How to Get Ready for Your First Job

4 Important Things to Know About Your First Job

Earning a post-secondary career certificate is the first step to take on the road to a satisfying and fulfilling career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80 percent of young adults with some post-secondary education were employed in 2017, compared to 72 percent of high school graduates and 57 percent of people without a high school diploma[1].

Although completing a career certificate program can help prepare you for a career and your first job, there are things your program might not have covered. From salary questions to learning how to impress your boss and co-workers, here are the most important things to know about your first job.

1. The Interview is a Chance to Ask Questions

Before you can land your first job, you need to pass the interview.

The concept of a job interview might be somewhat confusing if you’ve never had one before. The interview gives an employer the opportunity to get to know you better and the opportunity to see if you are a good fit for the position and the company.

But the person conducting the interview, whether they are a supervisor or a member of the human resources team, shouldn’t be the only one asking questions or doing the “heavy lifting.” One way to think of a job interview is as a two way street[2] — you’ll also be expected to ask questions of the interviewer and show interest in the company and position.

So that you know what to ask, it’s a good idea to research the business before your interview. Researching companies is easier than ever thanks to the internet. You can look up its website, check out its social media and read any press coverage of the business.

Another way to come up with questions is to think about what you need to know about the job, that wasn’t included in the description or posting.

Don’t feel as if you have to memorize the questions you want to ask during the interview. Writing them down and bring a list along with you is perfectly acceptable

2. Understand What Your Salary and Benefits Package Includes

If you had a part-time job while in high school, you might have earned an hourly wage and that was it. With your first full-time job in your chosen profession, your salary might be a little more complex.

Your employer might still pay you on an hourly basis, meaning you only get paid for the time you work. Or, they might pay you an annual salary, which stays the same no matter how many hours you put in.

It’s important to know the difference between the two and to clarify with your employer how you’ll be paid. It’s also worth knowing if overtime (for working over 40 hours in a week) is available to you[3].

Another thing you might encounter in your first job is benefits. Benefits can include things such as paid time off, health insurance, and a retirement plan. It’s helpful to understand how your benefits affect your take-home pay. For example, your employer might offer a health insurance plan, but if you sign up for it, you might have to pay a premium, which will reduce the amount of your paychecks. The amount of the premium depends on the type of policy you choose and the coverage it offers.

During the hiring process, you can negotiate your salary and benefits package. Fully understanding what’s on offer and what your options are will help you negotiate a package that best meets your needs and that will help you live comfortably.

3. There’s More to a Job Than Work

Whether you get a job as a medical assistant, a baker, or a welder, there’s more to being an employee than work.

You want to do the best job possible, but it’s also important to have a good attitude, to be friendly, and to be polite. That means being gracious and kind to your coworkers, even if they annoy you or aren’t kind to you. It also means limiting your complaints about the job, especially around the water cooler.

Part of fitting in at work and making a good impression on your boss and coworkers means following the rules and being the type of worker who takes initiative. Not only do you want to do your job well, you also want to be continually looking for ways to grow and improve.

If you see a way for something to be done better, share it with your boss. Doing so might help the company get things done more efficiently and help you move up the career ladder faster.

4. You’ll Always Be Learning

One way to approach your first job (and any job after it) is as a learning experience. You learned a lot in your certificate program. Your first job is a chance for you to apply the skills and to learn a few new tricks.

Part of having a good attitude on the job means not heading into a position with the assumption that you “know everything.” Look for ways to grow each day and don’t be afraid to ask your manager or coworkers for advice.

The more you learn on the job, the more fulfilled you’ll feel and the more excited you’ll be to return to work each day.

If you are ready to take the first steps toward a new career and your first job, Orange Technical College can help. We offer career certificates in a wide range of industries at our five campuses in Central Florida, as well as career services assistance at all locations. Contact us today to request more information about our programs.


  1. “Employment rates of college graduates,” National Center for Education Statistics,
  2. “9 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My First ‘Real’ Job ,”,
  3. “Overtime Pay,” US Department of Labor,