Hindsight is a beautiful thing. It tells us what we did right, what we could have done better and where everything went horribly wrong. Yet when you are fresh out of school or university, and seeking your first ‘real’ job, how can you know if you are making the right decisions in fulfilling your career aspirations by pursuing one position over another? In short, you can’t.

You don’t know what the future holds for you. You don’t even know if your career goals and aspirations are going to change and if you’re going to find yourself pursuing a completely different career in twelve years’ time. Perhaps your industry of choice becomes overrun by technology, a changing economy or innovation. Maybe you are forced to consider an alternate profession. Regardless of the journey you take, I would suggest that many of you will not pursue the career you are chasing at twenty, when you are forty. But hey, that’s hindsight.

When you first embark on your career path, it can be quite daunting. After all, everyone is expecting you have a job lined up before you graduate. Right? Pressure! Rule number one; don’t allow pressure to force you make a rushed decision. Before you even begin your job search you should be aware of what you want from your first job. Engage in a little research and form some expectations around the minimum you are willing to accept in a job role. When you understand what your requirements in a position are, you can confidently sit in an interview and ask the right questions that will help you ascertain if the position is for you or not. How many of you did not ask a single question in your first ‘real’ job interview because you had no idea what you needed to know? There are a few guilty nods of the head out there I’m sure.

Once you have determined what you want in your first job role, decide the type of workplace you want to work for. Do you want to work within a not for profit organisation? Is a large organisation for you or a small organisation more suitable? Do you want to work for an innovator or perhaps a global company? Will you thrive in a bustling environment or something more slow paced with great opportunities to continually learn? We don’t all fit the same mould, nor can every organisation fulfil our career aspirations. You want to find a place of employment where you fit with the company’s corporate culture, and you want to give yourself the opportunity to fulfil your professional goals. It’s not an easy task to accomplish. You may just find that only a few select organisations can meet your needs. So again, you need to understand what you are willing to sacrifice and what you are not in the pursuit of your career.

While it make sense to undertake a little self-reflection before you steam roll ahead to finding your first ‘grown up’ job, excitement can take over. It’s understandable. After spending years studying, staying up until the wee hours of the night to complete an assignment and cramming for endless hours for an exam that feels like it will seal your fate as a success or failure forever, the exhilaration of it all being over and the prospects of a ‘real’ pay cheque can cause you to charge into a job that isn’t right for you. Or you unfolding career. But don’t get too caught up in the stresses of not getting it right the first time. And don’t expect your career path to be straight. No doubt it will twist and turn as it follows a windy road. Taking the scenic path is not the end of the world. Just ask around. How many forty-something’s do you know that owe their present day success to their first ‘real’ job?

There is a lot to learn upon entering the workforce. And while everyone thinks they know it all in the early days, believe me, there is a great deal to learn. Even twenty years on. So whether the opportunities to land your dream job straight up come your way or not, you will certainly take something of value from your first job role that you can utilise in subsequent positions. So think of your first job simply as a platform from which you can develop strong, basic skills that will aid your self-development. It will also connect you to people in the industry you want to succeed in. Often it is who you know that will open doors for you in the future. Actually professional networking can be critical to developing one’s career.

When first journeying into the big wide world of business, it is important to find the right job. The right job for you, that is. Placing yourself in an environment where you can both flourish as a person and excel at performing while moving in the direction that you want your career to follow is ideal. Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself to find the perfect job will often result in debilitating pressure. And that’s just not fun. Just remember, not many of you will get it perfect immediately, but you do have to start somewhere. Every situation can present an opportunity. You need to be savvy enough to identify those opportunities when they present themselves and advance your career in those moments. Your dream job will come as the result of hard work, not dumb luck.

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