But it’s important that you treat the gig like the educational experience it is, not some high-stakes be-all and end-all.
Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at recruiting software company Jobvite, said it’s crucial to adopt the right attitude.
“Be open to what it is you want to learn and what you want to contribute in that first opportunity,” Bitte said.
And that educational experience isn’t just about accruing and honing new skills.
Bitte said that your first job is a chance to begin solidifying your own personal values and mission. That way, you can check whether or not the role, organization, or industry seem to compliment what you really want to get out of work.
Here are three strategies that Bitte said can help you make the most out of your first job:
Bitte said that the impulse to just jump at whatever job offers you the most money is an understandable one, especially considering the burden of student debt.
“I remember getting my first job in the Bay area and not really having enough money to pay my rent and my loans,” she said.
However, she said “believe it or not,” chasing money at the start of your career can be a huge mistake.
“My personal perspective, as hard as it was early on trying to save enough for a 401k, taking the money usually doesn’t work out in the long haul,” she said. “You’ve got to chase your passion.”
She said that, in some cases, focusing exclusively on snagging a big pay check at the start of your career just leads to burnout.
“We spend way too much time and energy with the people we work with and the work that we do over a 40-year career,” she said. “So the advice to chase the money? I don’t think it’s the best advice.”
In this age of social-media-induced FOMO, it’s easy to start dwelling on your ex-college roommate’s posts gushing about her great new Silicon Valley gig.
That kind of thinking can make you feel discouraged about your own post-university prospects.
“Family members, friends, society, and social media — everybody’s keeping up with the Jones’,” Bitte said. “I think obsessing about something you can’t always control, that can almost be destructive.”
Ultimately, try to shut off the rest of the world and focus on getting the most out of the experience.
“Don’t think that you have to go find the perfect job as your first job out of college,” she said. “I think that’s really hard to hear sometimes when you’ve just invested four, if not more, years of your life and you’re coming out with student loans. But the best advice is to recognize that it’s probably not going to be the job that you’re going to have for even five years.”
“Relationships matter,” Bitte said. “Don’t underestimate your network.”
While you shouldn’t overthink your first job, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of the strong professional connections you could forge there.
So start talking to your more experienced coworkers.
“Most people are really willing to share at least their experience in that industry,” she said. “People are willing to talk about themselves. People are willing to share what they learned being in that field. So don’t be afraid to go leverage that network, just to even learn.”