4 Must-Haves in Your First Job After College


Congrats, college is over! You are ready to get your first job and change the world. What should you look for in that first job?  You need to differentiate between a launching pad to an incredible career and a crap shoot that will make your life miserable.

When looking for jobs or comparing different positions, there are several traditional criteria to keep in mind. For example, salary, location, travel requirements, work-life balance, commute time, job security, brand name of the organization, etc.  Each individual will prioritize these differently, depending on their needs and work preferences. Despite the relevance of the factors already mentioned, there are four criteria that trump all others in terms of their importance:

4. A Good Boss

  • In order to maximize your investment in your first job, you will need a boss who is an enabler, not an obstacle.
  • Did you know that the number one reason people quit their jobs is because of a bad boss?
  • A good boss should invest time to coach you and give you feedback on what you need to change.
  • Your new boss should recognize your potential and be your champion in the broader organization.

3. High Quality Work

  • Let’s face it, your first job after college may require you to do some tasks that aren’t as exciting as you would have hoped.
  • However, you will want to gauge how many opportunities you will have for autonomy, competence and relatedness.
  • Having some input on the way things are done, your workflow and your deadlines would benefit you as well.
  • You should also look for work that is structured with clear, challenging goals that stretch you, yet are within your reach.
  • To determine this, ask the following question in an interview: “What would success look like in 6 months?” Not only will it help you land the job (the interviewer will love it), but it will give you a road map once you start.

2. Alignment

  • How well does the job‘s or organization’s goals align with challenges you would like to solve, your values, your strengths, etc.?
  • Create a customized matrix to assess and compare all your alignment factors.

1. Learning

  • The most important criteria for your first job is learning. What will you learn, how much and how fast?
  • How much experience, knowledge and skills will you gain?
  • How much training /guidance will you receive?
  • How much deliberate practice will you have time for?
  • Finally, Sheryl Sandberg shared her advice in Lean In:  “Get on a rocket ship.”

When considering your first job, gather as much information on these criteria in order to assess the quality of the opportunity for you. Armed with this evaluation, you will be in a great position to decide what job will be best for you.

What criteria would you add to this list?

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