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What to Expect When You're Expecting Your First Job

Know what is expected and what's not at your first job.

Lauren Bayne Anderson

June 17, 2011

What to Expect When You're Expecting Your First Job
Do you have unrealistic expectations of your first job? If the answer is yes, you may not even realize it, but you wouldn’t be alone. Nearly one-third of college graduates have unrealistic expectations for their first job, according to a survey by the Creative Group, a national staffing service. Some of the misconceptions revolve around what exactly they’ll be doing and how much they’ll be paid.

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So, here’s what and what not to expect from your first job: DON’T Expect:

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  • …To jump into your dream job. You’ll have to prove yourself and work up. That often means grunt work. Doing the stuff around the office no one else wants to do. Just remember, you won’t be the newest edition to the office for long. Pay your dues and move it.
  • …To make your desired salary immediately. You looked up the salaries for your job online before your interview, AND before you even decided what your major will be! It said $36,000- $85,000 so you figure you’ll start off around $50,000 and work your way up to $85 within the next 10 years. Right? Probably not. Expect to start at the lowest spectrum of the income range, due to your lack of experience coupled with the tough economy. You may eventually get to that $85,000 (depending on the work you produce and what city you live in), but chances are, it’s going to be a while.
  • …It to be like it was when you were an intern. Many companies roll out the red carpet for interns to get them hooked. You may have escaped “busy season”, quotas, mundane paper work, and other not so fun aspects of the job as an intern, while the company was “wooing” you. Sorry, but the honeymoon is over.
  • …Everyone to bend over backwards for you. When you were interning, the office may have even provided a mentor for you. Now you’re all alone. The sad truth is that once you’re a real employee, and no longer intern status, you’re competition for your coworkers. That makes some people nervous.
  • …A raise to be handed to you. Ask for as much money as you can when you start a job, because raises usually come around only once a year upon a stellar yearly review – and in a bad economy, many companies suspend raises.
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  • … To under any circumstance be that newbie to the office that “gets ahead” by throwing your coworkers under the bus. You may not know this yet, but doing that won’t make you look better, it will just earn you enemies. Plus you’ll have no one watching your back when it’s needed.
  • …Let on that you’re unhappy doing what you’re doing. You need the experience. The economy is tough. Don’t leave a job before you have another one and don’t give them a reason to fire you before you can find that other job.

  • Expect to get stuck doing some stuff you’d rather not do, at a job you feel you’re not getting paid enough for. Sorry…like Curtis Blow says, those are often the breaks. But keep your head up, it’s not forever.
  • Try to form alliances with seasoned workers in your office that can serve as mentors and steer you around office politics, etc.
  • Work Hard. This includes taking on extra work at your job, but also outside your 9-5 too. Free lance, volunteer your services with a non-profit, community or political organization. You’re building skills faster and adding to your resume.
  • Dress for the job you want. Not the job you have. This is great, time tested advice. If your boss literally can see you as a fit for the position, they’ll take you more seriously. If they see you as a college student, who dresses like one…well, you get the point.
  • Volunteer for more responsibility. Even if you’re not getting paid for it… yet.

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