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What To Expect From Your First Job After Leaving College

First Job After College

College/University is over and it’s time to step into the ‘real world’ (patronising much?). It’s time to get your first full time job.

Countless University students will be biting their nails and beavering their way through cover letters trying to find ‘that job’. It’s a difficult time in a world of high expectations and ripe competition. The % of individuals entering the job world degree educated is rising constantly and everyone is looking for a job which truly represents the years they have spent studying.

I’m not going to lie to you. Your first job will be a scary experience. An overwhelming experience. But don’t worry I have compiled a list of some things to expect from your first role and some advice in how to approach a job once leaving college.

It’s an exciting time, a daunting time but one you can be prepared for.

University Education = Big Salary?:

I remember leaving university and I would hear stories of starting salaries for University graduates at around £30,000 a year. Let me tell you I didn’t get anywhere near that amount. There’s a misconception that everyone who leaves University with a degree is entitled to a job.

You don’t have to listen to any media outlet for long to hear that there are millions struggling across the globe to secure a job role with a degree. It’s not a forgone conclusion.

Salary wise the early years will suck. My advice is to secure a role and expect a limited salary to begin with. Once in a role you can make the necessary skill improvements and begin to move up the salary bands. It will be tough at first but expect a limited salary to begin with.

People have routines:

You’re the fresh faced, overgrown clothe wearing new kid on the block. They have been with the company 5 years. People have routines; schedules and ways they work which you aren’t part of. It will be a transition period at first for everyone concerned.

Expect to feel a little ‘out of the loop’ to begin with. It’s a horrible feeling of been alone when you start a new job. Everyone seems to be within a specific routine which you don’t fit into. These things take time and the more experienced you become throughout your career the less daunting it feels.


At every job there’s always a personality. The guy who likes to be the centre of attention or the veteran who has been with the company since the beginning. Expect personalities and be aware of people around you.

The work place is quite different from the college/university environment. Where at University you can choose the people you want to be friends with work is quite different. You are thrown into a room with a number of other people and expected to work together in harmony. The workplace has people you wouldn’t typically socialise with which is something you need to be aware of.

Placing together a fresh out of college individual with a 50 year old may have some personality differences. Expect it.

It won’t be perfect:

From experience of my own and countless friends the first job is never the perfect role or the dream job. Sure it happens and if it happens to you that’s excellent however in most circumstances the first job from college isn’t quite perfect.

My first role following University was far from perfect but it gave me a real grounding within the business world. The first job role can also help you mould what you actually want from your career. Want to be part of a vibrant working environment? Don’t get a job in company with only 5 employees. Want to have great work/life balance? Be sure of the industry you are entering.

You may also find the first job role doesn’t quite match what you envisaged when studying. That can also happen however an individual with working examples of their skills set is far more employable long term than a picky college student who is holding out for the ‘dream’ role. That can take time.

Tea Guy Girl?

A complete fallacy! Sure you be involved in ‘Drinks rounds’ within the office but the myth of a new starter becoming the designated drinks individual is simply not true. It’s more than likely that people will make drinks for you to try help you settle in, help you feel at home.

Of course you may like the idea of making colleagues drinks and this should be encouraged however it won’t be your job role from day one.

All Work. No Play:

There’s another misconception that once you get into your career from college is that your social calendar will be destroyed! Again this is simply not true! Sure some career paths and job roles require you to be extremely focused in your work however rest assured you still have free time to enjoy the things you love.

Just because you have left college/university doesn’t mean you suddenly become a completely different human being. Enjoy going on vacation? This can still happen and I encourage this! Like to bust some moves on the dance floor? That’s what the weekend is for!

It’s often the case that you enjoy your social life far more when in full time employment. The extra financial benefits allows you to spend more time having fun without feeling the pinch. Work has become more than a place you go to clock in. You can make real friends for life within the workplace and this may just happen at your first job!

You will make mistakes:

Everyone in their first job role makes a mistake. You may spend a whole day completing a spreadsheet incorrectly or write a report which isn’t what the manager was looking for. It happens and it’s expected!

Expect to make mistakes and go home from a days work feeling a little glum. You’re learning your trade and with every piece of education comes mistakes. Don’t dwell on those mistakes. Try learn from them.

Give you perfect grounding:

Does this heading sound familiar to the chat you have with a parent when they reel of a number of cliche/overused lines on you?

‘It’ll be great experience’

‘You’ll learn from it’

At least you have a job

But in all seriousness the first job gives you a grounding to built upon. I have touched on this before however the first job after leaving college should always be seen in a positive light (whatever the role) as it gives you that grounding within the corporate world. Before you start work it’s impossible to think what you actually want from an organisation. Furthermore your requirements will alter dramatically as you move through your career.

People always look for the dream job instantly when in reality having a foundation to progress from is the most sensible route.

Kick starts a career path:

The traditional corporate ladder is becoming more and more blurred as we pass through time. I’ve spoke before about the Lattice approach to career progression however your first job does help form an initial career route.

After leaving University I had a goal to work as a web designer however I happened to fall into online marketing via my first job role as a Digital marketing assistant. The role was far from perfect however it gave me a subject to focus upon and a career path to follow. First jobs can secure you a career path you may not have considered previously.

Interested in journalism? Why not become an online content writer? Just because you have a clear end goal doesn’t mean you cannot look in other areas.

The first job can shape your career in a way you had not previously considered. Before applying for the assistants role I had never considered online marketing however now I couldn’t think of another career I would prefer to do. Having an open mind and exploring a route where your qualifications can be equally used is a great strategy when securing a first job.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.


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