Navigating Your First Job

Navigating Your First Job

You always remember your firsts: your first kiss, your first heartbreak and yes, your first job. And much like other firsts, your first job after college is one that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It sets the tone for the decisions you will make throughout your career. In other words, your first job is what prepares you for lifelong professional success.

My first job at a jewelry company in Kansas taught me many invaluable lessons that I still turn to daily. Some lessons were easier to learn than others, but I’m eternally grateful for the wisdom I gained on both the good days and the not-so-great ones.

Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned, and how you can use them, too.

1. Kill ‘em with kindness. 

Sounds cliché, right? There’s a reason this is a household phrase. One of the best ways you can react to someone is from a place of kindness.

During my first year working in an office, I quickly learned how to deal with different personalities. There were some co-workers who were naturally optimistic, while others were undoubtedly pessimists. Each time I felt a co-worker raising their voice or a conversation turning negative, I tried my best to turn it into a positive situation. And while it didn’t always work, I felt good because I knew I was coming from a genuine place.  

So always be kind, because you never know what someone is going through...not to mention who your boss could be a few year later!

2. Let your voice be heard.

My first job consisted primarily of strong, dominant female co-workers. And while I’m definitely a fan of independent women, there were times that working with them was tough. With so many strong opinions to be heard, I didn’t always feel confident speaking my mind. I sometimes held myself back from sharing new ideas, which kept me from thriving in my position. When I expressed my concern to my supervisor, she made a point to ask for my opinion in meetings. Once I started sharing my thoughts, I felt a huge boost in my self-esteem.

The moral of the story? Don’t hold yourself back. Instead, hold your head high and know that you have a voice that deserves to be heard.

3. Pursue your “passion project.” 

What’s a “passion project,” you might ask? Simply stated, it’s the project that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. I was extremely passionate about creating a blog for the company I worked for, so in my spare time (a.k.a. at night and on the weekends), I worked on a pitch to present the concept to my supervisor. She loved it, as did the vice president of the department, so I was able to see my ideas come to fruition and “own” a project that held a very special place in my heart, and it still does today. 

So, if there’s something you really want to do at work, tell someone, be it your boss or your work bestie. Set up a meeting with them and be prepared to share your ideas, take notes and ask questions. If you’re too afraid of hearing a “no,” then you’ll never experience the satisfaction of hearing a “yes.”

4. Leave it at work.

One of the biggest struggles I faced during my first year was leaving work at the office. I constantly felt the need to bring projects home and “get ahead” (yes, I’m a recovering Type A personality). So, for a few months, I would leave the office, come home and start working again. But after a while I started to feel burnt out, tired and less-than-excited about my projects. Once I started leaving something to tackle the next morning, I got my spark back. So when in doubt, leave it for tomorrow. It’s only a day away.

5. Find a mentor. 

Whether it’s your supervisor or a co-worker, find a mentor who can help you through the ups and downs of your job. I was lucky to have a few mentors during my first job, and without them, I would have been lost! If you don’t have a mentor at the office, reach out to a former college professor, an older (and experienced) relative or a successful friend you admire. Get it touch with them regularly and let their wisdom and experience inspire you.

In the end, always remember that you’re learning and growing every day, so rise above the setbacks and celebrate each and every success.

[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]

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