For college students and those nearing graduation, it’s common to think about the future, including their career. Every year, undergrads call, email, and communicate with me on social media to ask for advice. They’re typically focused on finding their first full-time paying job.
While gaining employment and becoming self-sustaining is essential to cover living expenses, I always warn that making decisions based on compensation alone can be a dangerous trap. It’s often more important to ensure you’re doing something you enjoy. It will help make the workload easier, and you won’t mind putting in the extra hours when needed at the office.
Follow these steps when looking to match your first job with your passion.
Ask Others To Share Their Expertise
Reaching out to your close network can be a great starting point. Rather than telling them you’re looking for a job and want their help, request a brief call. Take 15 minutes or less to ask them about their experience and what insight they would share for someone who’s just starting out in their field. Do research before making the call so you’re not coming in entirely cold.
Here’s why this step can be helpful: once you’ve had a chance to talk to a dozen or more people in various fields, you can gain a better sense of what would be of interest to you. Moreover, you might be able to determine what part of the industry you would like to get involved in. For example, in the realm of real estate brokerage, you might begin as an analyst if you’re apt with numbers. Or you could start as a sales associate and work for a senior broker. Evaluate the different roles and then match your skill set to the job description.
Reflect On Your Past Jobs
If you had internships in the past, it can be helpful to remember what you liked about them. Also think through parts that you didn’t enjoy. Sometimes the downsides are just as helpful—if not more important—than the aspects that you did appreciate. I spent a summer working for a big corporation in the auto industry. It was a very nice, plush, 9 to 5 job, complete with golf outings. Yet as I spent time there, I noticed there didn’t seem to be much upside potential in the roles. Many of the middle managers, for instance, had been doing the same thing for the past 10 or 15 years. While they had great jobs, I realized that I was looking or something a little more entrepreneurial.
Shadow Someone for a Day
It might seem that to really learn about an industry or job, you need to invest an entire summer at a company. However, I’ve found that even spending a day with someone can give you incredible insight into their world and what they do.
At my workplace, we recently had over two dozen college students come in on individual days to shadow one of our brokers. It was a great way for individuals to learn about brokerage, especially if they were unable to get an internship in the highly competitive market.
Be Open To Learning
Once you’ve found a job that aligns with your interests, keep in mind that you may not need an extensive background to get started. After you get hired, you might find a mentor who is willing to give you advice and help you move forward. When I started my career, I was fortunate to have two incredible mentors, Paul Massey and Bob Knakal, who taught me an immense amount about real estate. Most of the learning I did was on the job, as I sat next to them in the office and absorbed everything they had to say. It was a small company, and as I observed them, I gained incredible knowledge that helped throughout my career.
Over time, you’ll also come to see that a lot of the learning goes on outside of the workplace. I’ve been in real estate for more than 25 years, and I’m still a voracious consumer of news and trade publications, along with books and podcasts. I’m always challenging myself to learn new things about the business in my free time.
I was very lucky in that my first job out of college, I worked for the company for 17 years until it sold, and then I stayed on for another three years. Effectively, I was at the same job for 20 years. You might change jobs more often (though bear in mind that employers might look negatively on hopping from place to place too frequently). Once you find a place that suits your interests, you may be inclined to stay and continue learning to further advance your career. Ideally, if you align your passions with your employment, you won’t dread Mondays and overall, the workload won’t seem like work. You’ll be doing what you enjoy and eager to learn more.