Why first job is important and how to pick the right one

Amel Halilovic
6 min readMar 1, 2021

Originally posted on https://www.bitsbyamel.com

Tech business is blooming! Companies from all around the world are recruiting IT professionals, offering them great perks to come work for them. They can work from any place they want, in the office or from the beach somewhere in Thailand. It’s a long way to go, and it starts with a good first job.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

I took my first job when I was on the second year of Master's studies. I was supposed to work on mobile applications, but it turned out it was an all-around position. I was working on databases, desktop and web applications, even fixing hardware. There was a lot to learn about business and making software, but technologies, infrastructure and processes that we were using were ready to be buried.

Time passed and I started to realize that the way we were doing things in the company is not even close as it is in other, modern, companies. I started looking for a new job, to start over, but that wasn’t easy. I was expected to be proficient with some things, I had 2 and more years of experience after all. Job listings were for specialized positions like backend or frontend developer, and I wasn’t a specialist for anything. After several failed interviews, I managed to get a chance to start working at Infobip. In the first half-year, I learned more than in two and a half years on my first job.

The point is that you shouldn’t make the choice of the first job easily. Things can always be repaired later, as in my case, but you lose some of your precious time and that repairment can be difficult.

So, what should we look for?

One might say I want to work where I will have the best earnings. Isn’t that the point of work after all? Well, in your situation it still isn’t. You are a beginner and what you need is to gain skills and experience. Once you do that, many doors will be open to you.

  1. Experience

Graduates have a minimum practical knowledge, and often things covered in classes are different from what the market needs. If you were researching and learning what is needed on the market while you were in college, you have a great starting advantage.

On your first job you will apply the knowledge about software development acquired until then and try to correct if you learned something wrong. You will correct it and learn new things by working in an environment that uses the latest software development practices.

2. Mentor

Having a good mentor will help you in any part of your career. That should be someone who is at least a grade above yours, or more if possible; a person who has gone through your current career phase exceptionally. Of course, not everyone can or should be your mentor. Take a good observation and decide who is the right mentor for you, who will help you improve your career.

Companies usually dedicate some of their current employees to mentor newcomers. Mentors are experienced in their job and familiar with how the company works. He/she will teach you how your job is done right, best practices, how to learn new things, solve problems and much more. If you don’t have it, you will have to work and learn on your own, which may lead you to learn things wrong.

Choosing a company based on its mentorship program is very popular these days since more and more people realized the importance of mentoring in their careers.

3. Organization and company culture

Working in a toxic and high-pressure environment is not something that is desirable for someone who is starting to work. It can indirectly influence you to adopt some wrong behavior like becoming a bad team player due to high competitiveness, for example, which can be a problem in some of your next jobs, where there is fine company culture developed and teamwork is highly valued.

You also don’t want to work in an organization where promotions aren’t based on skills and qualities, but on some other qualifications and connections in the company. Sooner or later these companies start losing their best talents and clients, which ultimately drags the company to the ground.

4. Learn to learn

It is completely natural that after graduating we don’t know a lot of things about our profession. There will be many new challenges that we will have to pass on our own. One of the things that school system was made to teach us is how to cope up with new, unfamiliar things. Unfortunately, more and more schools fail to do this, due to various reasons (not adequate educators, easy exams, etc.)

This problem reflects later in the fact that beginners struggle to find the solution for an unfamiliar problem by themself, using the knowledge they already have and all available resources on the Internet. Even after some time of working and being mentored by someone with more experience, these people still have the same problem. Learning to learn new things and learning to solve problems by ourselves is one of the strongest skills we can obtain.

How can we determine does company satisfies all our needs?

It is difficult to determine with absolute certainty. Most companies advertise themself as the best possible place to work, with great office space, tennis tables, fruits and challenging projects. But usually, everything isn’t so good behind the scene. The best way to check if the company is good and suits your needs is to ask someone you know who is working or has worked at that company. The opinion of the local community is also usually accurate.

Another thing that you can track is how many people the company hires and how many people leave the company in some period. If the latter number is low, it usually means that the company is stable, not letting go of employees easily, taking care of them, so they don’t have a reason to go somewhere else.

If you are in an interview process with the company, you can ask questions about the position and team that you will work with and what kind of projects will you work on. If you sense that something doesn’t add up, feel free to bypass that company.

Communication with the company can reveal some things about the organization, usually hidden from the ads and social media. Not responding to emails within a reasonable period of time, mistaking the candidate’s name, etc. is not permissible for companies that want to hire great talent. On the other hand, open and respectful communication, no matter how the hiring process goes, says a lot about that company.

What if we fail?

Even if we investigate everything stated and get good recommendations for a company, there is still a chance that it isn’t for you. Something just doesn’t fit. A couple of interviews isn’t enough to know someone, so in the first few months of your job, you will finally see if the company is everything you thought. If it isn’t, that isn’t the end of the world. Find out what you don’t like and what you want from the next company then continue the search for your next first right job.

Final words

As you can see, it isn’t the money that should be pursued on the first job. It is the opportunity to learn and grow. To learn how things are done correctly and grow as a person, in a healthy environment. To take a leap towards independent software engineering.

Once you’ve found the desired company, the next round of the process starts - preparation for the interview.