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You’re beyond the days of scooping ice cream during the summer and wrapping Christmas gifts during the holiday season. Let’s say you’re stepping out into the market for your first permanent job. What should you look for in that first real interview? In all likelihood, your first position may not be your ultimate dream job. It’s probably going to be an entry-level position in a field that may or may not be your preferred specialty. The important point is to use that job to help you gain the skills and acquaintances that will help in your career preparation. You have to make the most out of your first job!


Getting a college degree is an excellent way to increase your knowledge and job opportunities, and you should seriously consider any job offer that includes tuition reimbursement for a college degree program. A company that supports your education shows the company’s willingness to expand your knowledge base and invest in your future. If your first job does offer tuition reimbursement options, make sure to gather all of the information before you enroll, and keep in mind that although your education is important, your job may have to be your main priority. In order to maintain balance, you might consider online courses which make it possible for you to attend school while working full-time. You can study and do your homework in the evenings or on weekends when you are off from work.

Practical Skills

Before you launch your career, you cannot possibly have all of the practical knowledge you will need in the future. The best early jobs for you offer opportunities to learn new skills. In addition to informal on-the-job training, you may go through formal training sessions for safety on the job and equipment operation. Other possibilities include workshops and conferences to further your expertise. When you can, volunteer for extra duties that will give you additional practice in your skills.

When you are choosing a job, ask interviewers about learning opportunities and whether the company has mentorship programs. During workplace tours, pay close attention to their atmospheres. Some workplaces have a friendly, encouraging environment that is conducive to learning. Others may have standoffish supervisors. You may want to ask employees about their own experiences.

Be Persistent but Realistic

Try to stay calm, and remember that you don’t need to commit to the first job opportunity that comes along if you know you will hate it, and it will not aid your career. Keep looking for opportunities around your community and online. You can program job search databases and professional networks, such as LinkedIn, to notify you when interesting jobs are available. Remember that for many people, the first job or first few jobs may not work out. You may even quit. That’s okay, as long as you make the best of the situation and learn what you can.

Think about your first job as a stepping stone along the career path you want to follow. Consider what benefits you will get from the job, and what position you will be in when the job is over for you. You want to be more experienced, more capable, better educated and more attractive to potential employers so that you have more command over your own career.

 Do you have any other tips on how to make the most out of your first job? Comment below!

Photo courtesy of USACE-Sacramento District via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).