4 important things to look for in a first job

by Sep 9, 2019

So… you just graduated! Now what?

Well, you’re going to need a job. And like most people, you’re probably going to search and decide on a job based on industry, job title, salary, etc.

Yet there are also four underrated things that many people don’t look for, but can be just as important to your career success.
I’m going to share these four underrated things to look for in a first job, based on my experience as a recruiter.

1. A great boss

There’s a popular saying: people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses. This is very true. A bad boss can hold you back in your career, but a great boss can launch you forward. 

How? By helping you learn new skills, gain confidence, expand your network, and more. 

Look for a boss who seems excited about helping you as a professional. If a manager seems like they’re only interested in giving out commands and assigning tasks, you’ll be better off in another company. Part of a manager’s job is to develop their team and help people grow! 

So don’t just answer questions in the interview, ask them about employee development and what the company does to support their people. What will they do for you?

Pay attention to the hiring manager’s body language and energy when answering you. You should be able to tell if this is something they’re passionate about, or something they’re doing because they’ve been told they need to. 

The bottom line: your happiness and confidence at work are going to depend on your boss. Find a good one.

2. Company growth

One of the reasons I advanced quickly as a recruiter was the growth of the first company I joined. The first recruiting firm I joined was hiring 10 people at the time and ended up doubling in size the next year.

This gave me near-limitless opportunities to learn new things, get involved in different areas of the business, etc. I mentored and trained new team members, interviewed potential new recruiters for our group, and was given a $10,000 raise and promoted to Project Manager in my second year. 

So I got to bulk up my resume while earning a big pay raise, all because I took an entry-level job with a growth-stage company. 
To measure how fast a company is growing, you can ask questions in the interview about their growth over the past one or two years, and what they’re forecasting.  

Here’s an example of a question you can ask, word-for-word: “How much has the company grown in the past year? How about two years?”

You can also research the company online to see if any revenue or growth data is available. You can search Google for phrases like:

  •  <Company Name> revenue by year
  •  <Company Name> growth statistics

You can also search Google News for the company name to see if any recent articles pop up referencing growth, hiring, etc.

3. Promoting from within

Along with company growth, it’s smart to find a company that promotes people internally.  This was the other key to my rapid rise in my first recruiting job.

Every Manager or Project Manager in my company started as an entry-level recruiter. That was the company policy. So I had no outside competition for that promotion I received. 

So how can you tell if a company promotes from within?

I’d start by looking at a company’s employees on LinkedIn. If you see employees have held multiple jobs in the company and seem to be progressing upward, that’s a great sign.

You can also ask questions in the interview:

  •  “What have other people gone on to do in the company after holding this position?” 
  •  “What is the person who previously held this role doing now?”
  •  “How did you begin at the company?”

If you want to be even more direct, you can ask, “How often do you promote from within for management roles versus hiring from the outside?”

4.  Coworkers and environment

You’re going to be spending a lot of time at work, so make sure you think about whether it’s a workplace you’ll feel good in. 

Trust your gut. If you like an energetic environment and you walk into an interview and see a dimly-lit office where everyone looks bored, then maybe it’s not the right place for you.

I’m sure this sounds like obvious advice, but it took me years to learn to trust my gut in my career, and I would have avoided a lot of frustration and mistakes if I had learned this sooner.

Also, your network can help you find great jobs in the future (many of the best jobs are filled by referral and never published online), so choose a company where you think you’ll like the team. The people you meet in your first job can be as important as what you learn.

 

If you follow the tips above, you’ll find a great position that sets you up for long-term career success. Salary and other factors are important too, but the four factors above are what ended up being the difference-makers in my career. 

 

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Author and former Executive Recruiter

Biron Clark is a job search author and former Executive Recruiter. His blog, CareerSidekick.com, is read by over one million people a month and has been mentioned in Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Huffington Post and more. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 on how to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive jobs.

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