Choosing your first (real) job is no easy task. Previously, I shared a post where I mentioned about general questions to think about. A few of my friends gave me some feedbacks and I decided to expand the article and dive into more concrete specifics as per what you could consider.
This new post will be in tandem with two other blog posts that I had originally planned for “Career Decisions – Factors to Consider” and “The career you take, the risk you create”.
It is indeed great to think about key questions before picking your first job. Asking yourself about the opportunities that the first job would bring to you in terms of:
(1) Personal & Professional development;
(2) Work culture (& environment);
(3) Doing what you love;
(4) Feeling fulfilled.
All of the above are necessary and are considered key factors. There are, however, a bunch more that I would like to share about:
Powerful, useful and recurringly important throughout one’s lifetime and career. Having seen a couple of people that I know (mostly a bit) been lucky in their life simply because they happened to belong (or to put themselves out there) in networks that are rich and rewarding.
Sure, in many parts of the world, you can’t simply expect that all the powerful networks will be at your doorsteps. I do believe however that with the power of the internet, one can find opportunities and other people willing to help them.
Piece of advice: Some games are meant to be played in life – one of them is the networking game. It takes time and energy, and you never know who will the one offering you a job, co-founding a company with you or giving you his/her time and wisdom.
Markets & Growth Rate
Some markets are hot, some are not and some are always going to be around. The question could be which ones should you join, and why?
A couple of years ago, I wanted to join a management information system (MIS) degree because I thought it was just cool – my parents didn’t think so, I ended up studying finance & accounting. Today, MIS is the hottest degree you could get – combining technical and business (or for some, its combining databases and business) both of which are what people called now, big data (?!)
I think MIS (or similar degrees) were/are hot degrees to study and grab some work experience in as an intern or even fresh graduate. Don’t even need to get started on growth rate or opportunities, a simple Google search will prove (biased perhaps) that big data jobs are well paid (in US).
Back to markets: Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence could be. Internet of Things (IoT), education, renewable energy and to some extent, transport are going to be important. Less popular but probably of high value – are agriculture and water.
Being in a hot market at its nascent stage means a lot of companies would be thrilled to have you too, and if things go well, you will find a lot of opportunities within your existing company or across companies within same market.
It was something that I had a tonne (ton) of struggle with. Admittedly, getting a degree from a top university and also, a couple of internships (or 1st job) in a branded organization does help to raise your profile.
Choose wisely though between branding and being mistaken for the “fakeness” of a branded company 🙂
This is an article on “employer” brand.
Perhaps an exciting concept that most important struggle with, whereby I learnt a lot from in recent months.
Optionality, in my understanding, is the widening of opportunities (perhaps, serendipity too) through conscious decision-making that leads to new(er) paths often involving a certain degree of uncertainty, risks and naivety).
I harvested optionality unintentional over the past 60 months by taking on internships, jobs and attending events that I would, based on my preference, “never” attend.
For others, it could be the choice of changing industry while keeping the same role, or changing role while staying within the same industry, or changing both role and industry.
Being able to jump around will equip you with skills, network, and knowledge that otherwise you might have been, by default, dismissed, ignore or not accessible. Even in the midst of market shifts and technological drifts, optionality can indirectly be a raw material to build your personal swiss knife to handle changes (often unexpected ones).
Role (& Responsibility)
Role is a tricky yet interesting factor. Within role, I would seek:
What will be my daily activities like? What will I learn along the way? What will I learn that I wouldn’t have expected to learn? What degree of ownership, inter-dependence, and organizational+customer impact will I have?
Example (1): A lot of known early career in auditing leads to in-house accounting role within a couple of years (usually, 5-7 years). That’s a combination of optionality and role. Auditing role trains you for a career in accountancy, no matter what. (Even more credible if you earn a Chartered qualification).
In addition, joining a well-known firm helps to progress faster. Otherwise, known as Big 4, or other big firm in audit in your respective location.
Example (2): Somewhat popularised in recent years due to technology boom but not usually very appealing to fresh graduates are sales jobs. A fast growing company usually has no issue creating new jobs as the company grows for its staffs who started out as sales person (with or without formal experience). Learn about the product & the company before moving up to a role that you would have preferred or dreamt of…
Example (3): Take a role that you have no idea about (meaning neither your friends nor your relatives have any clue about) in a large firm (or mid-sized firm) that is famous for a couple of things that you’re passionate or excited about (e.g. my friend probably loves soaps and thus work at P&G – Joking).
I searched for a couple of startup job opportunities with each startup being a different stage of their financing round. For comparison purpose, two of them are within same market/sector (2nd and 4th from left to right), one of them is pure B2B (3rd from left to right) and one of them is B2B/B2C (1st from left to right). One of them is undergoing a hyper growth phase, 2 of them are product-market fit but still yet to unlock fast growth and finally, one has a working product without proven market validation (i.e. product-market fit). I also added Location & Compensation given that they are 2 factors that I chose to ignore in my list previously, but some people might take into serious consideration depending on their personal situation.
Assumptions of this article:
For anyone seeking to join an (early to growth) stage company.
Biased towards technology-driven company.
Mostly targeting fresh graduate and young professionals.