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How To Ensure You Choose The Right First Job After College

Job offers are like a godsend for college graduates. When students start getting them, it becomes a huge challenge to balance between self-promotion and careful consideration. Several traps are waiting for graduates on their way to the right first job.

Given that so many recent grads are unemployed, you feel pressure from family, friends and yourself to get a job right after college. Indeed, it’s hard to resist the temptation of taking the very first offer and start making money, especially when all friends have already begun a career path. But you need to stay cool-headed and understand exactly what you are looking for and expecting from your dream job. Otherwise, you risk to end up somewhere you’ll hate.

To make sure you choose the right first job after graduation, consider the following:

Your 5-year plan

It’s not that easy to draw a clear picture of your future and imagine what you will do in few years, but do your best to decide on the direction as a minimum. The first job after college is a crucial step in your career, so make sure that the offer you take will give an opportunity to gain transferable knowledge and skills.

Do your research. Learn the industry trends, consider all options there and decide on positions that might fit you.

What you need to do is develop your own criteria for a good job. It will help to evaluate and filter offers: content, salary, responsibility, location, training opportunities, growth potential, company culture and ethics – these are factors to consider. Decide how crucial they are to you and check if an employer matches those criteria.

There are also some signs that might help you indicate if the job you’re applying for would be a nightmare: a disorganized interview process, complaints from employees, no clear responsibilities and more. Be aware of them and don’t hurry to take such an offer.

Job vs. career

When the question “How should you choose your first job out of college?” appeared on Quora, Fabio Mattiussi mentioned a significant detail to consider while job searching: decide on what exactly you are looking for – a job or a career.

You need to be clear about your role and career path before taking a job offer. Make sure you understand what exactly you will be doing. For that, ask a recruiter for the opportunity to speak with recent employees in similar positions and set up informational interviews with professionals at companies of interest. Ask how they spend a day in the office, what is most stressful about their job, how much time they spend on routine tasks, what skills are most critical to have here, etc.

Also, don’t be afraid of asking recruiters about possible career paths from your initial position. What is the average time frame for new employees to get a promotion? It doesn’t hurt to ask, after all.

People and culture

One of the common traps to avoid when choosing a career is the salary trap. As a recent grad, you want to choose big money to return your college investments as soon as possible; but it’s far from the only detail to concentrate on during an interview.

Your first job after college will be a place to learn hard and soft skills and that is why you should pay attention to who the people you’ll be working with are. Want it or not, you’ll become like them while working in their company; so, choose wisely. Do you like them? Do you share their values and what to learn from them? Will they motivate and inspire you to grow?

If possible, evaluate the leadership style of your prospective boss. Will you accept their approach to management?

Also, try to check the office and decide if their environment and culture work well for you. Will you feel comfortable there? Chances are, you already know the type of atmosphere that encourages you to work best: solo or teamwork, quiet or noisy, open space or private office? Consider these details when choosing a workplace.

During interviews, make sure to ask right questions that would give you insights rather than general information on duties and salary. The more you ask, the more you know. Make a list of questions – if not sure what to ask, find questions online and paraphrase them to meet your situation – and take it to interviews. For instance, you may ask about characteristics that will help you succeed in the company or what your typical working day will be. It will help to understand whether the job offer is the right fit for you.

And the last but not least:

Your dream job will find you by all means. Don’t hurry up to take the first available offer, consider your goals and prospective professional development, pay attention to overall atmosphere in your future workspace and don’t be afraid to ask questions during interviews. Remember: the first job after college may influence your future career path drastically; so, do your best to succeed from the start.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you find your dream job after graduation? Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

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About the Author Lesley Vos

Lesley Vos is a career strategist for college students and a seasoned web writer from Chicago. Currently writing for, she also contributes content for many publications on education, career, and digital marketing. Feel free to follow Lesley on Twitter to see more works of hers.

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