What to expect from your first “real” job


Congratulations! All that hard work has finally paid off and you have landed your first “real” job!

As your first day approaches, you’ll probably feel a slew of mixed emotions: excitement, fear, nervous energy caused by all the unknowns of the professional workplace. All you want is to make a good first impression on your boss and co-workers.

There is no magic formula to guarantee a smooth transition into your first “real” job, but there are steps you can take to make your first couple of months easier.

I recently asked a fellow classmate about her first “real” job experiences, and her answers shed some light on how to start your career on the right foot.

Vanessa Sturino graduated from York University with a bachelor of administrative studies, honours marketing degree in October 2009, and has since landed a position with Winners as a junior analyst.

Before you accept the job

Ask your employer about the type of environment and what management styles are used. This way, there are fewer surprises in terms of ‘fit’ when adjusting to your new work environment. Salary negotiation is always a tricky and uncomfortable conversation regardless of your career stage, but this should also be finalized before accepting your new position.

Sturino says she negotiated her salary by giving a salary range. When her employer offered a salary that fell within that range, both parties were happy.

Negotiating salaries for the first time is not always that simple, so for those who are unfamiliar with what you should be asking for, research and compare pay scales for similar positions in your industry.  This way, you know what you deserve and what employers are willing to pay. Asking friends and family working in your industry can also be useful when negotiating salary.

There are also a variety of online salary calculators, such as Salary.com and Payscale.com. Just keep in mind that the salaries may not be in Canadian dollars and may not represent entry-level positions.

First day on the job

“My first day on the job was really nerve-racking,” says Sturino. “When I arrived, there were 12 other new hires with me, and we were escorted throughout the building, receiving orientations, and meeting people. We were introduced to executives and co-workers, and given an overview of the company and our roles. Everyone wanted to make the best impression, and I was hoping that I stood out in their mind.”

The first day, or even the first few weeks, is more about meeting your colleagues, getting comfortable with your surroundings, and less about showing off your abilities—that comes  later.

Office etiquette and plans for growth

In terms of how to conduct yourself, simply be yourself, but obviously use common sense for what is appropriate for your work environment.

In terms of sharing your ideas, some managers are open to change, but others are still traditionally structured or risk adverse, so you need to make your own judgments. Sometimes they will even tell you whether or not they are open to suggestions.

If you have a plan to advance in the company, talk to your boss about once you’ve established yourself and make it a regular conversation. Be clear on your goals and how you will achieve them.

Sturino says she documents her successes so she is prepared for when her advancement within the company is up for discussion. This is a great tip. After documenting your successes, you will be prepared with evidence to support why you are deserving of that new position up for grabs.

With hard work, open communication and a clear plan for your growth within the company, you should be well equipped for your new career.

Lastly, I asked Sturino to share one piece of advice that she learned from starting her new career. I’ll leave you with her response, which was my personal favorite.

“Be fearless and be confident,” she says. “Even though your confidence might waver in the beginning because it’s all new and very daunting, don’t let anyone see it because when you give the impression that you don’t believe in yourself, people start not believing in you!”

Sing it sister! Your attitude determines your altitude.

Was there anything about your first “real job” experience that caught you off guard? Do you have any first-day-on-the-job strategies that helped to make the transition a smooth one?

About the author

Rachel Kong is a recent York University Graduate where she completed her honours degree in Business Marketing. Rachel has a real passion for marketing, more specifically for strategy and everything strategy related in the online space. She currently works for RBC and also enjoys doing volunteer projects for TalentEgg. Prior to graduating, she interned for Agency59 and was the Marketing Coordinator for one of York University's business clubs.