hard toward a common goal.
Keep Up the Job Hunt
Outside of work, schedule time to look for jobs. Update your resume and cover letters to reflect the skills you’re learning in your first job after college. Don’t get discouraged — as you know, a job search takes time and persistence! Almost everyone, even the rich and famous, worked a few less-than-ideal jobs before they settled into a career.
Remember, in any job, even your ideal job, there will be elements of the work that you don’t enjoy. Learning to take the good with the bad — and not letting setbacks affect your performance – can be a valuable aspect of your first job after college.