If you don't have a firm career path, how do you choose your first job after college? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
In choosing a career path right out of college, the first thing to realize is that life is long and you will have many chapters throughout your life. I love reading, so chapters are my metaphor of choice, but a colleague who loves baseball calls them innings. Regardless of what you call them, the point is that there isn't going to be one "right" job for you out of college. There will be certain characteristics to look for, which will help you create a great foundation.
Step one: Find a place where you look up to the people you'll be working with. The reason is that you become like the people you work with, whether you want to or not. So you want to choose wisely. Ask yourself if you admire them. Are they role models for you? Would you love to develop similar skill sets to theirs? Do you like the way they lead teams? Do you admire their knowledge? If the answer is yes, then this will be a great place for you to learn and grow.
Step two: Choose a job where you can learn a lot. This can be through the work you're doing, but hopefully it is also through the people you're getting exposure to, the market or product you're focused on, the region you're working in, etc. Your first job out of school should be in an area that interests you in a natural way, i.e. one where you find you can't stop thinking about the business, the product, the market, or even the other things you have to do. After working there for a few years, it's okay to conclude that you don't want to stay in that market, but that awareness itself is really valuable.
Step three: You want to be able to wear many hats if possible. This is because it will likely take you time to find out what you really enjoy doing. Internships help, but this exploration process continues when you start working full time. As a result, I wouldn't overly fixate on the exact responsibilities of your first job out of school. What's more important is joining a growth company, because this means new jobs and positions will be created in the future. You'll have a chance to try new things as the company grows. Note: Rotation programs in larger companies also offer the opportunity to try different things, and can be valuable for the different perspectives they give you.
In summary, I'd say that the transition from school is a special time. Life is long and full of many chapters, so don't overly fixate on finding the "perfect" job out of school. There is no such thing. It's about finding a company where you can learn, admire the people you'll be working with, and have the opportunity to grow. School is about academic learning and life is about experiential learning. That means trying different things until you find alignment with something that you can imagine doing for a longer period of time. It also means being open to serendipity and to new doors opening that you might not have planned for. There are no grades in life. It's a personal journey and the most important thing is that you take time for introspection and understand if you're proud of how you're spending your time.
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