This one quote by Steve Jobs resonates with me ever so often,” Your time is limited, don’t waste it living somebody else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
It’s the season for placements, the season to celebrate success, the season to worry about first jobs. Let’s picture this, you’re 21, fresh out of college, ready to take on the world, work in a corporate firm, skyrocket your career. Sounds amazing right? And then you start applying for jobs. You realise that you do not understand industry jargon and that the job role makes no sense to you. Also, if the entire process of searching and interviewing wasn’t enough, you then have to make a decision about one particular offer you want to take up. How do you know if this is what you want to do for the next few years? If this is actually the field you wish to pursue your career in?
Being a fresh graduate, it gets especially tricky. You obviously want to put your education to good use, but also want to get employed as soon as possible to gain work experience (and money). I have gone through all of this along with one failed job experience. Thus, I am a strong supporter of waiting for the right job to kickstart your career.
That doesn’t mean you are rigid about what you want to do. Please, be open about opportunities and explore options you hadn’t considered before. However, many people who enter the job market clueless feel compelled to stay in a job they don’t exactly like, doing things they don’t exactly understand. They stay back for a small promotion and then suddenly realize, they’ve stopped looking for the right job. They waste years in a position that was supposed to be a stepping stone, for they fear quitting what seems like a great start to a graduate’s career. Hence you must know when to move on. If you don’t love what you do, you will never discover your true potential and your career will be limited to just a job.
So what should your first job be like?
Your first job must excite you, overwhelm you, but definitely not bore you. You should be able to learn something new every day. Not only will this help you grow as a professional, but also as an individual. The money will not be great and that’s fine. Sometime you might even think you’re doing mundane work or hate what you’re doing and that’s also fine. But is the excitement and the learning missing and the hate is building up? Then that’s a sign that you should move on. And no harm there as knowing what you don’t want to do is as important as knowing what you want to do.
Also while picking a job I cannot emphasize the importance of research. Your idea of what an industry does might be very different from what the industry actually does. Research is the only way you will find what you want to do and you like doing.
Once you know what industry/type of job you want to be in, don’t worry that much about the position. Even a low ranking job in your desired industry will help you gain footing, insight and most of all, you will meet new people. You will learn from others mistakes, have people help you up when you fall, come across new perspectives, and learn of ideas that once seemed abhorrent.
While you go through this journey, remember that you might not know what you want to be when you ‘Grow Up’ and that’s okay! It’s okay to not have a plan. Don’t expect to be great at what you do, expect to be better every day, one step at a time. You see, no learning you get out of a job will ever go to waste, but you are wasting your time if you do not learn something. Know that its okay to make mistakes, its okay to fail and its okay to be confused. Great careers aren’t made in a day. But, one step in the right direction, every day, will make a great career.
My takeaways from all of this are pretty simple-
- Make sure that the job you are in or are about to choose excites you and exposes you to immense learning.
- Don’t be afraid to make a decision if you’re not happy or satisfied with your current situation. When you have a goal in mind, anything you do must be a stepping stone towards it.
- Put yourself out there. Research heavily. Sign up for trainings, talk to people, volunteer to work. Basically be hungry to learn.
- Don’t be bogged down by failures. You learn and you move on. Your success should not be determined by a checklist. The perfect job, perfect internship or perfect exam score is what you make of it.