Your First Job Doesn't Have To Be Terrifying, Especially With Advice From These 13 Mentors In Gillian Zoe Segal's 'Getting There'

So you’ve graduated. Congratulations! Now you’re about to start your first job. Sorry!

I’m kidding. Believe it or not, life gets better after college, and your first job doesn’t have to be as scary/boring/soul-sucking as you fear it might be. No one knows this better than the powerhouses featured in Getting There: A Book of Mentors , a coffee-table-beautiful book by Gillian Zoe Segal. The book combines Segal’s portraits of tastemakers, celebs, and intellectuals (like Jillian Michaels, Matthew Weiner, and Rachel Zoe), plus the stories of their success as told in their own words.

You can only imagine how chock-full of wisdom this book is. But what Segal learned from interviewing her myriad subjects is that, bottom line, “you don’t need to know exactly where you want to end up when you start — in fact, most of the people in this book didn’t.” But just because your first job will likely not be your last doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your all into it. If you work your butt off now, you’ll prove to your superiors — and, more importantly, to yourself — that you’ll be ready to take up the opportunities you’re passionate about when they present themselves down the line.

You’re probably scared sh*tless right now, and that’s totally okay. Does it make you feel better to know that, up until a few years ago, Anderson Cooper had a crippling fear of public speaking? These mentors know that you can use your nerves about your first job — and the fact that you have literally nothing to lose right now — to keep you moving forward. You’re gonna be just fine.

On Committing To Your Passion (Even While Working a Day Job)

“The most defeatist thing I hear is ‘I’m going to give it a couple of years.’ You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer. You should want it so badly that you don’t have a choice. You have to commit for the long haul. There’s no shame in being a starving artist. Get a day job, but don’t get too good at it. It will take you away from your writing.”

—Matthew Weiner, Mad Men Creator

On Outworking Your Co-Workers

“Outwork everyone around you. (Come in earlier, leave later, and volunteer for everything that others don’t want to do. Don’t wait to be asked to do something. Take it upon yourself and do it.)”

—Anderson Cooper, Journalist

On Valuing Criticism

“Although criticism often hurts, it can also be a gift. Even when it comes in a really nasty package, you have to examine it. It may simply give you the resolve to prove your critic wrong.”

—Kathy Ireland, Model/Entrepreneur/Designer

On Winging It

“Nobody knows what they’re doing at first. You have to find something you are interested in, throw yourself at it, do the best you can, and pick things up as you go along. I never saw myself as having a career path. I’ve sort of muddled through from one thing to the next and, for most people, that’s just the way careers evolve.”

—Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair Editor

On Staying Sharp

“In postgraduate school I had a special professor who told me something I will never forget. He said, ‘If you draw with your right hand and become so skilled that you can even close your eyes and make any kind of drawing, immediately change to the left. Repetition will kill you.’”

—Marina Abramović, Artist

On Doing It Your Way

“In every business and in every facet of life there are ‘gatekeepers.’ Gatekeepers are people who decide whether or not you get past them to do what you want to do. If they won’t let you pass via the traditional route, your job is to get around them in whatever way you can. For example, if you want to sell a product and can’t get a retailer to take it, sell it yourself on the Internet.”

—Jillian Michaels, Fitness Expert

On Maintaining A Balanced Attitude

“It’s essential to strike the right balance between confidence and humility. If you don’t have enough confidence in the rightness of your pursuit, you’ll give up too easily. But you must also have enough humility to recognize your own limitations and be receptive to learning from others.”

—Wendy Kopp, Teach For America Founder

On Speaking Your Piece (Then Shutting Up)

“Brevity is the soul of wit. If you’ve got something to say, say it and stop talking. If you don’t have anything to say, you’re doing yourself and others a favor by keeping quiet. If you can’t make a contribution, don’t slow down the people who can.”

—Craig Newmark, Craigslist Founder

On Taking Risks

“I took chances and sent my clients out in looks that were unexpected and sometimes even slightly controversial. Fortunately, the response was mostly great. When it wasn’t, I had to remind myself that both the client and I were happy and confident with the look and that’s really all that mattered. If you don’t take chances, then what’s the fun in playing the game?”

—Rachel Zoe, Stylist/Fashion Designer

On Exploring Your Options

“People say that if you can do what you love you’re very lucky. My advice is to put yourself in a position to discover what you love … I always tried to zig a little bit when everyone else zagged so that I could have the possibility of surprise in my life … If I hadn’t allowed myself to venture off the beaten track, I wouldn’t have discovered an enthusiasm for something unexpected.”

—Stacey Snider, Co-Chairman, 20th Century Fox

On The Importance of Being Nice

“Many businesses are built on connections. Don’t take any relationship for granted (you never know where your co-workers will end up down the road) and always leave each job on a good note. Throughout my career, I went above and beyond what was expected of me. In turn, my bosses respected me and wanted the best for me. Every new job I got was with the help of a chef I had been working with. A good reference from your previous employer is essential.”

—Daniel Boulud, Chef

On The Importance of Being Excellent

“You will be judged on everything you do. It doesn’t matter what field you are in: If you are working on something large or something small, always make sure it adheres to your highest standards. Move away from people who dilute this mission and partner with those who support it.”

—Frank Gehry, Architect

On Ensuring You're Treated Equally

“Understanding how you are being stereotyped is the first step in remedying [being underestimated]. There have been times, for example, when I’ve realized that someone was not treating me as an equal because I am a woman. Feeling like a victim leads to victim behavior. Addressing an issue restores your power. On more than one occasion I have tactfully expressed to a male counterpart that I think he would be treating me differently if I were a man. Another way to cope with being discriminated against is to build networks of mentors and people who support and believe in you. Don’t be afraid to turn to these people if you feel undermined. They can help you build yourself back up.”

—Helene Gayle, CARE USA President and CEO

Images: Travis Isaacs/Kevin Dinkel/Flickr; WiffleGif (12)