The title of this piece may seem a little out of keeping with the general tone of what I usually write about, but it really isn’t. That first job is, in many respects, the key to career success. Why? Because how well you perform on that first job, even if it’s an entry-level job, likely will set the course for future jobs as you, hopefully, move up the corporate ladder. As you try to move up that ladder, your background will be checked and your references will be contacted about your overall job performance. Whether or not you get the chance to move up will be determined, in large part, by your overall performance on that first job.
Many people just beginning their careers start in an entry-level job. Despite protestations to the contrary, entry-level jobs are really about new college grads being given the chance to “earn while they learn.” And it’s the savvy grad who understands that many large corporations will essentially “recruit” a new entry-level class each spring, expecting that, out of a group of 20 or 30 new-hires in entry-level positions, only 3 or 4 will make it the next level within the company – and they really don’t care how many make the cut because a whole new crop of grads will be available in just a year. So, for the perceptive graduate, the goal is to learn as much about the job as quickly as possible and to try to outperform others doing the same job in order to make it to the next level within the company.
Then, when the time comes to make a career move, the individual who has performed extremely well right out of the box, so to speak, will likely get glowing comments from references when a prospective employer or a company like ours calls.
Not everyone starting a career will get glowing comments from their references, even if they are handpicked references by the individual hoping to land a job on the next rung up on the corporate ladder. I don’t mean to suggest that references will intentionally say negative things; but, if they’re honest, which is all that can be hoped for, they may honestly say there were one of more weaknesses in some aspect of job performance, or areas where additional training or experience would be helpful, or that there were some fundamental shortcomings in the candidate’s performance like poor attendance or getting to work late or expecting to be paid more than the job is worth or a hundred other things – all of which are probably painfully honest answers to a prospective employer’s questions.
So, doing one’s best right from the beginning of a career sets the stage for the chances of upward mobility within any new organization, because overall job performance will be all that references have to talk about when a prospective employer – or its agents – call to evaluate the candidate’s suitability for that next job on the corporate ladder.