5 Things We Wish We Knew Before Starting Our Careers

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Today's Question: The transition from college to career can be a difficult one. In this special edition of Recruiter Q height: 1px;">

1. It's Okay to Look for Work Outside Your Field of Study

No one told me this, but I learned it quickly in my career: It is okay to pursue a job that you didn't specifically go to school to study. I was a nursing major, but needed a part-time job while I was in school. My temp position at a tech company, Edgenet, seemed like a strange job to accept at the time. But I loved the company, the people, and the work there so much that 11 years later I'm still with the firm.

Because of that experience, I encourage young job seekers not to fixate on the "perfect position" you think you need now – the one you went to school for. Instead, consider the type of organization you want to work for and the kind of environment you want to work in. Do you thrive in a fast-paced office? Do you like structure? Do you want a close-knit community? If you find the right environment, the right job will come.

Also, the saying "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is an adage for a reason. I wouldn't have known about the position at Edgenet while in school if I didn't have a connection who pointed me to the opening. Network as early and as often as you possibly can.

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— Dana Becker, Edgenet

2. You Don't Have to Settle for Your First Job Offer

It is really exciting to receive an offer, but you have to be realistic with yourself. You don't have to absolutely love every part of your first job, but it's important to understand that you will spend most of your week there.

When you didn't like a class you were taking in college, you could drop it in the first few weeks with no consequences. With your first job, you have to feel confident that you can manage a full day of doing this job five days a week. I have seen many friends realize the job they committed to was making them miserable. Many of them weren't even able to make it through a full year at their first jobs. But they accepted the jobs because it was convenient and helped lower the stress of graduating. Really take the time to think about whether or not the job you've been offered is the right fit for you. Trust me, working somewhere that you don't dread going to every day is worth waiting for.

— Emily Hagen, Hub Recruiting

Mark Says...

Find a way to do something – anything – that you truly enjoy and that might pave the way to another career or job. Consider doing something you would love to do but never thought you could ... and then volunteer to learn more about it.

3. Experience Is Everything

Even though spending your time watching Netflix eight hours a day in college sounds like fun, you're wasting your time and life away. If I could tell my freshman self anything, it would be to get involved in the community. Find a nonprofit you can spend your time with and build your professionalism, even if it's not related to your field. Who knows – you might change your major or career path like I did.

— Josh Trecartin, Red Branch Media

4. College Life Is Not the Same as Work Life

Jumping into work life from college life was like stepping into a cold shower – it woke me up. The daily routine of going to class, doing homework, and goofing off with the bros in between classes was nowhere near real life. Professors didn't often describe what it was actually like to do real work at a real job.

Now, I realize that when you go to work, you are expected to focus and be productive and engaged – instead of sitting around doodling and acting like you are paying attention. You are in one place, working on one thing for an extended amount of time, rather than constantly moving around, doing different things. There is a lot more satisfaction in real work.

— John Lewis, Red Branch Media

Mark Says...

If you are someone who has been able to succeed or at least get by without preparing, you're not likely to change until you get that wake-up call. Maybe it will take getting fired or missing out on a great opportunity. But sooner or later, you realize that your persona, chutzpah, bravado, and bravura aren't enough.

5. Don't Rely Solely on Advertised Positions

Positions posted on employment websites and various career centers are convenient and easily accessible to job seekers. But that's the problem: They are accessible to everyone. Hundreds of resumes flood the inboxes of HR departments that utilize online posting methods, so the chance of your resume actually catching the eye of the hiring manager is slim.

On the flip side, the amount of open positions never posted online is staggering – but why are so many never publicly promoted? In short, managers want to either hire from within or talk to someone that has been referred. Think about this in dating terms: Are you more likely to trust someone you meet on Tinder, the ever-so-promising dating app, or someone you meet through one of your close friends?

The secret to finding these positions lies within your network. Leverage your connections with people you have worked with in the past as well as family, friends, and others who aren't necessarily part of your "professional" network. Another strategy with surprising success? Reach out to companies that capture your interest to learn more about them. Setting up informational interviews will give you not only the opportunity to meet with some important executives, but also the chance to express your career goals and ask about the industry. While the people you meet through these interviews may not be hiring, they know others in the industry who might be!

— Katie Bassett