4.12.16 28

What I Wish I Knew Before I Started My First Job

I am SO EXCITED about today’s post!

As you may know, I’ve been wanting to revive my career content here on A Touch of Teal as this is something I’m really passionate about, and think we as women benefit when we share our office experiences. And when I realized my three-year work anniversary is next month, I got to thinking about what I wish I knew before I started my first job.

Trust me, there are a lot of things I wish I knew—and I realized my close friends probably felt the same way. So I emailed them and asked them to share their thoughts on the matter. And y’all—these ladies DELIVERED. Regardless of industry, experience level, or job title, it seems like we’ve all learned our fair share of lessons and have grown from them as a result. So I wanted to pay it forward today with a roundup of all the things my friends and I wish we knew before we started our first jobs.

I echo everything said below, but before I started my first job, I wish I understood both what my PTO benefits and the corporate holiday schedule meant for my life—aka how important it is to ask about both vacation days and what days the office is closed. It’s really hard to travel throughout the year or even take a random Friday off when you feel like you have to save your vacation days up for the holidays, and I wish I would have factored that in more when comparing opportunities.

I encourage you to add what you wish you knew before you started work in the comments! x
when you’re INTERVIEWING // 

“I worked as an intern at a redhead blog—I am also a redhead—in college, and literally everyone I interviewed with asked me about this blog or acknowledged that I ‘was the girl that worked at the redhead blog.’ It sounds silly, but I think that it helped a lot of people remember me and my application. After a year of working at my job, one of my colleagues said she remembered me during the interview process because of the redhead blog. Try and have a memorable job/experience that stands out on your resume, it helps people remember you when they are weighing in on candidates.” —Kirsten, Creative Associate (Fun fact, Kirsten is my former coworker and we started our careers at the same time!)

“I wish in the interview I had asked how long it normally takes for someone to get a promotion, this would have given me a different perspective going into my company.” —Graphic Designer

“Ask about work/life balance in the interview and have a conversation with your manager up front. Even if you are willing to work long hours, you need to understand the lifestyle and then think about whether it’s worth it.” —Strategy Analyst

“Make your resume standout, which you can do whether you know InDesign or not. Pinterest has a bunch of really nice examples of resumes that range from crazy graphic designer to more straight-laced corporate. It will help you stand out, especially if you’re in a creative field.” —Marketing Specialist

“I landed a dream job in strategy because I was willing to leave my consulting job and move to a new city, away from friends and family. Do your research to understand the new opportunity—but also be willing to take the risk if the job sounds exciting.” —Strategy Analyst

“Definitely keep in mind that the interview isn’t over once you’ve been hired. It really never is. Each day is another day to advance yourself towards the next step in your career. Say yes to everything, within reason of course. And don’t be afraid to ask a question. Employers would much rather you ask a question, than assume something.” —Kristyn, Political Assistant

“I wish I hadn’t be afraid to ask more questions related to work-life balance. This was an important selling point for me, but I shied away from asking what time people typically left the office, whether it was okay for me to come in early and leave a little early if I was more productive in the mornings, and how flexible people were on leaving before 5 on Fridays. It turned out everyone was pretty lax about when you came and went as long as you worked a full day, and people frequently took off early on Fridays. I unnecessarily spent weeks trying to figure out the lay of the land when I could have just asked my new colleagues, who didn’t judge me for asking those questions. I would advise not to take full advantage of this flexibility for your first few weeks at a new job, but don’t be afraid to inquire–this his how you find some of the hidden perks!” —Monica, Marketing Specialist

what i wish i knew before i started my first job

before you ACCEPT THE OFFER // 

“Just because you have only been offered one job after college, doesn’t mean you need to immediately agree to their terms and conditions. Do some research—use Glassdoor or talk to other people you connected to the company or in the same industry—to make sure you are getting the best offer.” —Public Relations Specialist 

“When you are offered a job on the phone, you do not have to accept immediately, no matter how obligated you feel from the person offering it. Just say, ‘Thank you I am very excited and interested in this job, can I think this over and get back to you in the next couple of days?’ Make sure to get that person’s contact information. This gives you time to be excited, and then, more importantly, time to think about what was offered and if you want to try to negotiate for other benefits. I highly recommend negotiating either for a higher salary, more vacation days, or something else that is important to you and maintaing your future work/life balance.” —Marketing Coordinator 

what i wish i knew before i started my first job

on NEGOTIATING // 

“Once you have an offer, NEGOTIATE YOUR SALARY. This is the only time you will be able to make thousands of dollars in a few seconds—unless you’re exceptional at playing the lottery. They won’t rescind your offer, and they won’t dislike you because you did it. It might be uncomfortable, but it will literally pay off.” —Hill Staffer

“One of my biggest regrets coming out of grad school was accepting a job without truly considering—and negotiating—the benefits. I was so happy just to have a job offer that I worried they might take it back if I asked for more money/a different start date/more PTO. If you are job hunting, understand the industry standards in your area and be confident in your value so that when you get one, you can make an informed assessment of it before signing on the dotted line.” —Charlotte, Senior Manager, Campaign Planning

“Everything is negotiable. Negotiate your salary up front. If you believe you deserve to be paid more than the initial offer, show them why, and ask for what you’re worth!” —Ashlee, Legal Editor for a National News Publication

on MENTORSHIP // 

“When I first started my career, I wish I would have known to find a mentor right off the bat. It wasn’t until I was about 2-3 years in before I reached out to a senior colleague and it really made such a positive impact on my career. I also wish I would have known that I really couldn’t go out-out on a ‘work-night’…that lesson was learned very quickly!” —Credit Analyst

“Seek out mentors in your line of work and whose careers you admire. They can help you navigate everything from office politics to technical questions in your field.” —Hill Staffer

on NETWORKING // 

“You have to network to get work. Sure, events like happy hour give you face to face contact, but the most valuable connections are made in professional settings or at coffees. Don’t be afraid to cold email asking to meet, and use your job search as an opportunity to make connections that will serve you in the future. Anytime you meet with someone new, ask them who else you should meet with; that’s how your network grows.” —Hill Staffer

what i wish i knew before i started my first job

when you’re ON THE JOB // 

“Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. After ultimately being hospitalized for stress this year, I told my boss that I couldn’t handle my own workload and cleaning up other people’s messes. She agreed with me, and it ended up being a pretty painless conversation.” —Caroline, Accounts Payable at a Law Firm

“Being collegial is very important in an office environment. Don’t get involved in office gossip and/or office politics. You definitely don’t want to be known as the office gossip girl!” —Ashlee, Legal Editor for a National News Publication

“Oftentimes, the best skills that you learned in college do not come from a textbook or a classroom. As a liberal arts major, I found that the group projects and extracurriculars where I learned to think critically, work with others, and balance a busy schedule provided me with the best skills for working post-grad.” —Kate, Content Marketing Specialist for a B2B Software Company

“After you have mastered the skills needed in an entry level job, don’t spend your down time cruising Facebook or Buzzfeed. Spend your time mastering and refining you professional interpersonal skills. You can’t learn those skills in school and they will help you gain invaluable professional capital.” —Nicole, Event Manager

“PAY. ATTENTION. TO. DETAIL.” —Paralegal 

“Who you work with is almost as important as what you do. You don’t need to be best friends with your cube-mates but working somewhere with a good office culture that breeds happy, motivated, and empowered employees will make doing your job so much easier. Make sure to ask about how people get along in the office and what the office culture is like when you interview!” —Charlotte, Senior Manager, Campaign Planning

“I’ve learned that the worst thing that can come from asking for something is a ‘no.’ If you don’t ask, you’ll never get a ‘yes!’ So long as you have evidence to support why the answer should be a yes, always ask for what you want.” —Ashlee, Legal Editor for a National News Publication

“I wish I knew to push myself more. By that I mean, learn what you can in a role, soak up everything those around you can teach you, and master your craft but once you’ve done that don’t be scared to express you want more. Whether that’s a raise, more responsibility, or a different position.”  —Laura Leigh

life lately

Leave a Comment

28 Comments

  1. Monica wrote:

    I wish I had known it was ok to take vacation days. My first two years working, I was so in love with my job and wanted to do it so well that I was afraid to take my vacation days. Years later and I know those are my vacation days and I worked hard for them so I should take them!

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      Such a good tip! You are compensated for time off, so you should take it when you can!

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  2. Darrian wrote:

    I think it’s important to ask about — or better yet — see for yourself what the enviornment of the place you are considering is like. Had I known what the atmosphere in my office was like, I would have approached it differently. I won’t say I would have turned it down, because it was an opportunity not to be refused, but understanding the atmosphere I was walking into could have definitely left me better prepared!

    Published 4.12.16
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    • Katie wrote:

      Yes, that is such a good tip! I would ask for a tour of the office so you can really envision where you are going to be working.

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  3. I’ll be graduating college in the fall so this article was very helpful! I also loved the photographs! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Published 4.12.16
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    • Katie wrote:

      Of course, lady! xx

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  4. christine wrote:

    You have some really great tips for people that are starting out. I think as you get older and more experienced you know what to look for and what to ask. It would be nice if we learned this stuff when we were in college or someone just told us what we should ask. It is a learning game for sure.

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      Agreed completely – it’s also hard to ask about some things going into your first job. You don’t want to come across as not willing to put in the hard work upfront. I think over time, and through experiences, you learn more about what you like and dislike.

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  5. Kelsey wrote:

    So insightful! I really wish I had negotiated when I got my first job. I think I was just so thankful to have a job straight out of college that I jumped on it and now, three years down the line, I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t negotiate up front (because they definitely don’t want to negotiate after 3 years)!
    xoxo Kelsey
    http://www.blondesandbagels.com

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      I agree completely – I wish I would have negotiated my starting salary too! I feel like a left thousands of dollars, over a lifetime, on the table.

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  6. Gunjan wrote:

    I totally connect with your post. When I look back to my first job I feel “wish I knew to push myself” .

    Published 4.12.16
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    • Katie wrote:

      Such a good idea!

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  7. Heather wrote:

    I wish I had known that I didn’t have to accept the offer over the phone….it felt like the “right” move, but limited my ability to negotiate any additional benefits, etc. These are all great tips!

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      I did the same thing! I wish I had reiterated how excited I was, but that I needed some time to consider the package being offered to me.

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  8. Cait wrote:

    great post my friend! glad i found your blog and ill be following now 🙂 happy tuesday!

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  9. We are self employed and business owners, but I know a lot of friends that probably wish they knew all this! I would be so sad about the whole vacation days thing! I love to travel too much! I agree, networking is SO important!
    Danielle | AccordingtoD.com

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      Yes to all of the above!

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  10. Lindsey wrote:

    Great post. I definitely agree with negotiating your salary. I would come prepared with research as well. I didn’t do that and I feel I could be making more money if I just asked up front and came prepared with back up.

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      That’s such a good addition!

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  11. Jenny wrote:

    This post is so helpful! I wish I would’ve known all of this stuff too. I am currently in my “first” job and I feel like I settled in some ways just because I was so excited to get my first job.

    xoxo, Jenny

    Published 4.12.16
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      Yes! I completely agree. But I guess you have to start somewhere.

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  12. Rachel wrote:

    These are all such great tips! I thought my starting salary was great (and it was) but looking back, I wish I had negotiated for some more!

    Published 4.12.16
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    • Katie wrote:

      Agreed completely!

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  13. Great post! I’m sharing this with my teenagers!

    Published 4.13.16
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    • Katie wrote:

      Hope they like it :]

      Published 4.17.16
      Reply
  14. Emily wrote:

    I agree with so many of these comments about my first job! When I started, I thought I knew what to expect – ha, 4 years later I look back and am like I hope I didn’t do xyz – that is so annoying.

    Published 4.28.16
    Reply
  15. Maddy wrote:

    love that you put this post together. I’ve been graduated since 2014, and am STILL struggling with the corporate world..I really truly don’t think it is the fit for me, but until I figure out my own gig/something else – I keep soaking up all the knowledge and experience I can!

    xo, Maddy
    http://cassidylou.com/

    Published 5.10.16
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