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College Grads | What To Do When Your First Job Isn't the One You Had Planned

A group of people celebrating someone's graduation.

When I graduated from the University of Florida in April 2011, I was nervous. I had been job hunting since December without much luck, but by mid-May things were starting to look promising. I received an offer for a temporary position at a nonprofit organization and was in the second round of interviews for a marketing job at a digital agency. My passion at the time was fundraising, which made the nonprofit position appealing even though it wouldn’t be long term.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I received a call from the CEO of the digital agency, 352. He was excited to offer me a position, but not the one I applied for. Ultimately the company culture and the stability of a full-time position led me to accept an offer as a project manager. I could write a short story about the advice I would give to a college grad entering the workforce, but most importantly I want to share that you probably won’t start your career the way you expected you might – and that’s okay. There are still ways to make the most of the position while still pursuing your passion for social change.

Integrate your passion into your work

I made my passion for nonprofits clear to 352 when I was hired. As a result, the company gives me nonprofit clients and I am able to continue working closely them. I also get involved when my company supports nonprofits like Toys for Tots and other great causes. By making my interests clear to my employer I was able to continue to pursue my passion at the job.

Integrate your passion into your personal life

While 352 gives me some opportunities to get involved in nonprofit work, it is important to me that I stay involved outside of work as well. I continue to support Children’s Miracle Network, an organization I was very passionate about in college. Additionally, a group of friends of mine cook dinner for a local American Cancer Society Home about once a month. There are always opportunities to get involved with your community and nonprofits outside of work. I have discovered a new sense of fulfillment by loving what I do, although it’s not what I expected to be doing when I initially graduated, and remaining involved in these types of extracurricular activities.

Put your job into greater context

By working at a digital agency I may not be helping people quite as directly as an employee at a nonprofit does, but I truly believe that what I do is helping for-profit and nonprofit organizations reach their communities in authentic, data-driven ways which helps these organizations grow. Regardless of what you end up doing for your first job it’s important to become passionate about your purpose and understand why you do what you do.

Don’t forget, you’re just getting started

If you’re really concerned about the fact that your first job isn’t what you expected it to be, remember it’s your FIRST job. Studies show that Millennials typically change jobs about every three years, so the chances of you staying at your first job for an extended period of time is unlikely. I was a project manager for only a year and a half before I was offered the opportunity to switch to our marketing department. I ended up loving the culture and the work that comes with a digital agency, but in reality you might not love the first business that hires you. Even if your first job isn’t a great fit, you are bound to learn new skills. Just don’t forget about your passions during this period of growth.

Although I never would have thought my first job would be in project management, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. Graduating from college is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life and it only gets better. Even if your first job isn’t what you would expected to be doing, you can still pursue the things that delight you and you may even find new interests along the way.

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About the Author: Brittney Sheffield is a Marketing Strategist for 352. Formerly 352 Media Group, 352 is a digital agency specializing in UX design, software development and digital marketing. Connect with Brittney on Twitter or LinkedIn. 

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