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Sometimes I feel like the four years I spent at college were a giant waste of time and everything I’ve learned about myself, life, career and the real world has happened in the years since.
Case in point: my first full-time job. Mostly, it was a disaster. But it also taught me how to deal with shitty situations, when to stand up for myself and when to just quit. And in the years since, I’ve managed to find a job I adore more than cookies and I see my peers slowly but surely finding their own way in the working world.
Some of them – and some of you? Not so much. So I turned to the digital streets and asked some of the top career, lifestyle and Gen Y bloggers what their first job was like and the lessons they learned:
I was a Management Trainee at a fancy hotel in downtown Seattle and spent my first few months supervising the cocktail bar. I had a regular accuse me of trying to burn her (and steal her husband) because her plate was too hot, got flashed by an old dude because he was stuck in the toilet, and worked 14 hour days on my feet in heels. This is where my Ivy League degree got me!
~ Molly Mahar of Stratejoy
My first job out of college was as a reporter for a weekly newspaper (located 60 miles from my home), with an annual salary of $17K. It wasn’t my first choice and I was bewildered that all my hard work in college had led to this. But I gained invaluable skills there that have stayed with throughout my career — how to research, how to manage deadlines, how to perform unsupervised, how to interact with officials and, most importantly, how to drive really fast without getting speeding tickets.
~ Jenny Foss of Job Jenny
I worked on Wall Street. I wouldn’t trade those years, but I also would never go back. Wall Street was everything I assumed it might be, and then some. There were very long hours, stressed supervisors and high rollers. It wasn’t what you’d call a work-life balance type of environment. However, I made great friends I stay in touch with – 15 years later! I learned a lot of skills I still use in my job today, most importantly that having control over my time was a lot more important to me than a big bonus.
I’d encourage new grads to not be afraid to experiment. The worst that may happen is you need to start over, and the best is that you’ll discover something you never knew you would love!
~ Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers
My first job was working as a Technical Recruiter for a staffing agency. The kind of recruiting that I did wasn’t glamorous, but I lasted almost two years there.
What kept me there was success and a great team, despite stress and a lack of tools. When I finally left, I did go on to take a great position, but when I look back, I realize how much I learned, how much fun I had, and how amazing the people were.
Your first job isn’t always going to be so bad. It just might be awesome! Don’t let expectations cloud your vision and force you to leave too soon. Sometimes I wish I stayed longer, but hindsight’s a bitch.
~ Rich DeMatteo of Corn on the Job
When you’re at the entry level it’s easy to think that you’re above certain tasks or projects – the beauty is that those are the projects that really allow you to shine and hit home runs, then you’ll be trusted with more and more complex stuff later on.
When I worked at a start-up out of school, I started as the Office Manager. But by showing my skill and positive attitude there, I soon became the Marketing Assistant and Webmaster, rounding out an entry level job that I never thought would be more than filing papers.
~ Jenny Blake of Life After College
What they all have in common
The great thing about first jobs is that no matter what you do or how it influences your career, it always teaches you something – how to deal with people, work hard or, at the very least, what direction you don’t want to go. Or maybe even that a crappy situation can be useful in the long run.
What was your first job? What did it teach you?
Marian Schembari is a blogger, traveler and all-around social media thug. She’s based in Auckland, New Zealand, hails from Connecticut and blogs at marianlibrarian.com.