Are you in the market for your first job? If so, that’s exciting!

No matter where you ultimately wind up, it’s important to remember you probably won’t stay there for your entire career.

Case in point: I started off as a 16-year-old lifeguard and swim coach at the country club up the road. Fast-forward several years later, and here I am working in digital marketing.

Though you’re likely to leave your first job at some point, you can still take away key lessons you can use to improve your career down the line. Here are 9 of them:


1. Punctuality is important. You’ve got to show up to work on time, no matter what. If your shift is scheduled to start at 4 p.m., for example, and you show up at 4:30 p.m., not only will your coworkers be angry, but there’s also a good chance you may never punch in at that place again.

Not only will you learn the importance of punctuality in your first job, but also how to do whatever it takes to ensure you are punctual. Since I lived right down the road from my first job, it took less than five minutes to walk there, so it was easy to lose track of time and almost leave too late. I learned to set an alarm and have my stuff ready in advance – and I was never late. You may not be so close, and may have to learn to account for things like traffic or weather. Your first job is the perfect time to learn.


2. Communication is essential to success. No matter where you cut your professional teeth, you’ll quickly find out how important communication skills are. Like it or not, communication skills play a huge role in how successful you are at your first job (and your future jobs), whether you’re a lifeguard, a barista or a babysitter.


 3. Patience is a virtue. Whether it’s because of annoying coworkers or annoying customers, your patience will be tested at work from time to time. It’s important to remain calm, cool and collected when you’re faced with a difficult person or situation.

Take deep breaths or go for a walk if you feel like you’re about to explode. Never let a moment of weakness detract you from the person you wish to be.


4. Things don’t always go your way. Maybe you’d rather wait tables, but you get stuck in the kitchen washing dishes. Maybe you’d rather stock shelves, but you are forced to ring up customers.

Whatever the case may be, your job is just that — a job — and you won’t always get to dictate your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. From time to time, everyone will get stuck cleaning the bathrooms, so to speak, so when you get assigned tasks you don’t necessarily like, just do your best to suck it up and get the job done.


5. Attitude matters. You may be the best worker in the world. However, if your colleagues think you’re a jerk and they don’t like working with you, then there’s a good chance your days are numbered. Particularly when you’re new on the job — but really always — strive to be the absolute best iteration of yourself.

You don’t want to work around people who are mean and miserable, and neither do your coworkers.


6. There are more facets to a job than you might imagine. Let’s say you’ve just landed a job at a coffee shop. In your mind, you picture yourself serving coffee and food to customers all day.

When you arrive to work on your first day, though, you’ll quickly learn that there’s often more than meets the eye. For example, you’ll also have to make change, ring up orders, clean the floors, clean the tables, restock the condiment bar, restock retail items, clean the bathroom and more.


7. Problems come with the territory. There’s no such thing as a super easy, non-stressful job. Even famous actors experience stressful dilemmas and issues on the set of movies and TV shows. Having a job means there will be problems. It’s just the way it is. The trick is to not let those problems get to you.


8. You are not perfect. Very quickly in your new job, you’ll learn that you make mistakes, too — and probably lots of them. Rather than getting flustered or angry — or trying to deny the fact that you messed up — learn to embrace your mistakes and figure out how to prevent the same ones from occurring next time. You’re not perfect, so don’t try to act like you are.


9. Liking your job makes everything easier. If you hate your job, chances are the minutes are going to appear to tick by that much slower. Indeed, when you like your job and you fit into the company’s culture, work becomes much easier and more enjoyable. Rather than dreading going to work each day, you wake up with a smile.


Even if your job isn’t your ideal one, try to find the positives. For instance, if you’re stuck in the back washing dishes, maybe the radio is on a particular station you like. You can get into a dishwashing groove when you’re jamming along with your favorite tunes.

Remember, you won’t necessarily figure out what you should do for your career at your first job. It’s just a way to get your foot in the door and start building up your resume.

No matter what, you’re bound to learn important skills from your first job. The benefit? The more skills you can master, the more attractive a candidate you’ll be for future employers.


What lessons have you learned from your first job? Share in the comments!

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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