a desk ready for an employee's first day on the job

Grad School: How To Survive Your First Job

Hear ye! Hear ye! If you’ve graduated within the last two years and have had a string of internships, fellowships, temporary work and have finally scored your first full-time job, this one’s for you.

Dear Recent Grads,

Most blogs tell you how to get your career started by perfecting your cover letter or resume. Few tell you how to power through the growing pains of having a full-time, salaried gig or how to stay there successfully. Here a few tips for the half of us – 53% according to Accenture – who have jobs where we can put our degrees to work.

Learn how to stay put.

After being accustomed to doing short stint work – six months here, two months there – the idea of being committed to one employer feels foreign and even wrong. We’re nomads, in a sense, so to not have to constantly catch up with HR managers and apply for jobs is something we have to get used to. One way to make the transition easier is to think about it this way: this work is about consistency. It is work that requires us to put all of our university know-how to use and create something for the long term. Start thinking of your job as a place where you can build something more permanent and cultivate skills that will serve both you and your company in the future. This will make your days more meaningful and make you less likely to follow that sneaky instinct to find something new.

Grown ups do grown up things.

Like have a set schedule. That’s probably been the hardest adjustment for me because I’m a weirdly flexible type A personality. Monday through Friday, I’m up at 7:00, out the door by 7:50, and at my computer by 8:15. I surf the net for top headlines, review my day’s work and prioritize. Then, I work, work, work until 5 p.m., and I go home and do it all over again the next day.

Thinking about it so clinically, you can feel as if your life has become overtaken by work. Your hunger for work has died down a little because you no longer have to go out and seek it. So how do you overcome that feeling? Set a schedule that is efficient but ensures you do something every day that makes your day count, personally as well as professionally. If you feel stuck, mix things up. A schedule doesn’t mean your creativity or energy has to be stifled.

Be proud.

Some days I feel as if I’ve hit a wall, and I vent a little to my friends about how my life is so predictable. For the foreseeable future, I’ll still be where I am today: handing out my Parthenon Publishing business cards and sitting in my cubical doing good work. But isn’t that work exactly the point? It’s something to be proud of.

Often times, because we recent grads are so used to the struggle, we miss our current moment to actually bask in achieving what we worked so hard for. Sure, some days work isn’t the way we want it to be, but it’s the work that we wished for. It’s OK for us to pat ourselves on the back, sit down, prop our feet up with our degrees and enjoy that we have walked through the door to the career we wanted and the worst is behind us. It’s only up from here, grads. We did it!