Best Foot Forward: Things to Do as You Enter the Workforce
Setting a precedent for your overall career, your first job is important, and you can make sure it proves to be a good first step by making some careful considerations
Finding your first job can be tricky business. How do you make sure that the work you get is one you like and kicks off your career right? What if time runs out during your search and you have to accept any job out of necessity? Often, fresh graduates settle for roles outside their field or study, or those that don’t even require their level of education, because almost any job starts to look good when in financial need or just being fearful of unemployment.
Now, while there’s nothing wrong with accepting a job to make ends meet, you can still both earn a living while also do work that is meaningful to you and helps you meet your career by planning, being patient, and knowing exactly what you want and what you are willing to do (or not do) to reach your goals.
Create your five-year plan
While a five-year plan is seemingly cliche, having a sense of where you want to be and what you want to be doing in half a decade will help simplify some of the decisions that you have to make in the present. Remember, you need not be pressured into fulfilling everything within your plan, but having it is much better than having no direction at all, and later finding yourself with a career you don’t like.
As mentioned, you will encounter some opportunities that don’t feel right from a passion or purpose standpoint, but may make sense financially. In these instances, you can ask yourself, “If I accept this role, will it lead me to the life/career that I want five years from now?” If yes, then of course, you consider the opportunity. If no, and you are not under any extenuating circumstances that forces you to accept the job, then it’s best you move on.
Consider the long-term trajectory of your first job
In line with creating a five-year plan is understanding that any decisions you make now will surely have an impact on what happens to you moving forward. Again, it can’t be emphasized enough that while there’s nothing wrong with taking the first job offer you get, it might not always be in your best interest to do so, especially if it alters your desired career path or puts you on another one that you don’t like altogether.
So remember, while some jobs look like a good financial choice at the moment, these jobs might also place you in an industry you don’t thrive in, have you working at an office that is located in an area that requires and exhaustive commute, or have you doing work that is not in line with your professional goals, just to name a few.
List the pros and cons of each job
Listing pros and cons is essentially the culmination of the first two tips, and as you proceed with your professional life, and adulthood in general, you can expect to do a lot of decision making, so you might as well get used to doing these lists, and you can start with the first job you accept.
You can simplify the process by considering which aspects of work you consider important, from the location or how far you are willing to commute, the range of employee benefits provided, and, of course, the salary, among others. Then rank which you consider deal-breakers, or those aspects which you can’t accept a job without, and which you can be flexible with.
So which list is longer? How great are the pros? Are the cons that bad? Weight your list carefully, and let it guide you to the best possible first job.
Create a ‘first-job budget’
Okay, okay. While an entry-level may isn’t likely going to have your savings account bursting at the seams, it is still likely the most money you’ve earned in your life (so far). With that said, you’ll want to be wise with your new income, and as you accept an offer, you’ll already have an idea of what you’ll be making even if you haven’t started yet. This is as good a time as any to establish your first-job budget.
Start by keeping in mind that what is listed next to ‘salary’ in your employee contract may be a little misleading, because more often than not what is indicated is gross-pay, or what you are paid each month BEFORE taxes and government contributions. So take some time to estimate what your net pay is like, then from there take into account rent, utilities, and transportation expenses, among others. Just as, if not more, important, make sure to…
Consider your savings (and investment) goals
While you are just about to start working, keep in mind that not all jobs are guaranteed, nor will your first job be the one you hold for the rest of your life. With that, it is important to be prepared for the times you may be out of work, and the tried and tested way to do so is to save your money. And in the event that you always have work? Well that means you have money set aside for investing and for building your future, or to enrich other facets of your life via hobbies, travel, or entrepreneurial projects.
Remember, you will be working not just to live for today, but to build yourself a viable tomorrow, and the job you choose now is a considerably important first step towards that goal. So whenever you receive a job offer, make sure that the job will help you meet the goals you’ve set for yourself, as this will make it easier to decide on whether you accept it or not.
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