Your first job is an important stepping stone in your career, and can lead to better, more and greater opportunities in the future. This makes it imperative that you don’t jump at the first offer you receive.
Nicole Williams, founder of WORKS, a New York-based career consultancy, says: “You learn so much in your first job about what you want for your career future and you don’t want to get complacent.”
In Monster’s My First Job survey, 53% of the respondents felt their first job shaped the direction of their careers.
However, determining whether or not it’s the right fit can be daunting, leading to many first-timers leaving their jobs before they should.
The survey showed that 60% people quit their first jobs for professional growth and better opportunities, with 26% wanting to earn more money.
Kristen Fischer, author of Ramen Noodles, Rent and Résumés, feels many recent graduates feel like “taking a job is a life-or-death decision”.
“While every job will impact their career, they have to remember that a first job is a stepping stone. Chances are that it won’t be an ideal situation or their dream job, but it can provide the foundation for a fulfilling career,” she writes.
So how do you determine whether a job is right for you or not? Ask yourself these questions to know the answers:
- Is this really what I want?
Your first job should be something that you want, not what someone else wants for you. So get your advice from everyone who matters, but decide on your own. Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career, says: “Before accepting a job, make sure it’s a job you want and not a job your parents want, your college counselor wants or your friends want.”
- Do the benefits make up for the salary?
Starting salaries may be low, but consider the entire benefits package to make your decision. Will your firm provide health insurance? More paid vacation? Will it pay for you to return to school and skill up? How much is their contribution to the EPF account? Think of the salary as just one part of the compensation package.
- Will I find job satisfaction?
It may seem to be over-rated, but job satisfaction is as – if not more – important than salary. Rachelle Canter, author of Make the Right Career Move, says it’s important to consider job satisfaction along with salary. “Launch yourself in a direction you want to go by considering the skills you have and enjoy using, skills you want to acquire and rewards that are meaningful to you.”
- Will it let me build a solid network?
Bill McCarthy, associate director of Binghamton University’s career development centre in Binghamton, New York, is quoted in an article as saying: “If location, location, location is the slogan for real estate, then networking, networking, networking is the mantra for career development and landing full-time jobs.” Check the social media profiles of people employed at the company so you know the potential field.
- Will I learn or just be a gofer?
Will the job you’re signing up for help you upskill or will it just put you on the “gofer-ring” path where you photocopy, do research and sundry errands? A company that involves you in different types of projects will help you gather experience and build transferable skills. A position that lets you work with different functional areas and collaborate with different teams is a good option.
- Evaluate the employer’s brand
Working for a company is not just about clocking in nine hours every day; it’s about knowing that the company values align with yours, be it honesty, integrity and hard work. Does it espouse a cause that you care about? Does it work for environmental action? Brent Gleeson, author of Taking Point, writes that hiring is “not just about what’s right for the company, it’s also about what’s best for the candidate”.
- Where else can it lead me?
The first job is – most likely than not – not permanent; most of us use it as a stepping stone to further success. So check where this job can take you – is there a clear career path for employee advancement? What kind of responsibilities will you have? Will you be allowed to attend conferences and events? Is there a budget earmarked for employee progress? Research can let you know if you’re well placed for growth.
As Joshua Reeves, chief executive officer and co-founder of Gusto, an integrated online HR services, wrote on Quora: “…don’t overly fixate on finding the “perfect” job out of school. There is no such thing. It’s about finding a company where you can learn, admire the people you’ll be working with, and have the opportunity to grow”.