The hardest job to get is always your first one. Your first job of all, your first job in your field, your first job in a new city, first job transitioning into a new sector.

When it comes to your fist job after graduating, you want it to be meaningful, in-line with your values and goals, a career move.

It’s holding out for those jobs that holds people back.

1. Jobs don’t matter

Because jobs don’t matter anymore. Every job is temporary.

Looking at the work histories in the millions of Canadian resumes in the Workopolis database, we can see that the majority (51%) of people change jobs every two years, over 80% stay less than four years in any one job. Job hopping is the new normal.

It’s not just their individual jobs, but most people – the vast majority (76%) also work in multiple career paths, different fields entirely over their careers.

73% of people say their education is not directly related to their current jobs.

Jobs don’t matter anymore. Careers do. And your career is made up of the many, many jobs that you’ll hold over the course of your working life. You’ll learn along the way what you like to do, what you’re good at, and where you want to go.

Some jobs are good, some suck. (Warning signs that the job is going to suck.) But even the bad ones contribute to your career. And a bad job isn’t a life sentence, it’s a stepping stone.

Knowing that everything is temporary takes the pressure off decision making. So, take whatever opportunities are offered, because you learn more (and earn more) by working than waiting.

2. Don’t work for money

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about volunteering and unpaid internships since the governor of the Bank of Canada Stephen Poloz suggested that young people who couldn’t find jobs should work for free.

And while it doesn’t seem like a winning policy for the country’s top banker to suggest that an entire generation work for no wages, on an individual level, there is some sound advice there.

When you’re trying to break into the job market, into a new industry, or a competitive field, you have to hustle. You have to do whatever it takes to demonstrate your passion, your drive and your resourcefulness. Sometimes that means volunteering.

Of course we all need money. We need to be paid. But cash isn’t the real currency of your career.

The career currency that matters

Your career currency is the assets that you build up over the course of your career that make you more valuable to future employers and allow you to keep landing better jobs and moving up within jobs.

    They are your professional reputation, your network of contacts, the skills and experiences you gain on the job, and the accomplishments that you rack up that prove what you can do – that set you apart.

And you start gaining those right from your very first job. Showing up on time, working hard, helping out others, providing great service: people remember these things and they’ll want to work with you again and recommend you to others. They’re transferable across industries. Which is good because – as we know – most people change industries.

3. Don’t ask ‘what am I going to do?’

The really important question is always what am I going to do next? What skills can I acquire next, what can I take on next to add accomplishments to my resume, what will my next career move be.

Don’t waste time worrying about a career that doesn’t exist yet. Start building it from scratch.

Rather than holding out for the ‘right’ career move, focus on whatever jobs are available. Get yourself hired. Show up early and stay late. Volunteer for the projects that other people don’t want to do. Be flexible and become indispensable.

The real secret to success?

Build your career currency. Having a growing list of accomplishments on your resume and a network of people happy to work with you again or recommend you to others will give you more and more career options. Working many jobs allows you to learn what you like to do and what you’re good at. Being successful at jobs that you like doing is the real secret to a winning career.

See also:

The simple formula for finding your ideal job
Three keys to success: The only career advice I would offer my child


Peter Harris

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