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Why Your First Job Out of College Is the Most Important of All

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lessons, first job, first job out of college, what you'll learn, professionalism, learn from failing, your future, career goals, career plans

Your first year out of college is filled with uncertainties.

You straddle a line between youth and adulthood, and you’re learning a lot about navigating The Real World. When once your life consisted of parties, test cramming, sleeping, attending lectures and hanging out with friends, as a graduate you face the stark contrast of a 9-to-5 obligation and a 10 p.m. bedtime.

On top of it all, there’s reason to believe your first job out of college is the most important you’ll ever have. Here why:

1. You’ll learn professionalism.

Truth: I was humbly told by my first manager to reconsider my work wardrobe. After that intense five-minute chat, I learned in a hurry what to and not to wear in an office setting. (Who knew that ladies’ night and a corporate environment didn’t have the same attire protocol?)

When thrown into a totally new setting, you’re faced with conforming to the professional etiquette of those around you. You’ll learn things as simple as office attire and how to use a fax machine while honing more complex skills like email formalities, presentations and communicating in a professional work environment.

2. You’ll learn from falling.

In my first job, I got a lot of criticism about my writing, time management and how I worked with coworkers—but I learned quickly how to fix these issues. You’ll inevitably face hurdles between college life and the working world, but it’s all about how open you are to learning from your mistakes and how hard you work to form new, positive habits and skills.

During that first year out of college, you’ll be thrown into new situations and tasked with bottom-line impacting decisions, whereas in college you were likely in an artificial environment that had no impact on a business or others. As you navigate through the real world, you’ll learn the ropes hard and fast. And, as you progress through life as a professional, you’ll be able to steer through situations with strength and grace after “falling” in your first year in the working world.

3. You’ll form your future.

Your first job serves as a springboard for your professional future. This can either help or hurt the newly employed. For example, if you land a job as a business analyst for a Fortune 100 company, you’ll likely have a better career trajectory than if you were working as a house painter or door-to-door knife salesman.

So if you do have the luxury of multiple job offers, think long and hard about where you see your professional future, and select the position that will get you there the quickest. If you don’t have your dream entry-level job, consider obtaining a specialized postsecondary degree in health, IT or other highly demanded areas.

4. You’ll learn exactly what you want to do in life.

When you’re forced to work an eight-hour-a-day shift, you really get a flavor for the industry and role you are in—and you can pretty quickly see where you want your future to go. Luckily, as an entry-level professional, you have the mobility to change your professional path.

That means if you cringe at the thought of going to work day in and day out, consider what you really want to do in life and make actionable goals to get there.

Do you agree that your first job out of college is your most important? Let us know in the comments!

Oh, and Editor Alexis Grant is looking for someone to write a counter-post on why that first job is NOT your most important. Wanna write it? Pitch her at alexis [at] brazencareerist.com.

Allie Gray Freeland is the Editor-in-Chief of CollegeOnline.org, where she oversees a network of degrees online and an online college blog. She has been in marketing for nearly a decade and received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Minnesota.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.