Taking the first offer?

First, let’s get something straight. There’s nothing wrong with taking the first job you’re offered, as long as it’s the ‘right’ job. And what with parental pressures (“We’re not supporting you any more”, “It’s time you found your own place” etc), the burden of student debts and the desire to join your peers on the career ladder, it’s easy to make a first job mistake.

There are many: joining a company where you don’t fit in; realising the industry bores you; finding out you’re trapped (eg media sales is not a launch-pad into a career as a war correspondent); simply being unrealistic (you might have great ideas to turn round a company’s fortunes, but no one will make you chairman straight out of college).

It’s obvious, but if you don’t apply for the wrong first job, you won’t be offered it. The trick is to do as much pre-application research as possible and that requires a little navel-gazing.

Do an MOT on yourself before you start applying and make it a continuous process. Ask yourself why you’re attracted by certain jobs, what your motivations are, why you’re applying to particular organisations in certain industries?

Do you want to earn lots of money? Are you prepared to work long hours at the cost of your social life? Will you really be happy in a large organisation or would you feel more at home in a small, intimate environment?

Next, thoroughly research the industry and organisations that attract you. Be realistic, some sectors, particularly creative ones, won’t pay the average graduate starting salary, so waiting for the perfect job with the perfect package may be a waste of time.

Read up about your chosen sector and company in newspapers and on the internet and, if possible, try to speak to people who know what the company culture is like. If you get a job interview, use it as an opportunity to observe the company’s working environment, the dress code and stress levels.

But for many people, the only way to decide their suitability for a certain job or area is to do it. If you discover you’ve made a mistake, unless it’s so bad that it’s making you ill or destroying your confidence, you should give it at least six months so it looks credible on your CV.

You won’t be trapped in your first job for life – the 40 hours a week, 40 years with the company ethos has long gone – and downsizing has changed the concept of commitment and loyalty within society.

So should you take the first job you’re offered? In general, it’s better to be in employment than unemployed – not just from a financial point of view but from a psychological one. Working gives you confidence and structure.

You should avoid the shock of the dole queue at all costs. If you really can’t find the job you want, or have no idea what you want to do, temp for a while, or do voluntary work.

One day, perhaps, they’ll invent sophisticated computers that can take your genetic code and match it to the industry, company, role and workmates best suited to you. Until then, mistakes will continue to be made.

But remember, even if you hate your new job with a passion, you’ll a lot about yourself and the world of work… even if it’s merely discovering what you don’t want to do.

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