Your First Job: Making the Right Choice

GRADUATION is imminent. The time is at hand: it’s time to conclude the process of accepting your first career-oriented job! You may be brimming with questions. What should you look for? What are important decision-making factors and what aren’t? And really, how important is your decision? How much pressure is there to pick the right first job? While there may be no right or wrong answer, there are many things to consider before you make your final choice.

Tomesah Harrison of Bayer and Jennifer Struck of DuPont Ag & Nutrition share advice for new graduates considering their first jobs.

HOW IMPORTANT IS MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE?

It’s important to be happy in whatever you do, so new graduates often approach their first job determined to find the perfect position. Take the pressure off: making the right choice for your first job should not be a stressful experience but rather one of openness and excitement.  “I believe it’s important for new grads to evaluate their options but don’t get too anxious about your first job choice,” said Harrison. “Every experience brings learning, and the first job is guaranteed to be one of many for new graduates.”  Struck also emphasized that students shouldn’t stress about finding the “right job” but the right job for this time in your life.

“As a person grows in their career, the right job will change,” Struck said. “Many times, we have higher expectations of what we can do when in reality, we need to start somewhere to learn the ropes. I always challenge students to step outside their comfort zone when leaving college because it’s the time that they are more likely to be able to do so.”  Consider taking a career in an industry you may not be as familiar with. Explore opportunities in a new location that you may not have considered.  In many scenarios, a new graduate may not be presented with job openings that match their idea of a dream job. You may find yourself feeling forced to apply to whatever’s open including positions you may not be at all passionate about. But know that it’s not as dire as you think.

“I’m not sure there is a ‘dream job,’” Harrison said. “There are aspects of every role that we really love or dread.”  “There are many times when people work in roles that they would not consider ideal,” Struck said. “However, after being there, they are able to find a new passion or see their career taking them in a different direction. You will learn and take something from every experience that will then help you land the ideal role.”  You may decide your first role really isn’t for you, and, as it’s been said, that’s fine. Just beware of job-hopping.

JOB-HOPPING

If you are not familiar with the term “job-hopping,” it is best defined as spending a short amount of time in one position before taking a new one. Often, those who are considered serial job-hoppers will take more than four different jobs in ten years. While this trend has been around for decades, neither Struck nor Harrison are concerned by it.  “I think we’ve instead tried to focus on creating the right experiences and opportunities that stimulate this desire to do something different more frequently while contributing in a meaningful way,” Harrison said. “When you are able to do this well, you satisfy the desire for a job change within your own four walls.”

Job-hopping allows an individual to be exposed to multiple opportunities but it can also create headaches for your employer left to pick up the pieces once you’ve left. More so, you could be cheating yourself out of learning all that you could from a short employment.  “The bigger challenge is when a person hops from job to job with no semblance of reason,” Struck said. “It could be company to company, or into various areas. This can have a negative impact on the candidate as companies may think they are not going to be dedicated to the organization or role long term.”  Both Harrison and Struck agreed that between two and three years is a good time-frame to experience a career before considering a change. The first year is a learning experience in which you are able to fully understand your role.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR CHOICE

You can look at salary figures, health care, or workplace perks, but all companies are ultimately going to offer you a solid package. Struck insists that the culture of the company, the team you will be working with, and other non-monetary components are more important when considering a new role.  “You will be spending a significant amount of time with the people you work with and the company, so it’s important a student considers whether the organization is one they would be proud to work for and would refer friends,” Struck said.

Beyond the culture, also consider how the organization could help you achieve your professional goals. Like all things, your goals will likely change, but it’s beneficial to go into a new role with aspirations in mind and how this new role could aid in achieving them.  “The opportunity to learn and grow represent the intangibles that can really make a difference in regards to a person’s career trajectory,” Harrison said. “Career development has been a huge focus for us at Bayer and we see the return in our engagement scores and retention of great talent.”  Harrison said that she has seen good working environments “springboard” employees into involvement outside of their own areas and share their skills throughout the organization.  “I’ve seen many young professionals actually get exposure to senior leaders and other opportunities through volunteer efforts or supporting a passion area that also was a key initiative for the business,” Harrison said. “Don’t let the current job description define or limit you in terms of how you deliver or behave.”

Ultimately, you may end up finding that your first job isn’t for you. But the decision to make the most of it—to learn, to grow and to experience—is entirely up to you. Make the choice to never limit yourself no matter where you may find yourself and to accept every opportunity as a new adventure.  Finally, a few pertinent questions to consider before hopping might include the following.

  1. What am I missing in my current role that I want in my next one?
  2. Does this situation really require a career move or am I able to seek adjustments?
  3. Have a learned everything I can from this role?
  4. Have I accomplished all that I wanted in this role?
  5. Is this new role that I’m considering the best role for me at this time?
  6. Does this new role help me achieve my personal goals?

Good luck in your career search efforts and remember the UConn Center for Career Development and your career consultants are available to help you navigate this process.

(This article was adapted and written by Kristine Penning, AgCareers.com Creative Marketing Specialist, and first appeared in the AgCareers.com 2016-2017 Ag & Food Career Guide)

By Paul Gagnon
Paul Gagnon Career Consultant, College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources Paul Gagnon