If you’re reading this, most likely, you’re under 30. You might be close to graduating from college with your BA or BS. Maybe you are graduating from grad school—either because you think an advanced degree will further your career, or your undergraduate degree wasn’t enough to land you a job in this tough economy. Or maybe you are looking for a new career after a few years of humdrum corporate work. If you are in this last category, you may have made some of the same mistakes I did when choosing my first job—a decision I fluked badly. Luckily, I can share some of my mistakes, in the hope that you can avoid the same fantastically regretful pitfalls.
Don’t take a first job that doesn’t fit your passion:
When I graduated from college with a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering degree, I was fortunate to have multiple job offers to consider. In the end, I chose an offer in an industry and field that was unrelated to my interests, rather than a job that I would find the most fascinating. Why did I do this? The short answer: I was a greedy capitalist– the money was just so much better. Sure, there would be a bit of travel, sometimes to really crummy places, but how many people have been able to say that they went to Muskogee, OK (birthplace of Carrie Underwood and home to a beached submarine—yes in Oklahoma). Also, I made the decision to locate in a specific geographic area where I already had developed a support system.
Long story short: I was miserable. I stood at the base of the marble skyscraper where I worked , and craned my neck, squinting to see up to the very top. In that moment, I realized that I had 35 stories to climb to reach the top—and in that industry, I’d probably die of boredom and/or become a most cynical old man before I reached the top floor. Moral of the story: Choose your passion. The money will come. Not sure what your passion is? Select a company where lateral movement is possible, not one that pigeon holes its employees into a single career path. I’ve found this is the best way to discover an unknown passion.