I’ll probably get a lot of flack for this advice, but I’ll say it anyway. Do not take the first full time job you can find after you graduate.
Yes, I’m aware the economy is bad. I know recent grads are caught up in a tough battle with the job market. I get that you have student loans and that living in your mom’s basement isn’t glamorous.
After a few months of frustration, you might be tempted to take that full time job as a receptionist, even though you really want to be an architect. You’ll probably convince yourself that the job in sales will work for you, even though you have a teaching degree. Don’t do it.
Before I explain why, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying you shouldn’t work part time to help cover some of your bills. I’m definitely not saying you should be a job snob and snub anything that doesn’t fit your idea of a dream job perfectly. Nor am I saying my advice will work for every new grad out there. I realize that not everyone’s circumstances allow for them to wait before finding a full time job. But if you can wait, not taking the first thing that comes your way may be your smartest career move.
Reason 1: Your Happiness
After graduation, my plan was to work in public relations, preferably for a non-profit. When months of applying for jobs yielded nothing, I gave up. I took the first job I could find working as an administrative assistant for a property management company.
While this wasn’t a bad job by any means, it made me extremely unhappy. I was depressed at work because I wasn’t doing anything that I enjoyed. Eventually, I snapped out of it and realized I should be grateful to even have a job. But I still wasn’t entirely happy with my career or myself.
Maybe I was being self-absorbed, but I can’t imagine many new grads being happy in that situation. After all, new grads did not spend four years making plans and studying one subject just to dedicate 40-plus hours of their lives to something that doesn’t interest them at all.
Reason 2: You Won’t Get Any Experience in Your Field
If you take a job outside of your field, the only thing you will be able to put on your resume is that job and the experience you get there. It will be very hard for you to compete for a job in your field later on because you won’t have as much experience as the other applicants.
A friend of mine really wanted to work as a journalist, but the only job she could get after graduation was processing mortgage applications. It has been more than three years since she graduated, and she’s still processing those applications.
She has tried to apply for journalism jobs, but she finds that she doesn’t have as much experience as the other applicants. Employers are puzzled as to why she’s working as a mortgage loan processor instead of as a writer. She has contributed some freelance articles to online publications, but that experience isn’t enough to compete with people who have one or two years of full time jobs or internships under their belts.
Reason 3: You May Get Sucked In
When you take a job that doesn’t align with your original career goals, you may lose the motivation or the ability to re-enter your field. This isn’t a bad thing if you end up loving your new job, but it could be disastrous if you look back in five years and realize you’re still working at something you hate.
I know more than one person who has gotten sucked into a field they don’t like, simply because they took the first job they could find with the belief that it was just temporary. Maybe they didn’t get enough experience to compete like my friend the mortgage loan processor. Or maybe they simply lost the drive to get back into what they originally wanted to do. Whatever the reason, every day that passes makes it harder and harder for them to leave behind what they’re currently doing and switch back to their original goal.
So what should you be doing if you don’t take a full time job that’s outside of your field? Keep trying. Being unemployed isn’t easy, and it sure doesn’t feel good on your self-esteem or your wallet. Try taking an internship or do volunteer work that related to your field. If you’re hard-working and persistent, you’ll eventually break into your dream career.