5 Things You Learn From Your First “Real” Job

By Anthony Jordan Buencamino 

You graduated from a great school, accepted a job offer, and checked out of student life for good. Here’s the thing: you now have to start from square one and learn how to survive in the workplace.

Even though you won’t be in classroom anymore (unless you decided to be a teacher), you’re bound to learn all kinds of things about yourself and corporate life in the transition of post-grad life.

Here are 5 of the lessons I’ve learned from stumbling on my first few months on the job:


(A little background: I’m a recent graduate from a 4-year university, currently working full-time for a major tech company in San Francisco. And I’m still not sure where I want my career path to go.)


1.) First things first: 40 hours a week can feel really long or really short

If we’re going to be forced to use a tacky “work meme”, we’d prefer that it feature Spider-Man

Seriously. In college, a few hours of class a day qualified as a “long day.” So how about 40, or even 50 hours a week in the office?

When it comes down to it, working full-time is exactly how it sounds: your day is FULL of work. Most of your day is spent on the job. (Insert groans here).

Now, if you’re anything like me, the idea of being inside all day long is stressful in and of itself. To that end, spending 40 or more hours per week in the same building can be pretty intimidating. If you enjoy being out during the day, you’d better find a job that requires work outside an office building.

Like this

If you love what you do, then this probably means nothing to you. But for the rest of us, who are still in the process of figuring out what we want for our futures, 40 hours/week is a pretty big deal. Personally, I felt uneasy committing so much time to a career I’m not so sure about.

My game-changing realization was this: attitude is everything. I came to this conclusion after hearing some solid advice from a veteran employee at my company. In a presentation for new hires (myself included), this sage of corporate life told us,

Find the things you like about your job. Then think about the things you’re afraid of— and run towards them.

Boom. Mindblown.

The beauty in his advice is accepting that you may not enjoy everything about the job, and that’s okay. Be mindful, and learn why you like or dislike certain things. For the latter, the sooner you confront them and find a solution, the sooner your daily life will become easier. For me, I love the people I work around. Which brings me to my next point…


2.) You probably see your coworkers more than your family

Jordan still finds a way to stand out in this hodgepodge of a photo by being the only person sporting a halfway decent smile.

So we established that 40 hours/week is a lot of time. Let’s do the math: there are 24 hours in a day. If we estimate for the necessities, we can roughly think of a schedule with a full-time job as this…

  1. Waking up, breakfast, getting to work ~2 hours.
  2. Work ~8-9 hours.
  3. Commute home, dinner ~2 hours.
  4. Sleep ~ 6-7 hours

What should stand out to you is that, by and large, you spend the majority of your time at work.

Simple enough, right?

Thinking this way leads us to the conclusion that the people you spend the most time with are your coworkers. It’s in your best interest to make a few good friends.

The best part about working at my company is definitely being surrounded by friendly and outgoing people. Whenever I’m having a rough day, I know I can turn to my friends to lift me up. Likewise, it feels good to know that I can help my teammates through any challenge they’re facing.

If you love the people you’re around all time, I guarantee that getting up and going to work 5 days a week will become much easier.


3.) Weeknights are important

While we’re on the topic, the whole “meet at the same coffee shop every night” thing from Friends was totally unrealistic

So what happens after you clock out? Picture this: you got up at 6am, went to work, spent a full day grinding it out, commuted an hour or two in heavy traffic or on snail-slow public transportation, and you’re having yet another Cup of Noodles for dinner.

Now what?

Understandably, everyone with a full-time job feels some degree of exhaustion before they settle in for the night.


This is my question for you, the new young professional with bags under your eyes:

What defines your life besides work? Whatever you decide to do after a full day at the office, it should be fulfilling in one way or another. Whether you decide to relax and decompress or be a champion of productivity, you have a few hours of freedom before going to sleep and starting the whole process over. What you do with that time is on you.


4.) It’s all about the money— and it goes both ways

Your company hired you for a reason. Think about what you spend most of your day doing, and that’s probably it. Cold calls, clerical work, administrative tasks, whatever you do all day is probably what your boss pays you for.

You make money for the company doing what you do, and you earn some money in return. Most likely, you were picked because you have the potential to make more money for the company than the candidate who didn’t get picked.

As impersonal as this sounds, it’s just business. You have a certain worth that is defined by how well you work. In other words, you are an investment for your company.

Some companies will treat their “investments” better than others. We can’t really control for that. What we can control is how we invest in ourselves.


5.) You get what you put in

Extra points if you get this reference

We established that we spend most of our time at work. We spend that time around the same people, and get off at the same glorious hour every day. It can feel monotonous, like we’re simply cogs in a huge, corporate machine.

But it doesn’t have to feel that way.

My approach is this: your time is important.

Your company is not taking 40 hours of your time every week. You are investing 40 hours of your time in your career.

Think about the kind of job you want for yourself down the road. What is going to get you from where you are now to where you want to be?

If it’s 1 year out, then that means you have around 251 working days to get there. Every day, you spend 8 hours developing your career. Ideally, you have 8 hours every day to take yet another step towards the career you want for yourself.

If you focus on tangible goals every day, those 2,008 (251×8) hours sound like a pretty good amount of time to hit your goal for the year.


And that’s it!

5 things I’ve taken from my first few months on my first job out of college. Undoubtedly, there will be much more to learn… but, hopefully, this will help some of you take your first steps into your new career.



Anthony Jordan Buencamino pays his own rent, washes his own underwear, and is currently a member of the #1 Sales team at Yelp. He is also very, very good looking. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *