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  • Writer's pictureMaryna Khomich

Choosing the Right First Employer: What to Look Out For

We've all heard in school and university how graduates have all doors open to them, that education is our ticket to a bright future, and that employers are keenly waiting for us, diploma in hand. But, when you're fresh out of school and hit the job market, it hits you - it's not quite like that. There aren't many jobs for newbies. Mostly, you'll find basic roles that don't really need the stuff you learned in uni. For the big jobs in law, economics, psychology, programming, chemistry, biology, and so on, they want folks with experience. So, where do you get that experience? Let's say the most valuable thing you can get from your first job is experience, the kind that later lands you a great job at your dream company. You might strike gold and find all this in your first job, but let's be realistic and start with the basics. Here's what I suggest you keep in mind when picking an employer.


Choosing the Right First Employer
Choosing the Right Employer

First off, think about the company's size when choosing the right first employer. Some seasoned pros complain about big companies being too rigid, bureaucratic, hard to climb the career ladder, and feeling like just another cog in the machine. But it's not all black and white. Bigger companies are usually more open to hiring newbies and investing in their training. They give young pros tasks and projects to cut their teeth on. Smaller companies, though, tend to have fewer projects, which means less chance to learn. Plus, big corporations give you a chance to try different roles, understand how various departments work, which helps you get the bigger picture. And, big companies are great for networking. You get to join professional communities, make connections that can help with idea sharing, experience exchange, and even finding new jobs in the future.


Start looking early at companies with internship programs. They're perfect for students to start working while still studying. Big companies often offer unpaid internships with a job at the end. It's a great way to get relevant, marketable knowledge and life experience, as these internships are usually based on real-life scenarios.


Check out the team vibe in the company. Do they share knowledge? Are there internal or external conferences, trainings, meetups? Do company reps speak at industry conferences? That's a sign of a culture that values sharing knowledge. People who like to share what they know can be a big help in your career. So, get to know them, ask for advice, and learn about job opportunities in their departments.

Is there an internal training program or a corporate university in the company? This is super valuable when starting out. You get to learn more skills or professional nuances for free, from the best in the field, through well-planned programs, all while working. Early in your career, knowledge and experience are worth more than money, so look out for companies that offer this.


Do your homework on the company online. Read reviews to get a full picture of the company's reputation. What's the corporate culture? How are hiring, promotion, and firing decisions made? What do former team members say? Do they follow labor laws and pay on time? These things matter a lot if you're just starting out. Working at a company with a bad rep can slow down your career growth and even warp your professional development. But a company that doesn't respect its experienced staff isn't likely to be a good place for beginners either. On the flip side, a company with a healthy corporate culture can really add value to your resume.


Before you decide on an employer, think about where you see yourself in a year, two, or three. What do you want to achieve, not just in the next five years, but in your life? Dreams have a chance of coming true if you pick the right place to make them happen. Think about what each employer can offer you – opportunities to work in different locations, interesting fields, big clients, inspiring products, learning from top experts. Look at where former employees of your potential employer are now – it can give you a sense of your future growth prospects.


Different companies have different HR strategies. Some prefer hiring experienced people off the market, others grow their own talent. If you're just starting, it's better to go with companies that focus on developing their own experts. Check how many managers were promoted from within versus hired from outside. A clear job progression map and transparent skill development and job transition processes are good signs.


Also, pay attention to the job title being offered. Especially important for newbies or those changing fields. Your job title is like a record of your journey; first, you work for it, then it works for you. As you gain experience and professional standing, your skills and knowledge will speak for themselves, and your job title won't matter as much. But at the start of your career, it's really important, especially for jobs with potential growth in related areas. It's also key for those aiming for a management career. It's tough to get a team to lead at a new job without the right experience on your resume.


Another thing to consider is the company's flexibility. This isn't about working from home or choosing your hours. Flexibility means embracing new ideas, being creative, open to new things, ready to experiment, and taking on bold projects. If an employer offers this kind of environment, it’s a good sign for your career. Examples are programs that let employees run their own projects or research, choose their tasks and teams, and internal hackathons. Such initiatives show a company is open to new ideas and fosters a creative, free atmosphere where you can really grow professionally.


Lastly, don't forget about social responsibility. We're in the 21st century, and a lot depends on us for what kind of world we leave to future generations. So, I’d lean towards an employer who contributes to making the earth a better place and promotes this approach through their corporate culture and values. This can be in various forms: the company’s product might be eco-friendly or socially beneficial, they might have internal social projects, support environmental policies, or participate in volunteer and social initiatives. Working for such a company isn't just about prestige and a good salary, but also about knowing you're consciously part of something important for society.

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