Your first job is like your first boyfriend in that you truly think he’s perfect, but then again, you have nothing to compare him to, so you may not even know you’re with a total loser until after you’ve broken up. When my college boyfriend of two years broke up with me, I reached a whole new level of devastated that I didn’t even realize was humanly possible. How could this person who wept in front of me when his grandmother died, surprised me in my hometown for my birthday, and paid for all of my Chipotle burritos (with every add-on you could think of) not want to be with me forever? Fast-forward like six months, and that time and distance made me realize both how wrong we were for each other and how much he f*cking sucked as a person. After him, I took note of all the things I did and didn’t want in my next boyfriend. It really was the year of realizing stuff. Just call me Kylie Jenner.
Leaving your first job should feel the same way. Even if you loved it, you should still walk away with a sense of what you want and don’t want in your next position. I, for instance, loved what I was doing at my first job so much that I didn’t even care about having to live in the trap house that was my apartment, which was the only place I could afford on my laughably small salary. I was an editor at a ~luxury~ magazine and it made me feel like Miranda motherf*ckin Priestly (minus all the power, money, and ability to own a home) because I got invited to every party, media dinner, and opening you can imagine. I also got free facials, clothes, trips, etc., so you can imagine that walking away from “the good life,” as Kanye says, may have been a little tough.
However, what ultimately made me want to leave was the fact that I didn’t see much opportunity to climb the editorial ladder and tbh I didn’t want to stay in the South forever. So after I left, I had the time and distance I needed to realize that my first job was f*cked up in more ways than one. Knowing that and knowing why helped me find my next job (also at a magazine), which I actually love. No matter what industry your first job out of college is in, these are the key takeaways you should walk away with after leaving.
1. Respect For The Product
I obviously don’t mean this literally since not all companies produce something, but it’s really important that you respect, understand, and appreciate what the company does. After I left my Job From Hell, I flipped through a few of the previous issues and noticed that we only covered sh*tty companies/people who paid an embarrassing amount of money for full-page ads. At the end of the day, I couldn’t really stand behind what I wrote.
Doing something you love is the most important thing because, let’s face it, we spend all of our time at our jobs and you may as well enjoy your many hours
locked working in a giant freezer office doing something you give actually sh*t about.
2. How (Not) To Interact With Your Manager
If this is your first job, chances are you have a manager and, believe it or not, there are a few not-so-chill ways to interact with them! At my first job, my editor and I were pretty close in age and she happened to be really cool, so naturally we became friends. As fun as it was working with my friend, it was also pretty f*cking awkward when she had to reprimand me for doing something wrong. Like, are we still going out for drinks later or are we in a fight because you fully yelled at me just now?
Having a friendly rapport with your manager is great, but I’d be careful about being legit friends with them. It just confuses the hierarchy and can ultimately ruin your friendship, which in turn will make going to work suck. Keep a respectable distance between you two so that you can f*ck around a little at work, but it won’t be totally uncomfortable if and when sh*t hits the fan.
3. How To Stand Up For Yourself
When you’re in an entry level position, you may feel like you’re working for your grandparents because everyone is constantly reminding you that you’re young and don’t know how to do anything. As much as I didn’t want to be the annoying millennial who was offended by everything, in some instances, you can and should stand up for yourself.
The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad world in which we live, sexual harassment is generally the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the phrases “entry level employee” and “stand up for yourself,” and you definitely should. But there are plenty of low-level offenses we forget about and shouldn’t let slide. Like, when you’re working on a project and put 97% of your effort into it and then your sh*thead co-worker swoops in and spends a lousy five minutes doing the last 3% then turns the project in as if she did the whole damn thing. Nope!
Obviously, pick your battles wisely, but if something is going down that’s legitimately making you upset, don’t just bend over and take it. If you let these shenanigans go on for too long, you’re basically telling your coworkers that it’s totally cool if they f*ck with you forever. Is it? Is it cool?
4. Negotiating Is Allowed
I happened to be an intern at the company that ended up hiring me, so when my future editor pulled me into a conference room and offered me the position by writing my “salary” on a sticky note and asked if that’s okay with me, I should have said, “No, it’s not!” First of all, never accept a job on the spot; always take a few days to think about it and negotiate benefits and salary. The fact that the number was tragically low wasn’t even the problem; I just didn’t think to try to negotiate because I
’m dumb I had no sense of what a competitive salary in that industry even was. Go on Glassdoor to read other employees’ reviews on the company and to see salaries to get an idea of whether or not you’re being lowballed.
Generally, companies welcome negotiations. That doesn’t always mean they will accept your final offer, but they will rarely just slap a number on the table and refuse to entertain any discussions. Don’t be afraid to whip out your flea market negotiating skills, people.
5. Have A Career Development Plan
Look, I think five-year-plans are stupid. Sorry, but not really. Life is too unpredictable for a multi-year plan. Here’s why: My five-year-plan involved staying in the South forever because #job, #friends, #boyfriend, but then my dad got cancer, so I moved to New York to be closer to home, and my five-year-plan imploded. Having a career development plan, however, is really smart. When you’re a college senior getting job offers, you’re usually so excited about getting paid that you don’t even think about what’s next because no more frat parties and pregamed dinners—sounds good enough for now! But knowing where you want to be professionally in the future can help you make better decisions in the future—especially because nothing looks sketchier on a resume than a slew of random jobs that have nothing to do with each other.
Instead of soul-searching for four months in your childhood bedroom because you just quit your first job and don’t know what you want to do now, start thinking about that when you begin feeling like you want to leave your current job.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to wish you had done things differently after you already did them wrong, so take this as an opportunity to learn so that every job you get after your first sh*tty one, is a good one.
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