I'm at the age now where our kids and their cousins are all graduating from college and moving out into the workforce to get "real" jobs (different than their jobs during high school and college). They seem to be very determined to find the perfect job, and they're a little disturbed that the jobs in their major field of study no longer seem to appeal to them, or are not as they expected. Just when you think you know what you want to be when you grow up - not so much. Some of us are STILL trying to figure that out.
I have been doing my best to share these truths with the youngsters:
1) your first job will probably suck
2) few people are working in their major field of study (Doctors and Attorneys aside...and even some of them have changed careers....)
Here are a couple of my first jobs after college: (by the way - Behavioral Psych major / Business Management minor. I intended to be an administrator at a group home or sheltered workshop for mentally impaired...until I discovered how little that paid. Business Management to the top of the resume!)
Record Copy Services: It was just that. They copied records for attorneys. (Think before the internet, before email, before computers, before fax machines. There were IBM Selectric typewriters and copy machines.) I was hired as one of 4 department managers on Monday; I was the only one left on Friday (and that was my last day). Department 1: Research. They verified the addresses of the parties involved, the attorneys, the judges, the courts. By phone or yellow pages. Department 2: Copy Services. Put the pages of the documents one by one into the copy machine and push the button. Seriously. Department 3: Binding. Yes, literally put the plastic binding on the copied documents. Department 4: Sales. Sit in rows and rows of school-type desks in a room with a phone and a list of attorneys and try to sell the documents to the other side. Sound like Hell? It was. Aside from the less-than-interesting duties, the owners were two horrible sisters who mostly communicated with employees by scolding. I was the last one to give my notice at the end of the week (I was still trying to make the best of it). I tried to give 2 weeks notice but they said, no problem, that could be my last day. Whew. From there to:
Gould Electrical Systems: I was older and wiser now! I asked questions like, "What would my specific duties be? What would an average day look like? Why did the person before me leave?". What I DIDN'T ask my immediate boss was, "Are you retiring in 6 months and therefore a lame duck with very little to do? Can all of those duties you outlined be accomplished in approximately 2 hours per week? Did the 2 ladies that I supervise both want this job and now hate me? Are electrical systems mind-numbingly boring?" Also my boss' name was Dick Heck (I can't make this stuff up), and it was very difficult for me to address him with a straight face.
Still determined to make the best of it, I noticed that Gould had an college-reimbursement program. Since I had already read through all of the literature on electrical systems, I decided I'd go back to school on their dime. I would have 4 days a week basically to do homework (the 2 ladies I supervised were reading 3 novels a week). I had a math class to take before I could apply for the MBA program, so I signed up at Henry Ford Community College, bought the books and entered the class. The "review" of Algebra II on the board as I walked in looked like hieroglyphics to me (problem: classic math anxiety). I got up, sold my books, dropped out of the class and started another job search in earnest. That brought me to:
Watrous Associates. My entree into the incentive world. Third time is a charm apparently. Had a great boss, worked there for 11 years until joining Design Incentives as a partner and found a real live career, not even remotely related to my major. Back before Monster.com or LinkedIn, I actually answered an ad in the newspaper. I didn't even know there WAS an incentive industry.
The moral is: do not be discouraged with your first jobs. Finding out what you don't want is just as valuable as discovering what you DO want. You can't say no until you get an offer, so go into every interview behaving as though you want that job - but if you see giant red flags, don't ignore them. Don't be afraid to ask your contacts for introductions - as an employer, I'd much rather hire someone that has been recommended to me. Ask good questions about your responsibilities. Here's another little-known fact: employers who have trouble keeping employees may misrepresent the position (?!).
Got a great story about your first job out of college? I'd love to share it!