The Importance of Your First Job
Finding your first job may be one of the most difficult parts of your career, especially if you’re a former athlete making a career change. While this opportunity is often seen as a stepping stone to the rest of your career and rarely your “dream job,” according to Alibaba founder and billionaire businessman Jack Ma says this is often the most important job you’ll have.
Back in January, Ma spoke at the World Economic Forum and said, “Your first job is your most important. That doesn’t mean it has to be your ‘dream job,’ but it does have to be one where you can learn from others and stretch yourself.” He continued, “Not necessarily a company that has a great name, (but) you should find a good boss that can teach you how to be a human being – how to do things right, how to do things properly – and (you should) stay there.”
One of Ma’s tips for those seeking or currently in their first job, is to “give yourself a promise: ‘I will stay there for three years.’” In a time when Millennials make up a large part of the job market and are constantly criticized for being “job hoppers,” this hits home. Although part of a different generation and starting his career at a different time, Ma has been at the helm of Alibaba for nearly 20 years. In his experience he has seen people leave jobs before hitting their stride. If you put in three years in a role, you give yourself time to learn the ropes, the industry and make connections that will help you for your second, third and fourth jobs. As Mandi Woodruff said, “Your first job is the ultimate opportunity to take chances, make mistakes, ask ‘dumb’ questions and still come out smelling like roses.”
Your first job provides much more than just your first chance at a steady income. In an article for Lifehack, Ali Lawrence provides a few important things that our first job teaches us. You can read the full article here.
People Skills are 90 Percent of Any Job
Figuring out how to deal with people and their different styles of working and leading is key in any role, but a major lesson that you will learn in your first job. According to Lawrence, “the other 10 percent consists of the actual skills you learned at college or otherwise acquired along the way.” A key skill that you need to learn early on is that of adaptability. We don’t work in a bubble, so things are constantly changing. Being able to roll with the punches and learn on the fly will be helpful, especially when it comes to dealing with people.
Don’t be (Too) Afraid to Make Mistakes
You know what is crazy? Knowing you are bound to make a mistake at some point solely because you’re human. Obviously, you want to minimize your mistakes, but you can absolutely learn from them and be better going forward. When starting off at a new job, especially your first “real” job, there is bound to be a learning curve. A good boss will understand this and help you develop in the role. A bad boss will have you constantly walking on egg shells and afraid to make a mistake, which will inevitably lead to you doing just that.
Get Used to Monotony
Not everyday is going to be the best day ever, although we’d like it to be. There will be peaks and valleys to any job; powering through the valleys will make the peaks that much better. When first starting out in your career, there will likely be a lot of on-job training to get you up to speed. Although these days/weeks may be painfully boring, they are key to your success going forward and will pay dividends in the end. Some days are sure to be better than others, but for the most part our jobs are fairly routine. Learning how to power through the slow days is a key skill to be applied throughout the rest of your career.