How to Set Realistic Expectations for Your First Job

Your first job marks the beginning of the adulting phase in life, but with a ton of factors that can influence you, knowing what to expect can be challenging.
Brendan Yee
How To Set Realistic Expectations For Your First Job

It's common for everyone to have their own set of expectations for their first job. However, given our limited experience, how can we determine if our expectations are realistic? When it comes to requirements for things like a worthy starting salary, it can get tricky if you don’t know where to start. It’s no secret that there are many who have set exorbitant benchmarks for an “acceptable” base pay.

According to Yahoo Finance, the medium gross monthly salary of fresh graduates increasing by 2.69 percent from 2022 to 2023. This can easily blur the line between asking for what you deserve to ask for too much. So with that in mind, here are some tips that will help keep your feet on the ground during your job hunt.

Conduct research on the relevant sectors

Understanding which professions are in demand is crucial in setting a pragmatic tone to job hunting. Thriving industries such as electronics and aerospace may yield better chances of getting a job and a higher starting pay, while others may still be impacted by inflation and other factors. In the latter case, this may mean a larger pool of prospects competing for a limited number of openings and less competitive wages.

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Credit: MyCareerFuture

Alternatively, you can speak with friends and/or family with experience in the trades you’re interested in. They may serve as an invaluable resource when it comes to what you can expect as a newcomer, such as what skills employers are after, or which companies to apply to.

Doing your homework before diving in helps set up a broad outlook of what you might encounter, which allows you to target your efforts more strategically and increase your chances of getting hired.

Keep an open mind

When it comes to pay, we all want to be well-rewarded for our hard work. Moreover, with social media, you might’ve seen your peers or other fresh grads bragging about earning way more than the average benchmark. However, keep in mind that there’s a fine line that needs to be threaded carefully, particularly when it comes to income.

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Credit: Indeed 

There are various factors that come into play when it comes to a starting salary, like company size, type of industry and skills required in individual roles. For example, SMEs tend to have less resources compared to the deeper pockets of MNCs, which can mean lower wages.

Keep in mind that qualifications and actual work experience in the industry you’re applying for are key bargain chips when it comes to negotiating a higher pay. To request for a lucrative base pay without the necessary credentials will not only lead to rejection but might create a poor first impression.

However, it’s important to remember that salary isn’t necessarily everything; in exchange, applicants can benefit in other ways like career progression, experience and medical coverage.

Communicate your intentions clearly

Open communication has always been a cornerstone of good workplace relations, and this is no different. Being transparent about what you hope to achieve allows both parties to negotiate the contract’s terms that emphasises mutually beneficial outcomes.

Being able to candidly negotiate aspects of your role like flexible working arrangements and career path aspirations prevents any misunderstandings that might lead to dissatisfaction and frustration later down the line.

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Set goals for the future

You might just only be looking for your first job now, but it doesn’t hurt to do some future planning, especially with the recent economic downturns. Through patience and development of a reasonable timeline, you can identify what are your immediate goals you hope to accomplish and streamline your endeavours.

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Crafting achievable expectations for your first job

Landing your first job is rarely a straightforward experience. With everything from domestic influences to an abundance of online “advice”, it can be tough to determine what aligns best with your objective. Nevertheless, with a little bit of resilience and systematic planning, you should be able to identify a set of realistic expectations for your ideal job.