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5 Things to Know Before You Start Your First Real Job


The 2015 semester has come to a close, and for college seniors, the college experience isn’t far behind. If you’re a college senior, and you’re thinking about embarking on your first career, you might find yourself feeling a little intimidated by the unknown. But fear not, PayScale has your back. Here are five questions to ask to prepare you for your first post-college job in the real world.

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(Photo Credit: Carly & Art/Flickr)

1. How Does Your Employer Define Success?
From a personal experience, I know that having this conversation with your boss will make a huge impact on both your work and your salary. Every job defines success differently, and that’s exactly why you need to have this conversation. Perhaps it’s the total number of customers you get, a quota you meet, or a certain number of website visits you get. Talk with your boss to set clear, attainable goals that you both agree upon. Still not convinced? Think about it: your goals are the foundation for all the work you will do in a given day. Your goals, depending on whether you reach them or not, can also significantly help you leverage your salary when it comes to review time. If you and your employer are not clear on common goals, there is nothing substantial to show how hard you have worked.

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2. What’s the Best Way to Communicate With Your Boss?
As a millennial, I tend to communicate with my boss through email and an amazing internal chat system we use. Perhaps it’s the ’90s kid in me, but growing up using things like AOL and AIM makes instant messaging a natural choice for me to communicate. The thing is, everyone is different. Even if your company does provide you will cool communication tools like HipChat or Slack, you may have the one boss that actually requires you to get out of your seat and have a real conversation. Communication styles are not a one-size-fits-all, and being flexible and showing that you can still communicate without the internet will help you stand out from your other millennial co-workers. So take off your headphones, get up, and go have an articulate conversation with your boss.

3. Have You Researched Your New Industry?
This is perhaps the least-talked about question, but do you know what kind of industry you’re going to be working in? More than likely, it isn’t one you studied in college – but that’s okay. Take English majors, for example. Not every English major can grow up to be an English teacher or a famous author, so you will often see English majors in occupations like marketing, copywriting, and even journalism. But no matter what occupation you have, you need to familiarize yourself with the industry. Got a job in the VoIP community? You need to to do a deep dive in telecom. Working for an agency? You better learn about all your new clients (and their industries). Unless you’re willing to completely immerse yourself in your focus industry, you will struggle to see success.

4. Did You Forget There Are No Syllabi For New Jobs?
Not to pick on college students, but post-grads have a reputation of entering the workforce incredibly unprepared, in the sense that people (millennials) are expecting syllabus-like instructions for working real jobs. The cold, hard reality is that there are no syllabi and rarely are there ever instructions. The company you work for has hired you because they feel confident in your abilities to do your job without step-by-step instructions. Essentially, you were hired TO write your syllabus, a.k.a. the way you’re going to own your new position. Use the confidence your company has in you to make your job role bigger and better than it was designed to be.

5. In General, Be Kind, Be Smart, and Always Be Professional.
It doesn’t matter if you have been in your job for 40 minutes or 40 years: you can still get fired at the drop of a hat for being unprofessional. For someone relatively new to the workforce, it comes down to minding the basics. Dress for the part, be on time, and be kind to those around you. Say please and thank you, and don’t act like a know-it-all. After all, you’ve been hired because a company likes you enough to pay you money to learn and grow with them, amiright?

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a tip for college students heading into their first real job? Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #college2career

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