Like many young people graduating from university in their early twenties, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree, and absolutely no idea in direction in which to go. While I knew I wasn’t the only person in this position, it definitely felt like it at the time. I thought there had to be something I was missing.
It’s taken me a couple of years, but I’ve learned that I wasn’t missing anything. University isn’t necessarily going to lead you to your career path, and it isn’t going to answer many questions related to career opportunities, especially if you do not invest your time at the on-campus career center, or connecting with people who have a similar education to you.
What’s transpired for me, and many people alike is your foot in the door at one job, that leads to another, and suddenly a path of opportunity you’re interested in pursuing. I’ve learned some valuable lessons in my short professional career that I hope will help to validate your experiences, but also help you to derive meaning from them.
1. Your First Job Probably Won’t Be Your “Dream Job.”
My first role post-graduation was at a small med-tech firm of under fifty employees. My role as an administrative assistant involved a multitude of tasks throughout the work day, but allowed me to begin to understand the business world, and offered me an introduction to the startup technology industry. My passion didn’t lie within the realm of office administration, but it laid a foundation of influential exposure that I find valuable today. Was it my dream job? Absolutely not. But I quickly expanded my network, became obsessed with the startup industry, and learned that I had to start somewhere. After all, my Psychology Degree didn’t offer a linear path to employment.
2. Say Yes To New Opportunities
It’s important to engage with as many learning opportunities as possible, especially early in your career. It is incredibly valuable to one’s career growth to engage in any opportunities to accumulate as much business acumen and industry knowledge as possible. Working on a variety of work, as opposed to specializing early, also offers an opportunity to explore a variety of career avenues before honing in. While many employers still opt for measuring experience in years, some are shifting to the value of experience which can make generalists exceptionally attractive in the job market.
3. Gaining Insight For Your Future
Early on in my role, I was offered a piece of advice from my direct leader. She said you’re going to work on things that are of little interest to you now, but you never know when you will pull it out of your back pocket in the future. It’s easy to say that no one is going to like each and every aspect of their job, and there are going to be days where you may feel defeated by these particular projects or pain points. However, there is a long-term reward in working hard on whatever comes your way, and at least the second time you’re presented with the same issue, you will have a seasoned perspective on how to assess and resolve it.
4. Deriving Value Through Transferrable Skills
In case no one told you, it is your responsibility as an individual with goals and aspirations, to invest in your career. Whether you know exactly what you want to pursue for the duration of your career or not, you owe it to yourself to do your absolute best at whatever role you’re in right now. Whether the role will evolve your position in your current company, or arm you with valuable skills for your next role, there is opportunity in any job, should you choose to have this perspective.
5. Focus On Your Long-Term Goals
Whether you have a clear picture of your long-term goals, or are truly making it up as you go, all of the experiences and skills you accumulate will provide value to you in some way. An effective strategy for overcoming the obstacles presented by your early career is leading with the knowledge that everything you do for your career, and every opportunity you seize, will enable your long-term success. Be sure to ask questions often along the way, and don’t be fearful of mistakes and missteps.