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Preparing for Your First Job Out of College

It’s understandable to get a little nervous when you think about your first day at a new job, especially if this is your first full-time gig. The “real world” is a lot different than your life in college, even if you managed to balance academics with an internship or a part- or full-time job to make some money, and you may find yourself facing an adjustment period. There are ways that you can prepare for your first job out of college, though, and to make sure that you last beyond the first week. Take a look at the tips below that we’ve come up with to help you new graduates feel more prepared, because preparation is the best way to come in that first day feeling ready and confident for your first job out of college.

Look the Part

It may have been acceptable to walk into your morning classes dressed in a state college sweatshirt or pajama pants, but those fashion choices will no longer be an option the first day on a new job. What you’re expected to wear may differ greatly depending on the environment of your new place of employment. Yes, some places will allow you to wear a nice pair of jeans, but most will have the “business casual” rule in place. This means no denim, T-shirts with slogans you thought were humorous in college, or sneakers. A good rule of thumb is to model your work wardrobe after what you saw during your interview for the position. What was everyone else wearing? Do they do casual Fridays? That should give you a good basis on what you should pull out of your closet — or look into acquiring — to dress appropriately at your new job.

Meet Expectations

You were hired for the job because your new employer thought you could handle the responsibilities of that job, based on the qualifications and experiences you discussed at your job interview. It’s now time to meet the expectations that your boss probably has of you, or at least try your hardest to make a good impression as the newest hire at his or her company. If you’re in an office where you’ll have deadlines to meet and projects to complete in an “as soon as possible” fashion, it may be a good idea to get yourself organized and manage your time efficiently right off the bat, and work out a plan for the first few weeks or months that will help you prioritize tasks. If you find yourself drowning, it’s best to let your boss know as soon as possible rather than blow a deadline because you were afraid of asking for an extension. If you find yourself exceeding expectations, make sure you’re keeping track of what you’ve done and when you’ve been particularly successful. Those accomplishments come in handy when it comes time to discuss bonuses and raises.

Take Advantage of the Experience

Even if you only took a job to get out of your parents’ basement, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you learn at your new place of employment, even if it’s just an entry-level position. Keep the lines of communication open and talk to you boss on a regular basis or even find someone at work that you can look up to and potentially use as a mentor. Take advantage of organized functions after work hours, because you never know who you’ll meet or who could help you down the line at a networking event. Find out about the perks associated with the new job, from tuition assistance to discounts on computers or tickets to sporting events. Take advantage of the experience, no matter how short-lived you think it’ll be initially. You may find yourself liking the job more than you thought, and will be thankful then that you put the effort in to establish a good relationship with your co-workers and superiors. And if you do end up leaving after a short while, you’ll have decent references to vouch for you.

Stay Positive

If you find that the job you’ve signed on for isn’t what you expected, whether your responsibilities have changed or the office environment isn’t as pleasant as you were expecting it to be, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook about the situation you’re in. It could just be that it’ll take you a while to get used to a more rigid schedule than you were used to in college or a more conservative office culture than you’d find on campus. Even if the job isn’t your dream job (few entry-level jobs are), it will help pad your resume to help you get to where you want to be down the line, and cover bills you may not have had much experience with as a college student. However, if you’ve been there for a while now and are growing increasingly unhappy, it may be time to either talk to your supervisor about your concerns or start making pros and cons lists about whether you should stay a bit longer, or look for other jobs. It typically looks better on a resume to stay at a job for at least a year to show that you won’t jump ship at the first sign of trouble, but we understand that in some cases, it is important to get yourself out of bad situations.

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