Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started My First Job
I feel like I went through my first job search alone. I didn’t know many people in my industry, where to apply or what to expect. That being said, I got really lucky with how well everything turned out. I haven’t talked much about work on the blog but I work on the digital and social team at a PR firm in New York City and I love it. Now that I’m on the other side of it I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to help others have more successful job searches. There’s so much you don’t learn in college about careers and companies so I’m so excited to share what I wish I knew before I started my first job.
If you’re talking more than you’re listening there’s a strong possibility you’re doing something wrong. As much as college attempts to prepare you for your career, I would say a majority of what you need to know to succeed is learned on the job. The most successful people are those who come in and try to absorb as much as they possibly can. That’s not to say there isn’t a time and place to speak your mind and share your ideas but I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen, observe and learn how things work before jumping in to conversations.
I genuinely cannot believe I didn’t know what this concept was until a month into my summer post-grad program. If you’ve never heard of managing up, it’s essentially predicting what your managers will want and doing what you can to make their lives easier. Often times, this means proactively completing tasks, especially simple ones like updating weekly trackers or taking notes during a meeting, or asking for resources to complete assignments rather than waiting for assignments to come down the pipeline. When my managers go on vacation or are out of the office I send emails for their first day back recapping what I did and what next steps are pending on our accounts. Another way I’ve learned to “manage up” is by sending things I’m asked for as “client ready” emails so my colleagues don’t have to completely rewrite everything I send before it goes out. Little things like those can go a long way in your work relationships and make you an indispensable team member.
I know this one is hard but I am telling you wait until your first week of work before you do any serious shopping.
Work totes: If you don’t need to carry your laptop back and forth or need a pair of shoes to change into after commuting you probably don’t need a huge bag. If you do carry your laptop back and forth every day, you might not want to invest in a bag that’s not going to last (I feel like I wear through bags SUPER quickly). Over the summer I used my Tory Burch Gemini Link tote (which was honestly bigger than I needed it to be but linking the new version here because it’s still a great style), but most days I use my classic Longchamp Le Pliage tote. When I’m going to the gym or carrying a change of clothes I use my Dagne Dover Landon Carryall.
Work wear: Ironically, before I started work I did a post last year before my first summer internship about building your work wardrobe. That summer was focused on classic cardigans, dresses and nicer shoes, but my current office is much more casual. For this job I bought a few cute tops at Madewell, a few new pairs of jeans (also from Madewell) and during the winter upped my sweater collection, but essentially I wear the same things I wore in college. Before you purchase expensive, new work pants, heels or blazers wait and see what your office environment is like. If your office is more casual, I love Madewell (obviously), but if it’s a little dressier you can always find great deals at LOFT, Ann Taylor and Nordstrom Rack. The one caveat to waiting on work clothes is a suit. I’m a firm believer everyone should have a well-fitting suit for interviewing and because you never know where life will take you.
Focus on Your Own Career
I am 100% guilty of playing the comparison game. A week before graduation I had completed one internship. It seemed like everyone else in DC had one per semester and everyone I knew from my time at Indiana University had their jobs lined up since August. Needless to say I felt behind. When you’re in school everyone is expected to move on the same timeline and it can be so difficult not to look around you when you’re stressing about whether or not you’ll get a job.
That all changed when I started. I knew immediately that I was where I needed to be. I love what I do and I’m good at it. My strengths align with my position and I’ve formed strong work relationships within my agency. I’ve continued to grow in my position and am recognized for what I’m capable of, not my background or my age. When you’re still in the application process it’s easy to feel like you need to keep pace with the people around you but once you’re in the door you’ll realize everyone moves at different paces. Focus on what you can do to keep improving, work hard, and you’ll stop worrying about where the girl who sat next to you in your freshman year English class ended up.