In today’s world, the lives of fresh grads are meant to revolve around their careers and professional advancement, and so it is obviously no surprise that so many of us struggle to commit to a specific field, out of fear that it’s not THE perfect job for us.
Much like dating, job-hunting is a game of statistics. And since we concede that it is impossible to know who we will end up with, why do we still insist on knowing exactly what our dream job is before we even enter the job market? Perhaps the key to finding a good fit is to broaden our search scope, apply a few necessary filters, be willing to experiment, and maybe even admit that there may be more than just one right job for you.
One misconception of recent grads is that their first real job will be great. Most jobs will require years of experience, so you’ll likely start at an entry level position. You should expect that it will be one of, if not the, most demanding job you will have, that the pay will be less than dreamy, and that you will often have to prove yourself. Conversely, this is also the upside of being a new entrant to the job market: you’re competing on equal grounds with people who have just as much experience as you, and you have the chance and energy to prove yourself. So look at it this way: you’re not looking for a job right now, you’re looking for an opportunity.
You probably already know that there are countless firms out there, big and small, in need of brainpower. As a newcomer, your priority should be to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. If you have the luxury of working at a startup, go for it, because it will push you to work in different capacities and give you loads of responsibility early on, and you will end up learning more than you could have anywhere else. If you would rather go for one of the major players, you might want to opt for graduate schemes that are much more general but give you a glimpse of different roles through rotations that will allow you to have a better understanding of what you do and don’t want in a job. Companies like Heineken, AB InBev and countless others offer such programs, which are quite competitive to get into, but will help you grow by offering resources, support, and even mentors to help you orient your career in a way that works for you.
This is the most important point of the three. Whatever you do, you will be accumulating experience and connections that will help you land your next, and hopefully better, job. However, if they’re not relevant to what you want your next role to be, you might have some regrets.
This is probably why so many people want to go into consulting: it is general enough to be non-committal, but the learning curve is still sufficiently impressive to get you anywhere you want to go next.
The issue with consulting is that there are only so many roles available, and it’s just not for everyone. Luckily, it’s not the only option out there. Some good starting roles are in sales, since you will master the art of pitching and acquire soft skills that are transferable to any industry. Major players in tech like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft offer some impressive graduate schemes centered around sales roles and with a high intake, which means you will be among several peers who will start at the same time, experience similar obstacles, and make your experience a lot more interesting. Alternatively, you could take a different route by choosing to go for a highly specific role that showcases your work ethic and skills, such as Investment Banking, and hence also act as an open ticket.
Ultimately, finding a job is about selling yourself, so find your unique selling point, whether it’s a language (spoken or coded), a degree, a reference, or anything else, and start applying – not to roles that you think will get you closer to your dream job (even if you don’t know what it is yet), but to ones that will teach you more; at startups, in unique domains, and even abroad. There is no right way to figure out what you want to be doing, but my advice is to try different things, and even if you don’t love what you end up choosing for your first job, by selecting demanding roles, you will at least learn and be challenged until you move on to your next job.
Sarah Yakzan is a Master’s in Management candidate at London Business School. Before moving to London, she got a BA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut, and worked for a year as Marketing and PR manager, External Relations Coordinator, and Blogger. She will start her next role at Facebook in August.