How to Survive at Your First Job After Graduation


If you just graduated and are readying yourself to enter the workforce, you probably feel low key overwhelmed. I did. (I still do sometimes! Regularly!) But if you come in prepared, you can be sure of putting your best foot forward. Here are my best tips for starting a new job:

1. Ask questions! You will probably be confused about some things. Personally, I am confused every day of my life. Not just about my job. About everything. Why does that one bit of my hair always stick up no matter what I do? Why does my paycheck always disappear two hours after it drops in my account? Am I up to the rigors of dog ownership? LIFE IS SO FULL OF QUESTIONS. At your job, there’s someone there who can answer your questions! It will make your life (and probably your supervisor’s life) easier if you ask them early and often.

2. Get into a schedule for exercising. I found it very challenging to get into the habit of sitting in one place looking at a screen for 8+ hours five days a week. Maybe you will also find this challenging. Exercising can help get out some of your extra physical energy, and will make you feel better all around. I recommend yoga, to counteract the shoulder-hunched posture that my yoga teacher refers to as “T-Rex arms.”

3. Bring snacks. This is extremely important and I cannot stress this highly enough. Stash them at your desk. Keep them in your purse. Put some in your car, just in case. Hoard them like a dragon. One day you will forget your lunch and you will be so grateful that you have food on hand and don’t have to spend $10 on a sandwich at a nearby deli that likes to exploit hungry office workers who forgot their frozen burrito at home this morning.

4. Try to talk to your coworkers. Or at least just reciprocate friendly attempts at conversations. I am extremely introverted, so I found this really challenging, but it can make your days at work much more fun if you have a work friend or two to commiserate and share snacks with.

5. Get as much as you can out of it. Even if you don’t want to have this job forever, there’s probably something you can get out of it. Maybe you get to put “has used QuickBooks” on your resume. Maybe you get to meet some other cool people who can help you in your career later. Maybe you get some free pens and occasionally a bagel. Those are all Very Good Things, so you should take advantage of them.

6. Plan for the future. Where do you want to go from here? If you’re working in your field of interest, what job title do you want to have in five years? Strategize on what you need to do to get there. If you’re not working in your field of interest, think about how this job could help you land a job in the field that interests you. You may be rolling your eyes thinking “there’s no way my terrible job could help me get the job I actually want later,” but with affection I tell you that you are probably wrong. One time I won over an interviewer because we both had previously worked at Dairy Queen and we got to laugh together about cleaning soft serve machines and smelling like chocolate syrup all the time. You never know. So go forth and conquer the workforce! I believe in you.