I’ve been working my first “real job” out of college for nearly six months now, and I have learned so much in such a short amount of time. And I mean that; it’s seriously astounding.
Almost everyone knows that getting a job is goal numero uno for new college grads, but here is a list of what they don’t tell you about getting a job straight out of college (but probably should…)
1. You’ve entered an ever-changing environment.
The days of expecting to be around the same people for the next four+ years are gone. Welcome to a work environment where people come and go and not just during August and May, respectively. Someone may leave the company for new opportunities or get let go for spending a bit too much work time on Facebook. People move on, and that will take some getting used to for anyone who was around many of the same people for four years.
2. There will be break envy.
My university in particular was great with breaks. We had either a long weekend or a whole week off in October, November, December, February, and April, not to mention the entire summer. Work breaks do not compare.
For instance, I now have nine federal holidays scattered about the calendar (but mostly during wintertime), two “floating holidays,” and fifteen days of paid time off. Not too shabby for someone who’s been with the company for less than a year, but not even close to the break time I enjoyed in college.
3. It might feel like everyone else is in grad school.
When I graduated from college last May, I was one of two people in my immediate friend group who went straight into the work force. Everyone else found spots in graduate schools, medical schools, and law schools across the country, which might seem a little higher than the statistic that I recently found: nearly 40% of all college grads opt to pursue an advanced degree within five years of finishing their undergraduate education. We all know that FOMO is real, but remember that while you’re dealing with coworkers, performance reviews, and 401K, they still have professors, exams, and tuition to worry about!
4. Understanding Benefits and Health Insurance 101 should have been a required class.
With any job, there’s bound to be a learning curve, but for recent college grads, just getting a job comes with a definite learning period. What does HSA even mean? Do I need one? How much life insurance coverage should you take out?
If you have questions, ask your HR department! They’re there to help you. Sometimes benefits can mean more than just healthcare plans; for instance, mine came with a FitBit and health management portal that helps me keep up with all of my levels and how much I should be exercising.
5. School is not over!
An unofficial benefit of my job is my boss’s willingness to contribute to my continued education. In my few weeks on the job, I was sent to a conference where I learned a ton about editing and branding. I’ve also been given the opportunity to take classes in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, which have been helpful for both my work life and my blog life! Some of my coworkers have even completed graduate degrees while working, and the company has footed the bill for them. Be open to a little extra schooling; it will make you a better employee, and don’t think you’re done padding your resume just because you have a job!
6. You should start contributing to your 401K… yesterday.
I know that retirement seems like a faraway land of grandchildren and a vacation each month (or is that just me?), but you should still be taking a portion of each paycheck and putting it toward your post-work living expenses.
Find out if your company matches your 401K contributions, and make sure to at least contribute whatever percentage of your paycheck that they will match. For instance, if your company will match up to 5% of your paycheck, you should be contributing at least that much for a total of 10%. And believe me, it adds up!
7. You are 100% qualified!
Congratulations! You have a job. I know that I was incredibly nervous for my first day, but you should know that if they hired you (and if you didn’t like completely lie on your resume…), you can do this job and do it well! And while you may not get super long breaks anymore, you will have opportunities to learn and grow as an employee and (hopefully) a human being, just like you did in college.
Are there any other things new college grads should know about landing their first job? What would you go back and tell yourself about that first shot at employment?
P.S. I’m also here for all your other young professional needs.