What to do when your first job doesn’t fill you?

The global situation, which indicates that an economic crisis is looming, has significantly affected the labor market. Only in Mexico 12 million people left the Economically Active Population (Forbes, 2020) and in Colombia the unemployment rate reached 20.5% (Associated Press, 2020). The job offer has fallen, hence many individuals who are just entering the workforce will find themselves between the dilemma of accepting a job that does not meet their expectations (salary, geographic…), and choosing to remain unemployed. Others who have recently managed to occupy themselves may be unhappy with their job, but find themselves in a context that would make it difficult for them to find another that satisfies them. Given this, the question arises: What to do when your first job doesn’t fill you up? What to do when there seems to be nothing to do?

What to do when your first job doesn't fill you

The first thing we will emphasize is that the first job will most likely not satisfy you 100%. You are just starting out, and remember that you have to grow, develop and learn to get to your dream job. There is usually some pressure to get the best position, with the best salary, in which you will do everything that you are passionate about immediately after graduation. However, this is not always the case. It is very common that you do not like your first, second, or third job. Despite this, you must learn from all of them and each one will give you valuable experience that you can take advantage of to eventually achieve your professional goal. Before thinking about whether to keep your position, or to leave it permanently, we recommend that you follow these steps and thus define what to do when your first job does not fill you.

  1. Identify where your discontent comes from: If you don’t like your current occupation, you must first ask yourself, what is it that I don’t like? What is it that causes me frustration, anxiety, stress, discouragement? Remember to be very objective in this, as it will help you to recognize, first hand, what you dislike in general. Maybe it’s the company and its work culture, or it’s probably your job in general. Maybe what you don’t like is the industry as such, or it is a specific colleague who makes your life impossible. Whatever the reason, keep it in mind for the next steps.
  2. Find what you DO like where you are: Extremes do not exist, and each job position will have its chiaroscuro. Not everything is black and white, and that is why you should analyze what you do like, or think has potential, about your job. For example, you may find that you like being involved in customer service, or that the consulting industry is your thing. Maybe your company has people you are interested in networking with, or experts you want to learn from. In the contrast of the positive and the negative you can clear your mind and manage your emotions, so that you do not make drastic decisions impulsively.
  3. Keep on working: While you are performing your function, regardless of whether it seems tedious or stressful, keep putting effort into what you do. Always seek to be the best at what you do, and show that you can. Remember that your first job will be a fundamental reference for the following ones, so your dedication will speak well of you when you take the next leap. In addition, if you leave your current job, it is better to do it with letters of recommendation, than to say in your interview that you were fired for poor performance. This ties into the next point, which is …
  4. Learn everything you can: Definitely everything you do will leave you a lesson and learning in your life, as well as skills that you can take advantage of in various situations. Your first job, mainly, will give you essential insights about the world of work, as well as help you develop multidisciplinary skills, for example, effective communication, analytical writing, problem solving, resilience, etc. After your first job, you can show your new employer that you are in the mood to learn and grow, and that you get the most out of everything you do.
  5. Networking: The human being is a fundamentally social entity, which develops alongside other people, learns from them, and creates solid relationships for a harmonious coexistence and as a possibility of mutual help. Undoubtedly, a well-defined networking in your first job will open the doors for your future. Beyond basing yourself on the fact that “people hire people”, take into account all the knowledge that you can acquire from an expert, from a superior, from a colleague. They will provide you with the necessary bases to have an overview of the industry, the company, the sector, your position. In addition, they will be a valuable emotional support for these types of situations. We cannot fail to emphasize the importance of networking, since it is an extremely important factor in the outline of your professional career.
  6. Raise your possibilities: Be very critical about the reasons that make you feel unhappy in your work and determine what the next steps are. Perhaps the reason for your discomfort in your job is that you don’t know anyone, or you feel very clumsy in your performance. This should not be a reason to discourage you, on the contrary, they should be the reason why you dedicate yourself more to networking, or do what you can to be the best at what you do.
    Another possibility is that you have many responsibilities, or that you feel frustrated by the lack of follow-up from your superiors. In this situation, we offer the following advice: When you were hired, the company trusted that you would do the best job, and they will do what they can to help you. If job stress or frustration is due to internal company issues, don’t be afraid and talk to your boss or supervisor. If it is a company with an excellent work environment, they can reach an agreement, or raise the possibilities that help you feel optimistic in your work. If not, the work culture does not match yours, because it is appropriate to make the decision to look for the one with which you have common values.
    If what you don’t like is the sector or the company, be patient. Try to gain at least one year of experience, and thus include in your resume all your new learnings, attitudes, aptitudes, and skills. Regardless of whether your leap is drastic (such as going from the banking sector to the textile sector, for example), the necessary expertise is multidisciplinary, since currently it is necessary for workers to have different skills. This time will help you get to your dream position. Finally, yes, in your opinion, and in the extreme case, that all are negative points, consider looking for a new job. Be careful: it is not financially responsible to resign to do this search, unless you believe that you should dedicate yourself 100% to some recruitment process. This will happen, more than anything, if what you don’t like is your position in general, and you could not reach an agreement with your superiors. However, you must be very analytical and self-reflective of the true reasons behind it. Despite all the above, if there is something you should do at all times, it is this point:
  7. Be positive and stay optimistic: Your attitude and the way you handle your emotions will play a valuable role at all times in your process of reflection, work, and fulfilling your obligations. In general, thinking positively will allow you to find the good, among all the bad, and will give you encouragement to continue with your process. Especially in crisis situations, where the job search is complicated, feel grateful if you have a job, and make the most of it. The route will then be traced by you, and this is the beginning. After all, your first job won’t be your job forever.

In conclusion, the first job, in the vast majority of cases, is not the dream job. See it like this: it’s your first job. Just like all the first times you’ve had in your life, this one will help you grow, develop, learn what you like and don’t enjoy, be self-reflective and determine if what you thought was your thing is your vocation, your passion, or a desire imposed by some external factor Do not be afraid to make drastic decisions, but always do it with a cool head, and, if possible, with professional and expert advice, who understands the stage you are in, and has an overview of your options, thus helping you choose the best path for your career path.