Starting your first job is almost always an exciting time. For many, it may follow a long hard stretch of searching for job openings, completing endless applications, some of which may not be very accessible, and then finally going to an interview or interviews, which may also be stressful. Feelings that individuals may experience when starting a first job include a sense of accomplishment, feeling worthy that somebody finally realized your potential and had enough confidence in you to hire you, and possibly being nervous about the unknown. Others may just be happy that they have an opportunity to earn some much needed spending money and can’t wait until they get that much anticipated first pay check in their hand. I am pretty sure that back when I began my first job, I experienced all of these feelings and more. Unless you are very fortunate and score a first job that is related to your desired career goal, most people don’t take their first job too seriously. This does not mean that they do not perform well, rather the focus may be only on the paycheck and not on what else a job has to offer. In addition to earning some money, I recommend focusing on some other take aways from your first job and using these to get a start on what hopefully will be a lengthy career path. Some of these take aways can include:
- Skill development: Almost every new job comes with a learning curve, where you are required to learn new tasks, skills, lingo, people, software, tools, etc. Try to learn each of these new areas to the best of your ability and reflect on how they may help you in a more advanced job, either with the same employer or with a different employer. It will probably not be possible to master each skill, but you may decide that there are certain ones that you really want to develop further. This could be done through self-study, taking courses or learning them on a different job.
- Resume development: Think about how you can add your new job experience to your resume, or if you do not yet have a resume, how you can create one based on this first job. When you have a very limited work history, it is important to put all jobs on a resume unless you were terminated for unsatisfactory reasons, i.e. fired or if you feel that the experience will not help you to get another job. An entry on a resume should include the name of the business or organization where you worked, your job title, the dates worked and some of your job duties. It is important to think about how each job duty relates to other potential jobs that you may want to apply for in the future.
- Developing references: Think about whom at your job will speak well about you to future employers. Generally, people use their boss or somebody who is in a leadership role as a reference, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It could be a coworker who you did a lot of team work with and had a good work relationship with and who you know will sing praise for you to a potential new employer. When leaving a job in good standing, it is always good to ask individuals if it is okay if you use them for a reference. It is good to make a list of references along with contact information, such as email addresses and phone numbers. Be sure you spell their names correctly and list their job titles. A good way to keep track of past coworkers is through LinkedIn, an online professional networking website. See my previous blog, Getting LinkedIn. If you are leaving the job because it was only a temporary position but you are hoping to find another job, I would ask your supervisor if they have any other job openings or if he or she knows of any other employers who might be hiring.
- Travel skills: Once you are offered and accept that first job, it is important to consider your best option for getting to and from work. If you are fortunate to live and work where there is public transportation, you will want to research the bus schedules, making sure you get to work in a timely fashion. You may want to request the services of an Orientation and Mobility Specialist or if you are already a skilled traveler, possibly going with a sighted friend to point out important landmarks. At the very least, you may want to take a practice run prior to your start date to work out any of the unknown. If you do not have public transit available or you decide not to use it, you will want to arrange for a driver, taxi cab or paratransit. If you work a regular schedule, you can set up fixed rides with paratransit or many cab companies, meaning that they will pick you up at a set time every day. Once you start the job and begin to get to know some of your coworkers, you may want to inquire about carpooling if there is somebody who lives near you.
- Develop a work ethic:A work ethic generally means showing up at work on time with a good attitude. This means arriving to work ready to work, being willing to perform extra job duties that may not be in your job description when asked or stepping up and offering to do a task that you know needs to be done. It may also mean being flexible with your work schedule if you are requested to fill in additional hours, work a weekend or stay late. It also involves your physical and mental appearance; dressing and grooming appropriately, cooperating with coworkers and being pleasant to consumers. Sometimes working late may be difficult to do, particularly if you have a scheduled ride and you have been given little notice, but try to be as flexible as possible to show that you are a valuable employee.
- Likes and dislikes: Many jobs may include things we dislike. This is even more so with first jobs, as we often don’t discriminate as we just want a job. For people who are uncertain about their career goals, it is just as important to discover what you don’t like about a particular job as it is to realize what you do like. For a lot of people, we just don’t know whether we will or will not like something until we try it. So think about your likes and dislikes relating to your job. Do you prefer working with other people or more independently? Do you like working in a quiet office, or do you find this boring and prefer to work outside the office more? Do you prefer working with technology or do you prefer providing customer support over the phone? Also think about accommodations that you may be using on your job and how these may apply to other jobs. Consider all of these things and what impact they may have on your next job selection.
- Use of accommodations: Your first job may involve learning how to use new accommodations to perform certain tasks. For a lot of specific accommodations, becoming competent in their use may open other doors for you with regard to other jobs. Most jobs, as with life in general, are going to involve some problem solving. The more flexible and creative you are, the more likely you are to be successful. If you are looking for ideas on specific accommodations, I suggest using resources such as the Career Connect Mentor program and/or the Job Accommodations Network. You may find that another individual has already worked out a solution for your problem, saving you time and effort. The links are as follows: APH CareerConnect and US Department of Labor