Nov. 20, 2020

Dear College Senior: Here's Some Advice for Your First Job After College

Dear College Senior: Here's Some Advice for Your First Job After College

Many years ago, I was where you are now — needing to find my first job after college. With the benefit of hindsight, here are seven things I recommend you look for. (You may not find a job with all of these, so prioritize according to what’s most important to you.)

Look for a company with a decent number of people around your age.

This cohort of peers will ultimately scatter to a range of companies and industries. They will be a powerful network for the rest of your career.

Look for a position with an amazing manager.

Many people look for jobs with formal training programs for new hires. While these are important, they last a few days or weeks, and pale in comparison to the impact a strong leader will have on you day after day, month after month. Find a manager who believes in the people on their team and is willing to trust them with projects. Someone who is a coach and a role model. You’ll look back years later and see this person as one of your first mentors. (Corollary: if you discover you have a bad manager, leave as fast as you can. They’ll destroy your confidence and teach you bad habits that may take years to unwind.)

Look for colleagues you can learn from.

Surround yourself with great people. They’ll push you to be your best and you’ll learn something every day.

Look for a company with a product or mission you believe in.

You won’t like your job every minute or every day. In fact, some days will suck. Your connection to the bigger picture will help you through the dark days and inspire you on the brighter ones.

Look for a job where you can learn about yourself.

Now is the time to gain insight into what types of assignments, teams, environments, etc. you like and don’t like. When you go to find your next job, you’ll have a better idea of what you want and what to avoid.

Look for a role where you’ll be doing work you can measure.

It’s unlikely your first job is your forever job. When you move on, you’ll want to tell the story of your time at this company, including what YOU did and how you know you made a difference.

Look for your next job, not your forever job.

You aren’t deciding what you’ll do for the rest of your life even though you’ve been asked since you were 10 what you want to be when you grow up and you’re grown up now. You’re simply deciding what to do next. It’s okay to make a change once you’ve learned all you can from this role and company, or you discover it isn’t right for you.


Perhaps I should have told you when I started that these recommendations aren’t free. I have one request in return: Someday in the future, when you have many years of a rich career under your belt, share your best advice with the next generation of new grads.