8 Things I wish I knew before I started my first job

Date:January 16, 2024

Are you a recent grad about to start your first ‘proper’ job? If so, we understand just how you feel. The anticipation. The nerves. The excitement. The self-doubt. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little uneasy before taking your first steps in the world of work. So, to help calm your nerves, here are eight things you should know before starting your first job.

#1 It’s about confidence

If you’re about to start a job in an IT or technology role, you likely have no doubt in your own intelligence. Your critical thinking skills are on point. You know you can work well with others. But at the back of your mind, you may be worried that you won’t be able to pick up new knowledge and skills quickly enough.

Our advice is to focus on ways that you can reflect confidence, even in moments when you are nervous and maybe even full of self-doubt. Let’s say you’ve landed a role as a junior programmer. Writing code will be a big part of your job and you might even be great at it. But what if you’re asked to pitch an idea for new software to senior management? If you’re not great at presenting, you’ll have a hard time convincing your managers how great your idea is – no matter how well you code.  

Ultimately, your ability to make others feel confident in you is what will make or break your first job. Sometimes, even we wish the world was different, but that’s the way it is. Confident people thrive, while self-doubters get left behind. So, if you’re focused on climbing the corporate ladder, you know what to do: always project confidence.

#2 The road to success isn’t always a straight line

So you’ve been lucky enough to land your dream job as a Graduate IT Support Engineer. That’s great, but you may find that your dream job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After the initial excitement wears off, you may find yourself spending most of your days wondering, “What on earth am I doing?” This can force you to dig deep and rethink your options; should you stay put or move on?

your ability to make others feel confident in you is what will make or break your first job.

In our experience, some graduates become disillusioned in their first job. But in almost all cases, this ends up launching them into long, fulfilling careers where they can put their talents to good use. The road to success comes with many twists and turns, and many graduates find that it takes them places they could never have imagined.    

In some cases, your first job will probably teach you what you don’t want to be doing more than what you do. No, it won’t necessarily define your career path and yes, it can lead to better things. Success doesn’t always come in a straight, linear progression.

#3 Getting in the arena is key

Listen. Kicking off your journey in the working world is scary. We get it. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But it’s a necessary part of starting the next chapter in your life. So get out of your comfort zone, put yourself out there and make your mark. If you want to get ahead, it will require all your passion, energy and commitment.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “The credit belongs to the [wo]man who is actually in the arena.” Your career path is unique and you’ll take your own lessons from it.

#4 Even bad jobs create good opportunities

As the old saying goes, the only constant in life is change – and your first job will have plenty of that. There will be good times and bad times. One of the biggest variable factors is the type of manager you have.

Let’s say you’ve landed a role as a Developer with a modern cloud-based technology firm to develop new scientific software. What if this role sees you reporting to three different managers during your first year? And now imagine that they all have different management styles. How will you cope? Some managers may be challenging, but you’re bound to find one that offers plenty of support, and advice. Even in a difficult role, you’ll find yourself forming connections that last long after your first role has finished.

You may not love your first job, but it’s a peoples’ world out there and the great people you meet will always stick around.

Our advice is to appreciate the hell out of any great bosses, colleagues, and coworkers that you meet. Tell them how great they are and work hard to achieve their expectations. You may not love your first job, but it’s a peoples’ world out there and the great people you meet will always stick around.

#5 To-do lists are your best friend

We get it, you’ve flown through school and university without writing a single planner. Because you never needed one. But be careful because you might find yourself being overwhelmed in your first roles: because you simply aren’t used to the avalanche of work that will be coming your way!

When you take your first real job, you’ll quickly find that to-do lists are your best friend. Our advice is to find a system that works for you and hit the ground running. With a million things going on at any one time, you can stay organized by planning out your deadlines with bullet points from top to bottom in the order you want to complete them. It’s not rocket science, but it works.

#6 Big change takes time, but small changes can make a difference

Everyone starts their first job hoping to change the world. You’re probably no different. But just because you’ve landed as position as a Technology Consultant in one of the world’s fastest-growing industries doesn’t mean that you can rip up the rule book and fly by the seat of your pants. Your visions of broad sweeping changes will likely be given short shrift. You’ll probably feel frustrated because you won’t be able to shake things up too much in your first role.

In our experience, there isn’t a job in existence that doesn’t have a bunch of things that could be changed. Our advice is that change in a business or organization takes time. You should focus on making small changes that help improve your company. People will notice and this, more than anything, is what will help your career in the long term.  

#7 Own your mistakes

As a newbie, you’re probably worried about screwing up and being fired. We understand. But in most roles, there’s really no need to worry. Most managers appreciate openness and honesty far more than having someone who never admits to making a mistake (this is definitely the case at Projective Group). In fact, not owning your mistakes is far worse than making them.

Albert Einstein said it best: “Failure is success in progress.” If you’re looking to thrive and carve out a career for yourself, you’d do worse than to take the great man’s advice. Of course, everyone hates making mistakes. But how you deal with your mistakes is much more important than never making them. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Work hard to present a solution to fix your mistake. You’ll prosper, we promise you.

#8 Listen to your gut

So far, our advice has been pretty focused about making the best out of your first job. Get stuck in. Make it work. Fix stuff that isn’t working. But there will come a point when your growing pains become overwhelming. So listen to your gut; if something feels wrong, move on.

Many companies try to paper over the cracks with employee perks like free gym passes, pizza o’clock Fridays and table tennis socials. These perks quickly grow old, but what lasts are those niggling doubts that stick in your gut. How does your company treat its employees? How do your managers deal with conflict? Is your firm transparent? Is there room for career progression?

Our advice is that while leaving a company is a difficult decision, you should always weigh the pros and cons and leave when it’s too much for you to bear. Always be loyal to your own career first; life’s too short!


We at Projective Group hope that these things really help you out before you start your first job. Always believe in your own ability and focus on the things that matter, both personally and professionally. Whether you’re starting out in your dream job or are trying to make the most out of a less-than-perfect opportunity, give it your best shot and work hard towards building your dream career. If you need a second opinion, or want to plan your next move, feel free to get in touch with us!

About Projective Group

Established in 2006, Projective Group is a leading Financial Services change specialist.

We are recognised within the industry as a complete solutions provider, partnering with clients in Financial Services to provide resolutions that are both holistic and pragmatic.  We have evolved to become a trusted partner for companies that want to thrive and prosper in an ever-changing Financial Services landscape.