4 Realistic Expectations to Keep in Mind When Applying to Your First Job

The job search is daunting enough without sky-high expectations getting in the way. Today, let’s keep it real.

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I got a call the other day from my sweet Pop-pop. He was overjoyed to hear my voice, and even more so to talk about my impending graduation.

“Katie, we are all just so proud of you. Congratulations, how amazing!”

The praise went on from there, and even though I usually love to accept compliments (especially from my dear sweet Pop) all I could think was, “Congratulations? HAHA, good one!”

Look at Pop’s sweet face!!!!

I died a little more inside thinking about how my warm and safe college lifejacket will soon be ripped out from under me, leaving me flailing around in my own ocean of dread and nervousness hoping that Baywatch Zach Efron will come soon to save me from becoming a big girl in the “real world.”

Here’s the thing, I am a level-headed human being when it comes to most things, but applying for jobs with high hopes and low expectations is equal parts daunting and upsetting. It makes me question all the time I spent in school and the major I chose to study. Worst of all, it makes me question myself and why I was never smart enough to make it in finance, bio, or business. (Okay okay, I know it is equally hard to find jobs in those fields right now — this is just how I justify my frustration!)

It’s normal to be anxious and nervous and upset and frustrated about post-grad life. And it’s even more normal to ogle over the dream jobs some of your older friends have managed to land…especially when the job interviews you have (or haven’t) been called for are not all fairytale happy endings like you pictured.

But the grass is always greener and eventually things will work out for all us unemployed kiddos too. We’ve gotta keep the faith.

So, for days when you are feeling like you will never make it, or accomplish that dream that seems so far away at this moment, remember to keep your expectations realistic.

And, if you’re stuck on what those expectations should be, read on for the 4 realistic expectations we all need to remember when first-job hunting:

1. The money will be minuscule.

When you’ve only worked for hourly wages, seeing a larger number seems absolutely surreal…until you realize that $32,000 is actually not a salary you can live comfortably on in most major US cities.

When it comes to making good money, you will get there eventually, but for now you will probably have to survive off of ramen noodles — and get some roommates.

2. No matter the position, every job has equal importance.

So you were shooting to be an associate editor at a prestigious magazine but ended up landing an assistantship someplace different?

Congratulations, you’re on your way regardless.

Opportunity comes in waves and whether you catch a break the first time around or not, anything you accept will teach you something and push you closer to where you need to be.

Be grateful for all you learn from each opportunity, and who knows, maybe what you learn is that you were looking for something different after all.

Which brings us to our next bullet point…

3. There’s no shame in choosing a different path.

When entering the real world, the opportunities are endless, but that doesn’t mean you need to reach for them right away.

Maybe this means moving home for a little to get your bearings or, if you’re able, taking an unpaid internship instead of a job you don’t want. Each of us walks a separate path and, with hard work and dedication, we will all end up where we are meant to be! Your timeline is not going to be the same as someone else’s, and that’s OK. Furthermore…

4. Reaching your dreams takes time.

Take a breath, give yourself a break, and realize that things will happen when they are meant to!

Though I wish Zach Efron would come save me, I know that no matter what, things will work out and I will figure out my post-grad situation (even if that means living at home with my mom and 10 cats forever!!).

I’m going to keep working hard, keep job seeking, and keep my head up. And I urge all of you to do the same. We can do this!

Are you struggling with a post-grad job search? I want to hear from you in the comments below!

What of your tactics have worked? What hasn’t? What have you learned? How do you keep yourself in check when it comes to your expectations running wild?

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