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Things to Look for From Your First Career Job (and What to Avoid)

Posted in Student Life by on March 25, 2021

If you’re a recent graduate or in your final year at uni, then your mind’s probably on one thing: that first career job. Finding your first role fresh from graduating can be tough, and it’s tempting to accept whatever offer comes your way – especially if it comes with an attractive-looking salary.

But how much money you’ll be making isn’t everything. There are loads of other things to weigh up when looking for your first job, as well as some red flags to watch out for.

To help you make the right decision, we’ve come up with a few important things to look for when taking those first steps towards career success, along with what to steer clear of in your job hunt.

Things to look for…

Will it lead to bigger things?

Ideally, your first job is going to be one that’ll lead to bigger and better things down the line. Is there a sense that you’ll have the chance to advance within the company?

When you’re interviewing, be sure to ask questions to clue yourself in on any opportunities should you be successful. Ask about taking on more responsibility and ask the interviewer about their own background and history with the company.

On LinkedIn, track down current employees to see if they’ve held multiple jobs in the company – a sign that the organisation promotes from within.

In the world of work, you’ll soon find that networking’s a big thing, so try to find out what opportunities there are for you to connect with others. Ask if there’s any budget for you to go to professional events or if you’ll have a chance to work with high-profile clients that could lead to other opportunities in the future.

smiling job candidate

What can I learn from it?

One of the most important parts of any job is being able to learn and grow. Look for a company that values the development of its employees through training and learning opportunities.

Regular training shows that a company is committed to helping its employees learn new skills, so be sure to ask about this. This approach should be reflected in how they onboard new hires too.

For instance, do they take time to show you what success looks like within the company? Is your supervisor going to give you plenty of support during your time here? Or are you expected to figure things out for yourself?

Look out for companies who will foot the bill for graduate degrees too. Here, you’ll have the chance to build your skills, strengthen your professional opportunities and get a shiny new degree without having to pay for it.

Will I be a good fit for the culture?

Figuring out the office vibe can be a bit tricky, but knowing a company’s culture before you accept a role is important.

Even something as simple as a position’s hours can give you an idea of the business’ culture.

Longer hours could well be a sign that employees are over-worked and that the company doesn’t respect the work/life balance of its staff.

When you’re interviewing, try to get a handle on things like flexible hours, team-building events, and regular reviews where you can give and receive feedback on your performance. Also, see if the company is featured on Glassdoor; the reviews left by both former and current colleagues can show you the businesses with a bad rep and those worth pursuing.

woman smiling in business meeting

What will my colleagues be like?

The people you work with are just as important as the things you’ll be learning. They play a huge role in office culture, so if you can, try and meet as many as you can during the interview process.

This way, you can get a better idea of group dynamics, how they talk to each other, and how they find working there. If you’re greeted by a bunch of bored-looking workers, then take note: it’s probably not the most exciting place to work at.

Don’t forget about senior management either. Look into the people who will be your managers and see what you can learn about them. Do they seem like natural leaders and mentors? Do they have experience of supporting junior talent?

Making sure you’re in safe hands at your first job is important. If it seems like those who are supposed to be supporting you are just collecting a paycheque, then we’d say you should pursue other opportunities.

What are the benefits like?

Like we said up top, salary isn’t everything. A healthy benefits package is always a good sign, and if a company is willing to throw things like insurance, a pension scheme, and bonuses into the mix, then that’s a great start.

They may even go a step further and offer perks like private healthcare and discounts on things like gym memberships and travel. Always ask your potential employer about their benefits before accepting the offer, as they can sometimes be more attractive than the salary itself.

putting coin in piggy bank

Things to avoid…

High turnover

Be sure to ask questions about why the position is vacant. Asking about whether it’s a new position, why the previous person in the role left, or just outright asking if there is a high turnover for the role can be very useful.

Although they might not dish all the details, you can trust your instincts on this one. And if you’ve been searching the job market for a while and the same roles keep being advertised, then you can guess there’s a high turnover and a poor culture at these places.

The application process

Unfortunately, job hunting involves jumping through a lot of hoops for employers. If after sending over your CV, arranging an interview and meeting them in person (or over Zoom) you’ve been ghosted, then take note: do you want to work at a place that doesn’t have the courtesy to get back in touch with you?

Vague, poorly written job descriptions

A job description will likely be your first impression of the company, and if you’re met with vagueness, sloppy wording and a general sense of disorder, then you’ll probably exit the page before there’s any mention of salary.

Watch out for things like:

  • Obvious cut-and-paste jobs
  • Vague descriptions of what the job involves
  • Spelling and grammatical errors
  • Unrealistic lists of skills and job tasks
  • Non-inclusive, gendered language

nervous job candidate

Poor treatment during the interview process

At an interview, we’re in people-pleasing mode. That means we may be willing to overlook some of the interviewer’s red flags. But if you’re being treated badly at an interview, then you’ll probably be treated badly as an employee, so watch out for the following:

  • The company changing the date of your interview multiple times
  • A dismissive response from the receptionist
  • The interviewer turning up later than the arranged time or being made to wait for long periods
  • A distracted or disinterested vibe from the interviewer
  • Being made to feel uncomfortable
  • The interview taking place in a messy or uninviting room

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