In the last 5 weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of beginning two new but completely different jobs. Despite the enormous difference between the two positions, I have come away with a unique insight into what it’s like to begin your first job right out of college.
Like so many recent graduates, I struggled to find a job related to my field of study after graduation (Marketing and Advertising, for those who are wondering). I was searching for a good 3-4 months before I decided to take an open position at my local high school district as a special-ed instructor. I had previous teaching experience, gained from teaching English abroad in Germany and France, but that was a far cry from what I encountered at my new job. Simultaneously, I was still sending applications to every marketing agency I came across that had an open position until I was fortunate enough to find a position at a local Orange County firm. In only one month, I went from an instructor for special needs students to a digital marketing analyst, but as I’ve said earlier, despite the unending list of differences between the positions, I couldn’t help but notice some striking similarities in how I interacted with my new supervisors and co-workers. For example:
- Be ready to go over A LOT of paperwork: Working for a school district requires that you go through multiple levels of security, both legal and medical. The pre-employment package from the school district must have been around 100 pages that was meant to go over your past employment and medical history. To top it all off, we finished our pre-employment screening by submitting our fingerprints. Working for a marketing agency doesn’t necessarily entail nearly as much paperwork as working for the government, but it also isn’t as simple as a field trip application. My suggestion, as with all legal documents, is to take it home and go over it.
- No one expects you to literally hit the ground running: My first day working with special needs students will undoubtedly remain unforgettable. I met my supervisor and was put in charge of the care of paraplegic and autistic students. Naturally, I had the necessary and proper training prior to the start of the job, but training in a classroom and having to possibly perform the medical actions are two different things. To my relief, I was only left alone with the student for the first fifteen minutes after which the rest of the veteran instructional team arrived and told me to relax because no one is left alone with a student on their first day. Each student had their little nuances that had to be learned so that we could better work with them, something a first-timer would never know. On a much lighter end, my first day at the marketing agency followed along the same vein. I was familiar with Google Analytics and AdWords before the start of my job, but those were only the tip of the iceberg. My first week was filled with non-stop studying of various UI’s of other marketing platforms and shadowing my co-workers and director as they completed daily tasks. Again, no one expected me to know everything; there are just some things that they don’t teach in school.
- Know that you’re not the only one adjusting to your new workplace. Your employer is also adjusting to you too: Employers know that despite how much previous experience you have, there will always be a learning curve, and with that learning curve comes adjustments from both ends. Your employer is not going to set you up to fail; it’s completely counterproductive to hire someone and then set them up to be fired immediately. Instead, your managers/supervisors are trying to figure out what’s the best way to bring you up to speed. They already decided you were the right candidate for the position; now, they are going to try to figure out how you best fit in with their teams. Nowhere else was that more apparent than working with students who have special needs. My supervisors there realized that to bring a new person into their classroom would present a major change for not only them but their students as well. Therefore, the senior instructors and teachers worked closely with me to figure out how each student would react, and then, we would adjust accordingly. Currently, at the marketing agency, I am figuring out my natural strengths and doing my best to contribute immediately to the company based on those strengths, but at the same time, my director and co-workers are constructively finding and pointing out my weaknesses, so we’re working to improve them.
- Most importantly, relax. It’s new, exciting and can sometimes be nerve-racking, but remember to relax. Unless you do something completely idiotic on your first day or week on the job, your employer will most likely not fire you. As I’ve said before, they decided that you were the strongest candidate for the position and have already decided to invest their time working with you, so just take a deep breath and have fun!