What should I choose as my first job?

What should I choose as my first job?

Assessing Career Options

The job market is a wide world of opportunities and challenges, ready and waiting for you to make your mark. The first thing is work out what you would like to do, based on your interests and skills. Make positive decisions, and don't take the first job that comes your way if it doesn't suit you.

Chop and change

Don't worry that you are committing yourself for life when you take a job. Those days are long gone. Always keep an open mind and look for potential career development opportunities.

To make a good career choice, you need:

- A clear understanding of yourself: skills, hopes, ambitions, personality and limitations
- A good understanding of the range of career routes available
- The ability to match your skills with the opportunities out there
- Awareness of your circumstances, including debt and family pressures

Accurate self-assessment is essential in creating a convincing CV, handling job applications and interviewing well.

It's all about the experience

Everyone needs to start somewhere, so don't expect to walk straight into a management role, no matter how good your qualifications. Be prepared to work your way up the ladder and never miss the chance to chat to colleagues and learn from them about the different opportunities on offer.

If you're not having much luck getting into the role you want, work experience and temping are great ways to get your foot in the door. Work placements are respected by potential employers as they prove that you've got initiative; and both placements and temping are no-strings attached, so it's easy to move if something bigger and better comes up.

While you're on a short-term contract, have a nose around the organisation and see the bones behind various jobs. See if you can shadow other roles to see what they're about before you commit yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised. To find out what your potential future employers are looking for, speak to your HR department to see the kind of boxes they aim to tick when CVs and applications come in.

Placements can often turn into full time jobs, so make the most of the opportunity to impress. Even if your contract isn't extended, they may remember you when a position becomes available in the future.

Once you've found an industry and company that appeals to you, start searching and applying for jobs immediately. If there is nothing available, it's always worth writing prospective letters to companies to see if there are any roles available that aren't currently advertised that would be suitable for someone with your skills.

Choosing your employer – there is a choice

There are various things that differentiate employers, and not just the industry they operate in. Number of employees, office culture, ownership, management structures and staff development are all key areas you should look into when deciding your ideal employer.

Everyone is different when it comes to the type of environment they'd like to work in, so decide your criteria and check out the companies that offer a good match.

When you're searching through job adverts, measure each against these points to give you an idea of what the company is like:

- Style - Who wrote the material and why? View this as the organisational equivalent of a CV. Does it capture your attention, or come across as dull?

- Depth - How much detail are you being given? Do they mention specific goals you would be working towards or just give you an overall view of your responsibilities?

- Omissions - Is there anything about the company they don't tell you? Use the Internet to find out all you can about the organisation. They rarely tell the whole story in recruitment communications.

- Frequency - Regular jobs adverts from the same company often suggest high rates of staff turnover which could be a sign that it's one to avoid.

Keep your eyes open as you search for new jobs and never miss an opportunity to chat to friends and colleagues about possible openings. You never know what might turn up.