First Job – Lessons and Values to Remember

“Today is not just another day. It’s a new opportunity, another chance, and a new beginning. Embrace it.”—Unknown

After spending a summer working behind the grill at a McDonald’s, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos was once tasked with cleaning up a ketchup explosion. He looks back on the incident with a positive outlook: “I don’t think of that experience as a negative one. You can learn responsibility in any job if you take it seriously. It’s different from what you learn in school—don’t underestimate the value of that!”

As a fairly recent grad approaching my first complete year in “the real world” (a place we all joke about eventually entering one day), there are a couple of lessons and values I have tried my best to embrace—much like what Bezos previously stated above.

This time last year, I had just graduated from the University of Maryland. I was ready to start my job as an Associate Recruiter, but I was completely unsure of what I wanted to do with my long-term career goals. We’re often expected to have an extensive answer to the “What do you want to do after graduation?” question, but as a Psychology major, I  found myself revising and editing what I wanted to do with my future career goals so many times that I lost count. It seemed like I was never going to decide on what it was that I wanted to do. Luckily, previous internships and volunteer experiences taught me one thing: you’ll never truly know what you want to do—or don’t want to do—unless you try it out first.

When I had the opportunity to interview and work at PRIDE Health, I jumped at the opportunity. People often say they just fall into recruiting as a profession, and that was definitely the case for me. However, as someone who knew what she didn’t want to do for the rest of her life, I felt like this was a great opportunity for me to learn and gain experience to help me with evaluating my strengths in a professional setting. First-time jobs are all about garnering experience and celebrating successes. They allow you to learn from your failures and adjust to the undeniable shift that comes along with leaving the familiarity of college for your first full-time position. Over the course of the last year, I have definitely learned a lot from my own experiences and from those around me. Here are some tips and values I have focused on while navigating the scary and intimidating “real world.”

  1. Ask questions, and then ask some more. 

    One thing that helps make a smooth transition from college to a job is maintaining that education mentality. In school, we’re taught to ask questions and embrace the idea that you can never learn too much. You should never stop wanting to gain more knowledge or your sense of curiosity because that is ultimately how you grow in new roles and improve over time.

  2. Raise your hand and take on tasks that challenge you. 

    Be bold and embrace risks even if they seem intimidating or overwhelming. No one likes to lose or make mistakes, but the things that scare us also offer a greater opportunity for improvement and growth. Whether it’s picking up the phone to make your first call or taking on a difficult task you’ve never tried before, it’s important to gain as much experience as you can in your first job.

  3. Welcome failures and own your mistakes. 

    Do your best to remain positive; don’t let any setbacks influence the end goal. Remember that you are human and are bound to make errors—sometimes more often than not. It’s all about how you handle and overcome these obstacles. Don’t make excuses or backtrack on your mistakes because each failure is an opportunity to learn and grow for the future.

  4. Be honest. 

    Be true to yourself and also to those around you. This is a key component to success in the work place—especially as a recruiter—but also in any team based environment where others rely on you.

  5. Listen to everyone and everything around you. Be a sponge. 

    You are likely going to be surrounded by people who have been doing their jobs for a long time; they’re going to be there to help you succeed the same way that they have. Listen to their advice and take it all in—they are there to help support and guide you.

  6. Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. 

    We are young. This is all new to us, and sometimes it’s incredibly overwhelming… but don’t lose sight of things outside of your role. Take your work seriously and be a responsible employee, but don’t let the day-to-day tribulations cause you to take yourself too seriously, either.

  7. Be focused on your goals, but flexible in what comes your way. 

    It’s important to have a general plan to assist you in achieving your professional goals. This will help you understand what it is you ultimately want out of your career as well as recognize what your professional strengths are. But beyond that, it’s vital to be flexible on your journey. Don’t get caught up in what was “supposed to happen” or the “what if’s.” Instead, allow unexpected situations to steer your path and influence your growth both as a professional and an individual.

  8. Build positive relationships. 

    Yes, your career is just beginning, but who knows the influence those around you will have on your path long-term. People will most likely remember your character longer than anything else, and the reputation you make for yourself can go a long way.

  9. Demonstrate commitment to your job and your team. 

    If you show up on time, do your part to help those around you. Complete tasks to the best of your ability because you can only improve as an employee. Remember to always celebrate other people’s successes with them—never compare your failures to someone else’s accomplishments or your weaknesses to their strengths.

  10. Remember that your career is just beginning. The best thing you can do is trust your gut and set goals for yourself both personally and professionally. 

    It doesn’t matter how seemingly simple or complicated a task is—everything about your first job is a learning experience. The best thing you can do is to take in as much as possible.  You’ll never learn more about yourself and your career path than you will every day on the job.

Remember that it’s okay to not have everything figured out just yet. Be open minded, take risks, and know that even the smallest tasks can teach you something about your professional strengths and interests. Everyone’s been there—even some of the world’s most successful business leaders like Bezos. If you are a recent grad or someone looking to make a change in their career, check out our website for openings that may fit your interests. Let us know how we can help you and your future career path!


Kathleen Murtagh
Associate Recruiter, PRIDE Health