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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

2016 May

Real World Reality Bites – Your First Job

Entering the “real world” can be scary, exciting, and filled with expectations.  Perhaps, you are setting high expectations for yourself starting the first day on the job.  Having high expectations are great; however, realize that this is your first job and you will make a mistake or two.  And, it is okay.  Employers do not expect perfection.  Simply do your best and work hard.  Be confident in your Wake Forest preparation for life after college.  To ease some of the stress, the OPCD’s career coaches share their “rookie mistakes” and advice for starting the new job after college.

Here are their bites of reality:

Patrick SullivanPatrick Sullivan (’93, Politics), Associate Director, Career Education and Coaching

Talk to people. When you start your first job, it’s easy to go to the extremes. Some people feel overwhelmed with all of their new responsibilities, while others quickly assume that they have the the job all figured out in the first few weeks. The reality is that neither situation is accurate. How can you manage your way out of these situations? Talk to the people around you about their experience. Ask your new colleagues how they overcame their first job jitters. If you see someone who is highly successful in your organization, ask them for advice on what made them so successful.


Shan WoolardShan Woolard (’11, MALS), Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

My first job out of college paid well but was not very intellectually stimulating and at many times boring—a big switch from being a college student where I loved being challenged. I talked with my supervisor and expressed my interest in being given more complex work responsibilities. Then I waited and waited thinking/hoping that I would be moved to a different position at the same company. After several months, I finally saw the light that things weren’t going to change, and I needed to start looking for another job. I ended up taking a job that was more aligned with my skills and interests, but also came with a huge pay cut. Despite the decrease in compensation, I loved my new job. I learned that it takes a lot more than money to get me out of the bed in the morning!


Wake Forest University head shots, Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Jessica Long.Jessica Long (’05, Communication), Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

Get involved. When new opportunities present themselves at work or outside of work, make a point to be part of them. Whether it’s working on a project or being part of a community event, being involved is a great way to form new relationships and strengthen those that already exist. Being active in the local community scene can also benefit you, especially if you’re somewhere new, by helping you feel more connected to the place you now call your home.


Cheryl Hicks

Cheryl Hicks, Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

My “rookie” mistake was not being pro-active enough at my first job.  I did a lot of reacting, which was fine for going through the motions, but I should have done more to prove my wealth as a team member.  I quickly learned to become more solution-oriented and not go to my boss with just the problem.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Jana FritzJana Fritz (’15 Communication), Presidential Fellow in the OPCD 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was college graduation! The bittersweet day has finally come and gone. A wonderful four years of friendships, memories, and opportunities are behind you.  Although this chapter is closing, what you’ve accomplished thus far will bring about a bunch of new and exciting unwritten chapters (*cue Natasha Bedingfield*).  From someone who is officially “one year out” from Mother, So Dear, I’d like to share some thoughts on the oftentimes bewildering idea of uncertainty that comes with graduation.

  • I am one of many future-oriented, driven Deacs. Like many others, I sometimes feel like I constantly need to worry about the next step. A rookie mistake I made during my first year of young professionalism was convincing myself that I needed to have it all figured out — now. The pressure we tend to put on ourselves to “get it together” can backfire and ultimately constrain us from great potential.
  • This frustration, so common amongst us “planners”, became evident to a wise mentor of mine. So, she told me this: appreciate the uncertainty of youth while it still exists. One day, you’re going to wake up having it all figured out and you’ll only be able to wish you had the unknown that faces twenty-somethings.
  • Here’s how I’ve put that advice to practice:
    • Maintain your orientation to achieve, that’s what got you here today. But, reframe it a bit. Look at a “missed opportunity” as a holding place for another door that’s about to open somewhere else.
    • If you feel like something or someone is a roadblock to your goals, consider it a chance to grow, personally and professionally, and keep moving on to the next challenge.
    • No matter the person’s position or importance, if someone comes into your life, cultivate a relationship with them. A few years down the road, they might support you with that next career shift or important life decision.

Most importantly, remember that although you’re leaving the comfort of Wake Forest University, it will never leave you!

Before Summer Begins, Reflect.

Congratulations! You made it through the academic year. Finals are done. Take a deep breath and exhale. Whew! You did it. Many of you are headed in different directions this summer. You will be starting your first job after graduation, preparing for graduate school, or beginning an internship with a possible vacation sprinkled in with family and friends. But, before you get too far into the summer months, spend some time in reflection. What did you learn about yourself? What was challenging? What was rewarding? How did you develop personally and professionally? These are a few questions to ponder as you reflect upon this semester and year. Summer is a great time for respite and unplugging from reality. But, don’t rest on your laurels for too long. The answers you gather from reflection will help you set the intention and goals you want to accomplish this summer.

To help set the course for a meaningful and productive summer, follow these three simple steps:

1. Be Intentional. First, leave the past in the past. Move forward. Think about what you will do differently as a result of past failures. So, you accepted the offer for a new job, grad school, or internship. What do you intend to learn and gain from the first few months on the job, grad school, or the internship experience? What do you hope to gain? How are you going to be intentional in your skill development and network building? Consider answering these questions before getting too deep into the summer months. You will have a better grasp of what you intend to learn, develop, and accomplish.

2. Write SMART Goals. They will be your guide to the results you want by the end of the summer. Here are a few questions to consider before developing your SMART goals: What do you want to accomplish this summer? When you look back at the end of the summer, what do you want to be able to say that you have done or learned? Are there new skills you would like to develop such as delivering public presentations or research? I recommend setting 2-3 goals for the summer. Consider focusing on areas such as the skills you want to further develop, the project(s) you want to accomplish, and the people you want to meet and network with to learn more about the industry. Need help writing goals? Use the SMART goal worksheet as a guide. Share these goals with an advisor, counselor, or mentor so that s/he can help you develop a plan for achieving them.

3. Reflect. Spend some time reflecting on your courses, extracurricular activities, and experiences from the spring semester. Reflect upon your intention and goals set for these areas. To help guide the reflection process, print or download the reflection exercise worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your goals based on the information gathered about yourself, courses, and activities from the past semester. If needed, repeat step two and revise your goals. Goals do not have to be static. They can be modified as plans change.

Remember – Be intentional. Be goal-oriented. Be reflective.

Best wishes for a restful, productive summer!

The Gap Year Defined.

Considering a gap year? Looking for some inspiration? We interviewed Wake Forest freshman, Abby Trombley, who took a gap year before she came to college. After getting 8 college rejection letters, Abby decided she needed a fresh start. What better way to energize than to embark on a year of unknown possibilities? Check out our video interview with Career Coach, Amy Willard, to hear from Abby firsthand. If you want to hear more about her story, Abby’s blog can be found here. Buy her book on Amazon today!