Answer These 5 Questions Before Applying for Your First Job

School’s out, summer is on the way, and you need to stack up cash. It’s time to apply for your first full-time job!

Many businesses are hiring. Your friends and family have strong opinions about where you should apply. How do you know what job is right for you?

Good news! If you answer the five questions in this article, you will gain five tools to make employment decisions with confidence. So, let’s get started!

Ask yourself, “What do I want to learn?”

Write down the skills you’d love to learn. The point is for you to visualize what you want to do. This is not a list of skills you should learn. This is not a list of skills someone said you need to learn. Write down skills you’re so excited to learn that you would pay someone to teach you.

Include both ‘hard skills’ (hands-on skills) and ‘soft skills’ (skills involving your heart and mind, such as relational or problem-solving). Include everything you really want to learn, even if it doesn’t seem to fit a job setting. Only you will see this list. Go crazy with it!

Visualizing your interests is a powerful starting point in a job search because people who love what they do report happier and more fulfilled lives—regardless of their level of wealth. God wrote your interests into your heart for a specific reason. Your interests make you, you

All jobs require problem-solving. Problem-solving within your field of interest will motivate you! Your excitement about the outcome will inspire you to think of creative ways to solve the problem. For example, if you want to learn how to build natural stone archways, you will remain excited about your final structure no matter how many setbacks you experience along the way. You’ll be proud of every new skill you learn. You’ll drive your friends past the job site so they can see what you constructed! 

On the other hand, if you choose to work as a groundskeeper but have no interest in groundskeeping, you will view challenges in this field as a hardship—nothing more. You won’t care whether the irrigation problem gets fixed now or later, because you have no personal interest whether the trees you’re planting grow or die. Your only motivation to solve groundskeeping problems will be that it is your job to do so.

Ask yourself, “Who do I want to learn from?”

Who do you admire? Name the companies, organizations and individuals you would like to learn from. Include even those who you never expect to actually meet. The purpose of this step is for you to visualize people you respect. 

Are there people who excellently perform skills on your “want to learn” list? What companies have offered you great customer service? What are your friends saying of the management in their workplaces? You will be learning a lot as you start a new job. Choosing to work for people you respect will supercharge your progress. Alternately, working for a company you’re ashamed of will burden you with stress—no matter how large your paycheck is!

Knowing who you admire will help you filter jobs that—although they may pay very well—just are not a good fit for your personal ethics.

This tool will also help you take notice of jobs that offer learning opportunities valuable enough to make up for a lower pay rate. 

Ask yourself, “How much money do I need to make?”

Speaking of pay rate, what are your financial goals? Do you have a target savings you need to achieve? What monthly payments are you currently making? 

You’ll be more prepared to achieve your financial goals when you sketch boundaries for your target income. Be sure you understand the amount of money you need to make per hour before submitting job applications. This will empower you to know when a pay scale is too low to make ends meet.

Ask yourself, “What are my existing skills?”

You can boost your rate of success by applying for a job that uses skills you’ve already learned. For example, if your grandmother taught you how to make a killer yeast bread, a bakery will be likely to choose you over someone without experience, even though you’ve never made bread in a large-production setting. 

You also have natural talents. These are the talents God has invested into you before you were even born! Make a list of your natural talents. These are skills you live out without even trying, such as being artistic or knowing how to strike up a good conversation. If you’re feeling a little shy about affirming yourself in this bold way, make a list of compliments people have spoken about you. 

Compare your existing skills to the list of job responsibilities of positions for which you are applying. If you’re choosing between multiple offers of employment, you may want to apply for the position for which you are most qualified.

Knowing your natural talents and choosing a job that uses them will give you a stronger start in the corporate world. 

Ask yourself, “What personal connections do I have?”

Building a reputation takes time. Earning the trust of your team takes time. Building friendships takes time. Working for a company where you have trust, a good reputation and/or friendships established will make your start in the full-time job force significantly easier.

If a current employee will staunchly vouch for your good character, this could help you step into the job force at a higher level. Preexisting personal connections at work will also boost your confidence as a newcomer.

So, now you know your interests, talents and target pay rate. You have named what companies you respect. You’ve thought through your personal connections in the workforce. You are ready to make employment decisions with confidence! Grab that list of opportunities and get to sorting—we believe in you!