Advice for success at your first full time job

I started working 6 months after graduation, just in time to prevent Sallie Mae from harassing me about these loans. I've since worked for 4 other companies and have gotten a sense of how my first job continues to help me everyday and what I wish someone told me back then. I have much more to learn, but I'd like to share what I've got so far with you all.


Your first job isn't going to be your last

Let's just get that out the way. Eventually the high and relief of getting a job post-college will wear off and you might find yourself feeling a little underwhelmed or unsatisfied with your current position. Some people start freaking out that they might have entered the wrong career or that they aren't living up to their potential. What's important to understand, however, is that you can pivot career trajectories as needed. Taking a job at XYZ company doesn't mean you owe them the rest of your working life.

Stay a year or 2 to learn the basic and then move on

This isn't for everyone but for most new grads, it holds true. You probably accepted your first job with rose colored glasses thinking you were going to take the world by storm. After about a year of two, you're probably a little more in tune with reality and what you might want to do next. Your first job is an anchor to prove that you can perform, learn the skills you need, and hopefully get promoted. If you're happy, however, and you feel you're moving up at a reasonable rate, you can stay longer but I still recommend seeing what else is out there. Moreover, sometimes it's easier to move up within a company and increase your salary potential by leaving to gain more experience and reapplying.

Entry level doesn't mean you have nothing to add

Your ideas are just as valuable as anyone else's and you may even have the added benefit of having fresh eyes on a problem. Many new grads in their first position tend to shy away from contributing. There are situations where it is smart to stay quiet and listen to the more seasoned people in your office. However, respectfully offering ideas when the opportunity arises doesn't hurt. The worst someone can say is no. If they say yes, it can be your moment to execute on that idea and shine in a way that will get you remembered later.

Always keep receipts

Very quickly into my first job, I learned that some coworkers will try to throw you under the bus, either because you're more junior or because they are just evil. These people are at almost every company you'll go to. If you find yourself on the receiving end of what we call the "passive-aggressive CC" (The passive aggressive CC is when a co-worker or client CCs your manager and/or other higher ups into what should have been an A-B conversation with the intent of accusing you of dropping the ball somehow), you better have receipts. Don't take for granted that verbal conversations will be remembered nor remembered correctly. Document as much with an email as possible and keep your inbox organized to retrieve proof that a correspondence did take place. CYA (cover your a**) is a way of life.

You're not too junior to start negotiating

Negotiating is scary. You feel you don't want to piss off your future employer and this is way more money than you were making before so you should just take it because you need something. Wrong. It's always worth asking your potential employed how they arrived at a salary figure, as long as you do so respectfully and with reason. You may find that you might be able to ask for more based on certain skills you can offer or you can request that you be reviewed for a raise after a determined period of time. If you do the latter, get that in writing in your offer letter (CYA before you get in the door).

As far as what to ask for, you should figure out your budget and not just pick arbitrary numbers. 40K out of college can seem like a lot when compared to your work-study check. But will it cover the average rent? Living expenses? Occasional fun here and there. FOOD?! (takeout is life and also takes half your check lol). You're not limited to negotiating salary either. It can be extra vacation, a relocation bonus, work from home privileges, perks to offset the cost of living or professional development.

You might fail and that’s ok

Being let go from a job was one of the most demoralizing things that ever happened to me, at first. I was crushed. Sometimes, you're just not the right fit for a company but other times, there are lessons to be learned to help you do better. Own the failure, take what you need to learn from it, and move on to better things. When I stopped to think why I was crushed after being let go, it was less about that particular job and more about feeling naked without the security of a position and somehow feeling I wasn't good enough for anything else. After a while, I was able to evaluate what happened and recognize where the whole matter was out of my hand and where I can do better next time. There's no shame in it and after a while, almost everyone goes through failure at work.