Getting the Most From Your First Job

Written by on June 8, 2012 in Career - 1 Comment | Print this page


It looks like someone just told him that he'll be working Fridays.

My first job after college was insane. I was the administrative assistant for a woman who did freelance marketing and staging for high-end real estate. It sounds fine on paper but, the reality was often unpredictable and strange. One day, I might make follow up calls to people who came to see a property during an open house. The next day, I’m calling a man she met at a bar to ask him to meet her for dinner. The day after that, I’m standing in line at the DMV trying to fix her parking tickets.  I never knew what each day would bring.

Despite the crazy factor this job possessed, I did learn things. I learned about marketing and real estate staging. Also, since the business imploded in about 14 months, I learned how not to run a business. So, it really wasn’t a bad job.

Making the most of your first job is important. Whether it’s your dream job or just a job, your first job sets the tone for your career and can be a great learning experience.

Ask Questions

You will never have another chance be so open about your inexperience and ignorance. So, ask lots of questions and take notes. Ask why something is done. Ask how it used to be done. Ask why the changes were made. Ask how people ended up in their current positions. Whatever you want to know, feel free to ask. Asking questions makes other people feel knowledgeable and important. So, many people will go out of their way to find the answers to your questions. Take advantage of this. You never know when this information will come in handy.

Work Hard

Millennials (born between approximately 1982 and 1999) have a bad reputation with older workers. Unfortunately, that reputation is often well deserved. Many young people think they should be CEO their first day on the job. Unless you start your own business, this will not be the case. So, make sure you come in on time, do your job well, and leave at the appropriate time.

Also, many new college graduates make the mistake of thinking that work is like college. It’s not. Unlike college, you will have to work on Fridays. There’s just no way around that. Also, unless you’re a teacher, there’s no winter break, spring break, or summer break. So, don’t ask. Yes, I have heard of people asking this. Don’t be that person.


There should be a noticeable improvement during your first six months on the job. Even if your job is incredibly easy, you should at least get faster at it. Remember to keep challenging yourself and trying new things so that you will always have something to improve on.

Also, please be mindful of this: While you should improve and strive to make the most out of your position, it’s important to remember why you were hired. Once, I interviewed for an office manager position. During the interview, the hiring manager told me about all of the extra projects and duties the old office manager took upon herself. Apparently, she designed promotional materials and became involved in several other aspects of the company. Later, I asked what happened to her. I assumed she was promoted or left for a better offer. I was shocked when he told me that she was fired. It seems that she became so involved in all of these other things, her original duties were simply left undone. So, remember to continue do what you were hired for while you take on new projects.

Getting your first “grownup” job is a big deal. If you approach it in the right way, it can help set you up for an even better second job.

What was your first big job like?

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About the Author

Jen Small

Jen is a writer who is originally from South Florida. A former recruiter for a Fortune 500 company, she has also worked in several different industries - real estate, insurance, construction, and education. Jen has now taken this experience to help others as a resume writer and designer. She currently lives and works in South Korea. View all posts with career advice.