3 Things to Look for in a First Job

The right first job can kickstart a successful career journey ahead.
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

You’re just about to finish your final semester in university. Your parents have been pressuring you to start job hunting while your friends are already knee-deep in churning out multiple job applications.

You’ve decided it’s time to think about what you want for your first job. But where should you even start? Getting your first job right without knowing what to expect can be daunting.

Start your job search with a clear mind – otherwise, you might find yourself approaching your job search process the wrong way. So, don’t panic and take your time to really think about what you want.

To help you get started, here are three considerations you should make when taking your first step into the professional world:

1. Future opportunities

‘Where will this career path or job lead me?’ is a question that you should ask yourself before you decide to apply for a job.

Your first job is a stepping stone and how it pans out may pave the way for your career ahead. It is crucial that your first job can lead you to more opportunities in the future and for it to help you achieve your long-term career goals.

This usually means career advancement opportunities and the higher-level responsibilities offered to you as you progress on the job with your employer. You can start by researching on the typical career progression pathways for the job you want to pursue and in the specific field you want to work in.

If you already have a specific employer in mind, you can do some background research of the employees that currently work or have worked in the company. One way to do this is to go on the company’s LinkedIn page and check out its employee’s profiles to look at their career history.

You may be able to see the progression pathways among its employees and get an idea of the kind of opportunities that lie ahead if you do land the job. Alternatively, you can ask your recruiter about career advancement routes offered internally during the job interview stage.

2. Professional training and growth

Another thing to consider is how the job or your prospective employer can help you grow professionally.

Your first job should be a chance for you to learn as much as you can, so you might want to look for a company that provides training or mentorships to graduates and newcomers. You can ask about training opportunities straight off the bat during the job interview with your prospective employer.

Does your employer believe in spending the time and effort to show and teach newcomers how to succeed at what they do? Or do they think that it is more effective for fresh recruits to learn on the job, by throwing them in the deep end and let them swim on their own?

Some fresh graduates may prefer the former way of learning – but you must first figure out which method you prefer. Whichever you prefer, it is still important to understand the initiatives the employer practise to ensure that their employees are learning and growing professionally.

3. Other skill sets

Coming straight out of university or college, your course of study may have equipped you with a specific skill set, such as SEM skills for marketing or programming languages for software engineering.

While it is beneficial for you to expand on your existing skill set on the job, it is also crucial to think about building other transferrable skills. For instance, communication skills and teamworking abilities.

As mentioned before, your first job is your golden opportunity to take in as much knowledge and skills as you can. You need to think about diversifying your skills, especially transferrable ones, so that you become a more well-rounded and marketable individual. This is especially important if you are looking to join another company in the future.

One way for you to find out if your prospective employer or role will allow you to pick up other competencies outside your current skill set is to ask about how teams work in the company. Do departments work independently or together as a collaborative effort? Will your role involve interacting and working with other departments?

Exposure to cross-departmental tasks will allow you to learn different skills, while repetitive, routine tasks may limit you to only one specific skill set. Hence, it is crucial to have a good understanding of the role on offer.