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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

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.

Category: Professional Development

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