6 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Looking For My First ‘Real’ Job

It’s about that time of year; the final semester is drawing to a close and students far and wide are preparing for their first steps into the unknown world of post-university life. I remember it well; a never ending stream of excitedly firing off applications, trawling recruitment sites and refining my CV over and over. It’s a time filled with the excitement of possibility, but it can also be a time of uncertainty, particularly when faced with rejections.  

After the work you’ve put into your degree, it’s easy to feel the pressure that your first job should fit the mould of your ‘dream’ job.

This was exactly how I felt as a graduate 3 years ago. And as anyone who’s been there will tell you – it’s rarely that straightforward. My own first steps along my career path have taken me down a route that had never even crossed my mind, but it’s been the best start I ever could have asked for.

So to anyone who finds themselves knee-deep in cover letters, painfully long graduate scheme applications and the seemingly endless stretch of unknown ahead – I know what it’s like! Here’s my advice to you; a few things to keep in the back of your mind from someone’s who’s been there…

Know that this is the time to trial things

There’s nothing wrong with having goals, but realistically this stage in your career is probably going to be a lot of trial and error. And that’s totally ok! These early years are where you’ll learn even more about yourself, what kind of environments you work well in, the kind of people you don’t get along with, what you value in a job. So try new things; it might just be your vibe! And if it’s not, that’s cool – you know what to steer clear of later down the line.

A job is what you make of it, regardless of the industry

Despite a first class degree, two fashion internships, plus a whole array of extra-curricular activities (this blog being one of them!) under my belt; I was just not getting a look in on my quest to cinch that dream job in fashion marketing.

Throughout my degree, I’d become hell-bent on the idea that after graduating I’d work in fashion in London.

Well, guess what?

My first job out of uni was not in fashion, nor was it in London. It was in my home town and in aerospace of all things. 3 years on and I’m still happily at the same company; in an industry that was never on my radar but a decision I’ll never regret.

The possibility of launching a career in an industry you’ve had a long term interest in can be SO EXCITING. Trust me, the idea of working in fashion seemed like everything I wanted. But turns out, aerospace was everything I never knew I wanted. And if there’s anything I’ve learnt from my experiences,  it’s that it’s the day to day tasks and projects of the job that count. If I was doing accounts all day, but it was in fashion would I be happy? Probably not. But in my aerospace role, every day I get to do what I know I love – marketing. 

Every industry needs creatives

Film, TV, fashion, music, media, design, advertising; it’s no secret that these creative scenes can be the most cutthroat and competitive to break into. But creativity exists way beyond these industries. If you’re a creative, consider how you can bring your skills to a seemingly off-the-radar sector.

One of your USPs as a graduate is that you’re fresh, uninhibited by corporate protocol. There’s companies out there WAITING for your ideas. You just have to find them.

Don’t undersell yourself

I’m not saying to demand a £40K salary in your first role, but be sure to do your research and know what the average entry level role pays in your/similar industries.

Think long term

You don’t have to have it all figured out at this stage. As a fresh graduate, I thought I had my career all mapped out, but that went out of the window when I started my first job. There’s no pressure to settle down, but do try to think about where the company is going. Will there be a role you can grow with? Are they expanding into new markets? Is there a chance to relocate? If you can picture yourself there for the long run, that’s all the better.

Fight imposter syndrome

And when you get there, know you’ve earned it. There’s many things I learnt in my first ‘real’ job, and this is one of them. As a graduate it’s easy to feel like you’re on the back foot, especially if your colleagues seem like they have more experience under their belts. But don’t let imposter syndrome get the better of you – they wouldn’t have employed you if they didn’t think you were capable! This is just the start, but you’ve got this!


Sinéad xo