I was 24 years old when I graduated from university.  A tad late but I did it.  Bachelor of Arts with a major in Economics.  Look out world here I come!  Time to get that job and make some real money for a change.  Fast forward a few months later… There’s me working in the shoe section at a major department store while attending university again at night.  Starting your career can be tough.  I know it was for me and for a lot of my others as well.

You may have just graduated or are close to graduating and have the best laid plans out in the word but 8 months later your broke, hungry, tired, cleaning toilets, waiting tables or  in a job that is anything but what you imagined.  Reality can be a mother sometimes.  When it comes to starting your career, the gap between your expectations vs reality  can sometimes be wider than you thought possible.


I’m not trying to be a Debbie downer, not by a long shot.  I just want you to be prepared.  I also want you to know that if you’re going through anything like this right now, it’s OK.  You are not alone.  With that in mind here are a few things you might expect when you start your career, and how things might actually turn out.

Expectation – As soon as I graduate I’m finally going to be making those big bucks

They sure try to sell you that don’t they?  Go to our school, get this certification, get that degree and you’ll be highly employable and get a great job after.  Graduate and make the big money.  This is what you’ll come to expect because it’s probably what you’ve been told or had impressed upon from parents, teachers etc.

Reality – Apparently the big bucks are reserved for those people with 5+ years working experience or more.

It’s sort of a vicious cycle.  You’re looking for a job but you have little experience, can’t have experience if you can’t get a job.  If you’re fresh out of school you’d be lucky to have 1 year of the necessary work experience  required for most jobs.

The truth is after you graduate you’re more than likely going to land a job that doesn’t pay anything close to what you thought you’d be making.

There are some people who luck out and get paid well early on.  If you’re like the majority of graduates however, there’s going to be quite a few years earning a less than spectacular salary.

In terms of career your graduation doesn't quite get you in the game, it just get's you in the line up. Click To Tweet

You’ll need to be patient, keep moving forward and put in some time, just like everyone else before you has.  The doors will open, and you’ll get to where you want to be.  It just might take a little longer than you thought it would.

Expectation – The first job you land is going to be your dream job.

The job you wanted with that company you were dying to work with for the longest time.  I think we all have that ideal job that we would love to land after graduating.

For myself my “dream” job was an entry-level auditor at an accounting firm so I could continue to pursue my professional accounting designation.  (I use that term “dream” job here very loosely because let’s be honest, an entry-level accounting job is almost no ones idea of a dream job.  Let’s keep it real.  No offense to anyone if that is their dream job though.)  That or a job at a large company that had plenty of opportunity for movement, and was “cool” and modern.  Like a Google or Apple kind of workplace.

Reality – It won’t be, and neither will your second job, or 3rd job…

In my experience, and the experience of a lot of my colleagues, this was more the norm.  I’ll share the entire story of how I got to where I am today in my career another time.  It’s sort of a long story, but  for now as mentioned earlier after I graduated I was working in the shoe section of a shopping department.  Not exactly a dream job by any standards.

A job is a job though and any job, no matter how big, small, complex or menial, is always an opportunity.

You’re probably going to have to go through a few jobs before you get a job that you feel is right for you.  You’ll get it eventually, but just don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen right away.


Expectation – You’re going to go into that first job and be great at it right from the start!

All that education has you fully prepared for everything that’s going to come your way.  You’ve read all the text books, passed all the exams.  You know your stuff and will be able to apply it to your job right away.

Reality – There’s going to be a lot of suck.

Yes you have a lot of knowledge in that brain of yours.  Learning how to apply what you learned to your actual job will take time.

In reality, you’re going to learn more about how to do your job from the people at your job and from doing the job itself.  There’s going to be a lot of learning, and a lot of unlearning.  Sometimes what you get taught in school is totally opposite than what your job would have you do.

The one thing that you’ll have to be OK with is sucking at something, at least for a little while.  It will be frustrating, but the point is if you suck at something there’s only one way to go, and that’s up.

So what does this all mean?

I hope after reading all that you’re not depressed or disheartened.  Sometimes you do get what you expect when you start your career.  For the majority of people however that’s not the case.  I know it wasn’t for me and a lot of other’s out there.  There is light at the end of the tunnel though.

You may think why, why did I go through all this only to get a job I don’t really want.  Was it worth it?  All the time, all the struggle just to end up doing something other than what I expected?

The answer is yes, it was worth it.  Why?  Because sometimes what you expect is not what you need. 

The struggle, the learning what you like and don’t like, the perseverance give you something that is just as valuable to your career as it is to your self-development.  It develops character and resolve, things that can’t be taught in any classroom.

After all your expectations fall through the roof, at the end of the tunnel you eventually get that career job you dreamed of, not because it’s what you expected, but because it’s what you earned.

The youth these days never seem to amaze me.  I see all you young talented writers and bloggers out there and I’m always like wow, you’re all going to go far.  For anyone struggling in their early career, I hope this article serves you well.  If a guy like me can muddle his way to a half decent career than I have no doubt all you talented young  people out there will do absolutely awesome.


Now that you’ve heard some of my experiences, what are your experiences in your early career so far?  Do you find it the same or not at all?  If you’re already well into your career what were your experiences when you started out?



Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter @HeyPSbarbosa or if you’re more visually oriented come follow me on Instagram @psbdaily I’ll be sure to do the same.


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  1. What a well structured post. Really good expectations vs. reality. Great examples. I totally agree. To add to this – I’m still not on my “dream job” (not sure if I’ll ever be), and whenever I speak to others about it, some people ask me if I would be interested in going to school. And it just stuns me. Are you kidding me? I went to school. I’m “over qualified” for a lot of jobs based on my education. Why would I want to waste money on something that wouldn’t help me AT ALL? Now, I do not regret my previous education (because I learned a lot (on various levels), but I am not doing this again for something that MIGHT work.

    • Good points. Is education worth it is a good topic for another blog post I think. I get different views depending on whom I talk to. Worth it sometimes, others not as much. Learning is never a bad thing though. Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts and reading, appreciated!

  2. A really good read, Paolo.
    I think a lot of graduates are in the same boat. The whole needing experience to get experience is a nightmare, but we mustn’t give up. Life has a way, even if that isn’t always clear from the start.

    C | http://www.randomtangentblog.wordpress.com

    • Life does have a way of working itself out doesn’t it. True words, never give up. Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts Corinna! ✌️

  3. I think the advice you gave me earlier really helped me to set my expectations and I can’t thank you enough for writing this post as well! I’m still recovering a little from that last big rejection, so it makes me feel a lot better that other people have been there too. Getting that dream job is hard! You are also right about when graduates are finally going to be making the big bucks and why. I mean like you said, a firm is essentially training you to be what they need you to be during the first 5 years, which is why I guess most of us grad are going to be living on peanuts in the beginning!
    Great post and full of some honest advice right here. Can’t wait to see what you post next!

    • Peanuts at beginning likely, but after that the skies limit 😁 Very exciting times though the start of the career! Looking forward to hearing more about your experiences as well 🤗 Thanks for reading Corinne and the kind comments, always appreciate it!

  4. I can relate, although “the dream job”, I guess I came to realize it does not exist and sometimes you just have to have a bit of luck in life 😉

  5. Thank you for writing this. You make very sensible points. Getting ANY job for that matter is tough, but that first one is especially so. I’m still in that confusing stage where what I do is not what I want to do nor do I want to settle for it, and what I want to do is a job that one can only get with hands-on exp …so. I’m just hoping to do my best and see what comes of it. 😀


    • Tough stage to be in but you’ll get to where you want to be soon enough! Good luck! 🙂

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