5 Mistakes To Avoid Making At Your First Post-College Job
Getting your first job out of college can be an intimidating process — and it doesn't necessarily become any less intimidating once you've landed the gig and are officially on payroll. But avoiding common first post-grad job mistakes will go a long way towards easing your mind, as well as bolstering your reputation in your company. Even if it isn't your dream job (and let's face it: Pretty much no one's first job is their dream job), taking it seriously and treating it with respect is a good way to start — and steering clear of these five missteps will take you to the next level.
To look at it from your employer's perspective, your first job straight out of college is a little bit of a risk on their part: No matter how qualified you might be, they're trusting that you're dedicated to the work and aren't using them as a landing pad to bounce somewhere else within a week or two. When you sign a contract, whether it's for short-term work or a year-long stint, you're making a commitment to the organization — and to yourself. Not that there's anything wrong with making a change in your career at any point, but your first job out of college can provide you with excellent resources and references that might come in handy for a long time to come. It's worth keeping that in mind every single day, even if it isn't your ideal job or if you're feeling discouraged or unmoored.
So, how do you make the most out of this opportunity? Of course, a lot depends on your specific field and work environment, but the following tips are effective no matter what your individual situation may be. Also, remember: If you feel like you have a toxic coworker, or already don't have a great relationship with your boss, don't panic. Just stay calm, remain mature, and get perspectives from those outside of the workplace. Even if things feel rough in moment, there's pretty much always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, onto the mistakes:
1. Using Technology Inappropriately
Don't post about your job on social media. Seriously, don't. Even if your account is private, or you are positive your boss isn't going to see your snarky comments on today's meeting, don't take the risk. You never know who will find your account, and unfortunately, once something is online, it's online forever — even if you delete the original post (cached pages and screenshots have a tendency to stick around). And if you're in charge of social media for your job, be extra careful that you don't post anything from a business account intended for personal account. Triple check that your posts are appropriate and on brand, because once something is out there, there's no going back.
2. Maintaining A College Mindset
In theory, everyone is the ideal college student: You did your work on time, showed up to all of your classes, and never emailed professors in the middle of the night with an excuse about your computer dying right when you were about to upload you midterm paper. The reverse often happens with a relatively high degree of frequency, though, and when that's your college mindset... well, let's just say it doesn't translate well to the workplace. It's all well and good to get used to the flexibility of deadlines and the leniency of your professors, but they don't often carry through to the world beyond school.
Once you get into your first post-grad job, you're literally being paid to do your work. That means you're being paid not only to complete your tasks, but also to keep up with the company mission, arrive on time, participate on committees, and whatever else your job description entails (and often a lot of things your job description doesn't entail). Even if you privately think certain things "don't matter," they're part of what you're being paid to do, so they certainly do matter. And unlike in school, you can't just retake a class if you fail to do your work — you might actually get fired.
3. Ignoring The Dress Code
This one varies a lot by field and setting — on top of which are a lot of unfair double standards far too many people are unfortunately forced to navigate — but totally ignoring your workplace dress code won't result in anything good, whether that means business casual or scrubs. If you're on a budget, going to thrift stores, searching on eBay, and learning how to reinvent the same staple wardrobe pieces can be a huge help.
4. Feeling Like You Have To Order Out Lunch With Your Coworkers Every Day
This one isn't likely to get you reprimanded in the office, but it's still good to keep in mind: Buying lunch every day can get expensive fast. Some work environments order food in for everyone periodically, but it's also often the norm for people to flock to local restaurants to grab lunch and coffee or order something delivered to their desk. If you're fresh out of school, you may feel additional pressure to do what "everyone else" does, but if your salary doesn't match theirs (or heck, even if it does) you may quickly realize that those $12 salads are majorly adding up — and if you'd rather spend your money elsewhere, it might get uncomfortable.
But there's nothing wrong with mostly bringing your own lunch and going out to eat with your coworkers every so often instead. There are tons of resources to avoid #SadDeskLunches, and depending on your needs, you can certainly make lunches for the week to save time before work, make them fit a certain dietary lifestyle, or make them super, super cheap (rice, beans, and vegetables, anyone?). If going out to eat is an important part of your office environment, make room in your budget for it however many times a week or month it makes sense for you — you can still participate without feeling like you're blowing through your entire paycheck on food all the time.
5. Not Speaking Up About Your Ideas And Goals
Not only are you being paid to accomplish your day-to-do tasks, but moreover, you're also there to bring new ideas, skills, and capabilities to your team and organization. Even if you're the newest kid in the room, your goals and desires still matter and you deserve a comfortable space where you can receive support.
Keeping a list of short-term and long-term goals might help. Some might be just for you, while others are shared with your coworkers, with other professionals in your field, and at networking events. It's also usually a good move to talk to your supervisors about what your goals are, so you can see how they align with the company's mission and what you can do to work towards them in your current position. Remember: Even if someone has the best intentions, they can't read your mind, so it's important to advocate for yourself.