Does Your First Job Matter?
On Sundays at Career Girl Network, we like to talk about productivity. So far, we’ve talked about being more productive in your day-to-day life at work and at home. But we haven’t yet explored the idea of productivity on a greater scale: productivity within your career.
As someone who is on her second career at the age of 26, I’ve been faced with this concern over and over again: Am I too far behind in my career because I started later? Have I been less productive than others by spending a few years in a career that I ultimately did not want?
A July article on the Brazen Careerist talked about “Why Your First Job Out of College Is the Most Important of All.” I know many people who have stuck with the same career, even the same company, since they left school. For those individuals, it does seem that their first job really mattered. Then I look at myself: I wonder what my first job as a broadcast news reporter and producer really meant for me. Was it a waste?
When it had been only a year or two since I’d left the news business, it was easy for me to beat myself up and see it all as one big mistake. But now, I realize that it was part of my path. I could not be where I am today without my first job, and here’s why:
- I built skills that I use in my career today. Regardless of where you begin, you learn certain crucial skills that are translatable to every job — and some skills you can use to help propel your next career move. I was a one-man band reporter when I began in the news business: I shot and edited my video, in addition to writing and presenting it on a newscast. While I did not remain a reporter, I took those shooting and editing skills to begin my own visual storytelling projects. I now freelance and help nonprofits make promotional videos. I’m also working on my own documentary. Without having gone through the pain of one-man-banding on tight deadlines, I wouldn’t be able to share stories on as many platforms as I do today.
- I learned what kind of work environment I want. The best thing that comes out of a less-than-perfect job experience? You learn what you don’t want, and then you can search for what really suits you. And if you do find that you like where you are, even better — you look to replicate that experience at your next job.
- I discovered my work style. I realized that I wasn’t someone who loved running around all day under a tight deadline, never having time to really dive into my story. Once my assignment was done, it was done — and I hardly got time to get to know it. I realized that I am a project-oriented person, and have much more fun at work when I’m working toward a greater, long-term goal. I know how to work quickly when I need to, but I need a job that allows me to spend time with longer projects.
- I learned how to overcome being “the new kid.” Even if your first job has nothing to do with what you end up doing later in life, knowing how to pick up and start in a new place, with new people, is invaluable. I realized that if I could learn to operate a camera, to edit video on software I’d never used before, and to create a whole newscast under a tight deadline, I could learn anything. Now, when I walk into a new job situation, I feel much more confident knowing that I can manage to make the transition.
While some people my age may be further along in their careers because they stuck with just one, I firmly believe that what awaits me in my future will be just as great, if not greater. Because I changed careers, I’ve learned to be more productive in the present. I’ve learned to work harder and faster, and I’ve learned to take risks. So, does your first job determine the course of the rest of your life? Yes and no. What you did for your first job does not matter. What you do with what you learned on that first job — that’s what really matters.