Throughout your career, you will make many bad choices. You will take a job that offers no growth. You will take a job that has a terrible boss. You will make a bold career move that will leave you in a company facing a decline. That is all part of the career cycle and if it happens you will be able to bounce back. However, the first job you take really matters. The first step in your career after you finish university is incredibly important.
When you leave university it is hard to find a good job. It seems that even entry-level positions want someone with experience and that is by definition just impossible. This is what leads 40% of graduates to take jobs that don’t actually require a degree. Most take a job in a cafe, in a restaurant or somewhere else while they wait for their career to take off. They think they will find that perfect college job later but for now, they just need to work.
It is an attitude that makes perfect sense. Everyone needs money and if you can’t find a job in your field then you need to take a job anywhere else. Yet the blow it can deal with your career may be something that you never recover from. Those graduates who take a job that doesn’t require a degree are five times as likely to be in that same position five years later compared to grads who took a job that did require a degree. There are two main reasons for this, push and pull factors.
The pull factor is that prospective employers place more of an emphasis on your last position than anything else. If you take a job as a barista than they look at you as a barista. They may miss the fact that you were top of your class all through university. This is because employers receive many resumes and they quickly scan to determine if someone is worth interviewing. Unfortunately, that quick scan can often result in missing diamonds in the rough.
The push factor is that graduates who work out of their field for too long lose confidence in their abilities. A graphic designer who hasn’t graphic designed for two years feels that they are already behind on the latest technologies and are less employable than when they finished university. This may be true. In many fields, though it is just a lack of confidence. Many jobs don’t actually have skills related to what people learn in university. A university degrees is more of a signal that someone can work hard, achieve results, and remain focussed. Graduates should not let their absence from the field for a sustained period of time turn them off, but many do.
The key to unlocking this problem is internships. Doing internships during university will give you some experience in the market before you finish university and allow you to start establishing your professional network. From here you will find it easier to get a foot in the door of many companies. Of course, this means that your choice of internship matters. Don’t take any internship as it may be the first step in your career, so choose wisely. An internship is one situation when top companies are looking for top graduates, by making the right choice at this time you could be starting your career off in the perfect way.
The reality is that people take these unrelated jobs thinking that it will just be for a few months. It can quickly turn into a new career. Make your decisions wisely throughout your career and always consider what story your resume tells. The most important part of any story is the opening line.