5 Things Your First Job will Teach You that College Never Did

First job out of college? There are some things only real life experience can teach you!

From finding your group of lifelong friends to teaching you how to stay out until 5 a.m. and go to class at 8 a.m. to somehow morphing you into an adult fit for the real world, college is definitely four of the most important years of your life. In those four short years, you transform from an excited, nervous 18-year old into someone with plans and goals for a future.

But, in between your final class and your first job, you need to learn some skills that college just can’t give you. There’s no class that tells you how to dress for an interview or how to act at a meeting, and so many other things that we soon realize are imperative for the working world.

Here are 5 lessons you’ll learn from experience at your first “real” job that college won’t teach you.

1. How to be a Morning Person (Even If You’re Really, REALLY Not)


Are you more of a night owl than a morning person? College made that easy, even if you had to get out of bed and into a class by 8 a.m. You could put on whatever you found in your closet and go, participate or not and then take a nap if you had the time. At least grab a coffee on your way out.

Sadly, a job doesn’t offer those same simplicities. Sleeping at your desk is not as inconspicuous as in a classroom or even a library. You’ll likely have tons of work to keep you busy, none of which you can sleep through.

Your first job will teach you to get up at the sound of your alarm rather than rolling over, and how to get ready at a speed that allows you to stop for that precious coffee and still make it to your desk on time ready to face the day and your responsibilities.

2. Office Politics

Not everyone is going to be nice, and not everyone is going to like you. For me, that was one of the hardest changes to make. I’ve always been a fairly well-liked person; so, walking into my first job, I expected to be cordial with my co-workers at the very least. However, I was in for a pretty nasty surprise.

Some people just don’t want to be bothered with you, or will go out of their way to make your day harder than it needs to be. I’m not saying you’ll walk into a boo that’s Miranda Priestly-esque, but be prepared, just in case, and remember not to take it personally!

3. How to Dress to Win


“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is a cliched saying, but one that definitely rings true. Your first job might not be your dream job. For most of us, it probably isn’t. There’s a lot of work to be done first! Building up a work wardrobe should be towards the top of the list.

First impressions are important, so you don’t want to show up to your first day of work (or an interview!) looking like you just rolled out of bed. Look professional, and that will start everything off on the right foot. You’ll feel more confident, you’ll look more than capable of doing the job you came for and you’ll be moving up the chain in no time.

To start, get some business-casual essentials: black pants, comfortable heels and pencil skirts if that’s up your alley. Add a blazer and a structured bag and you’re on your way!

4. How to Make the Absolute Most of Your Free Time

Working 9-5 doesn’t leave much time for activities. Having a structured schedule has its perks though! When you do have downtime, at night or on the weekends, you’ll want to make the most of it. See your friends, hit the gym—do all the things you used to find so much time for. Luckily, the less time you have for something, the more you come to appreciate what time you do have. And there’s always your lunch hour!

5. How to Make the Most of a Commute


Smashing yourself into a packed train/subway/bus or into a car to sit in traffic is never going to be a fun thing to do.

You’ll have to get up earlier, make sure you’re at the stop on time or early, just in case, and then you’ll have to keep yourself entertained. Sitting in traffic? Try a podcast—there are tons out there, so there’s guaranteed to be one that fits your interest.

These work for packed trains too. If you’re more of a reader, the train or subway is the perfect time to knock out that book you’ve been reading. These small things will make the commute so much more pleasant that you’ll almost find yourself looking forward to it.

Landing your first job is exciting and terrifying and a major lifestyle change for new grads. There are tons of things to learn, both on the job and off, but there are just some things you have to experience to learn them. From getting up in the morning to your commute home, you’ll learn as you go how to make the most of your days!

About the author

Amy Sachs

Amy Sachs is a blogger and freelance writer from New Jersey. She can most likely be found drinking coffee with her nose in a book.

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