Preparing For What”s Ahead: An Early Career Guide For A Brighter Future

Posted on September 3, 2012 in Education

By Patrick Rosario:

The period between college graduation and getting that first job is supposed to be marked by hopefulness and possibility — but more often, it’s burdened by the anxiety of getting the right job.

Your first industry job will set the course for the rest of your career, and this fact can be incredibly stressful for recent graduates. But it’s important not only to try and enjoy your first job, but also to make the most of it and prepare yourself for the rest of a long career.


If you completed one or more internships during your college career, good for you! You’ve made yourself a more competitive potential hire and given yourself a crash course in professionalism and office behaviour — skills you can only learn on the job.

If you haven’t, and you can afford to take a short-term position that may be unpaid, go out and get yourself an internship right now. The basic skills that you learn will lay the foundation of a long and healthy career in your chosen field.

Be Ready to Apply Your Knowledge:

Making the leap from being a good student to being a good employee can be a little bit tricky. Many people who are used to earning success through studying hard and making good grades find themselves flustered as they enter an environment where success depends not on how much knowledge you have but how you use it. It no longer matters how well you can memorize facts — you now need to apply the facts you’ve memorized to the tasks at hand.

Learning to use knowledge practically can be difficult, no matter what industry you’re in. But if you apply the same focus you once used for studying, to emulate the skills of your co-workers and managers, you’ll soon be completely comfortable in this new and unfamiliar role.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start at the Bottom:

Then again, your first job may actually require much less application of your hard-earned knowledge than you might have expected. Recent graduates start at the bottom of the career ladder, and often these early jobs require little more than the ability to make photocopies and prepare a cup of coffee.

If you find that your first job is like this, don’t get frustrated. Always keep a positive attitude, no matter how simple the tasks you’re asked to do are. If you can remain patient while being asked to do the easiest and most boring jobs at your company, it won’t be long before an even more recent graduate is hired to replace you as you move up to the next step of your career ladder.

Be a Cooperative Employee:

One mistake recent graduates often make in their earliest jobs is to stay mired in the competitive mindset bred by a university education. This is an easy mistake to make — after all, you’ll have spent most of your life working to be at the top of the class, outperform your peers, and be the most competitive student you can be. This line of thinking can extend through the job interview process but must stop as soon as you get hired.

Of course, you still want to be the best employee you can be. But very few jobs function in a vacuum — you’re going to need to work with and rely on your co-workers to accomplish most tasks. Alienating your peers is not only going to give you a bad reputation, it’s going to make it harder to do your job correctly.

Instead, focus on being cooperative as you strive to be the best that you can be. If you succeed in lifting your co-workers’ achievements along with your own, you’ll get the recognition you desire while maintaining the goodwill of your peers.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of beginning your career — instead, focus on developing the knowledge you learned at university into marketable skills for your chosen field. Most of all, remember that in the professional world, who you know counts almost as much as what you know. So as you’re cultivating your skills, cultivate relationships with your peers and supervisors too by being friendly, competent, and trustworthy is just as important.