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First job: how to choose? Free advice that pays off

By Laurent Polet, 

Co-founder of Primaveras. Professor in management at Centrale Supélec.

Hello ! My name is Laurent. Before introducing myself as co-founder of a school for the quest for meaning at work, Primaveras, I am also a professor in management at an engineering school, Centrale Supélec. Like many of my colleagues, I like to accompany my students in their career choices. Because even in a great school, young graduates can be lost in choosing their first job ... so that's what I'm going to explain here, how to choose ... when you have the choice!

I will start by giving you some examples of situations that are representative of my students who are "lost" when faced with the choice of entering professional life. You might recognize yourself in these situations, and understand that it doesn't depend on the engineering profession. First, here are the questions of Rhamza, who does not project herself in a future job as an engineer, but who does not want to lose all her knowledge from her years of study. She would like to find a job that would be more meaningful, she thinks about the health field, but what can she really do in a field where people are looking for medical training? Let's move on to Maud, for her it seems clearer. She is interested in consulting, but she doesn't know how to tell the difference: "I'm going to several interviews. Yes, I like the missions, but the firms all look the same, so how do I choose? Last example, Thomas who knows perfectly well that he wants to participate in the ecological transition. He rejects the big companies by explaining to me "Greenwashing pisses me off when they come and tell us that they are doing a lot of things for the climate but behind it, you know that it is business that takes precedence! Unfortunately, I didn't choose the energy courses so I think it closes doors for me!

Do not choose as you have already chosen

Overall, I see the same problem in Rhamza, Maud or Thomas. It is not really not knowing what their orientation would be, because they are all an idea finally. Blurred, but an idea nonetheless. The problem is to know how they will choose. And what I didn't say is that they all have this feeling that the first job is going to define the rest of their career, and that if they screw up, it's not going to be good for the rest. 

In short, there is a lot of pressure to make the right choice! 

Behind this question of the right choice is the principle that there is one choice that is better than another. There would be a perfect job, the "myth" of the ideal job! And this is a reasoning that is shaped by studies. For many, the choice during schooling often consisted in choosing the best field of study, the best diploma, or the best school. However, Rhamza, Maud and Thomas cannot approach their questioning from the angle of the best position because: they do not seem to be careerists, they are not driven by the quest for the best salary, they are not aiming for the most highly rated company. There is no absolute job that checks all the boxes for them! ... Therefore, if today you recognize yourself in these doubts, it is because you will have to choose differently than the way you have chosen until now in your studies!

Choosing the right manager rather than the right job

Here is a good way to solve the problem: choose the right manager! Let me explain. If you accept the principle that there is no better job for you in absolute terms, and that you are not totally clear on your orientation, meeting a good manager can be an incredible opportunity for your career. This is an essential asset. Because you have to be aware that the first job is a key moment to prove yourself who you really are, to gain experience that you will be proud of, and simply to gain confidence in yourself. And you will quickly understand that this advice applies to your entire professional life!

Let's take the problem in reverse. Imagine yourself in a company with a great mission but in which your direct manager is absent or super controlling? Imagine that Rhamza manages to get a job offer, very well paid, in the most famous firm in Paris, for a mission with lots of international travel, in contact with large groups, ... but that she is under crazy pressure, has to report daily to her manager who does not allow her any autonomy because they are strategic clients of the firm ... On the other hand, Thomas could look for jobs or missions, no matter which ones, as long as they are in the energy transition. He would apply to ads he finds on the Jobs That Make Sense platform. Even if he hesitates, at least it attracts him. Thanks to an application, here he is in front of the manager who will recruit him tomorrow! A manager who will give him responsibilities, who will support him, who will check up on him, and who will allow him to improve his skills and even to respond to his desire to do projects that appeal to him ..... And that will change everything for him! 

How to recognize this good manager? This is the right question. This is done in interviews, or at trade fairs, wherever you will have the opportunity to talk directly with them. Ask yourself some simple questions: Was the contact natural? Did I feel comfortable, or better yet, did they make me feel comfortable? Did I feel listened to? Was I able to really express what I was looking for? A good indicator is that I did not see the time pass, a sign that the dialogue was fluid. Did I feel a good atmosphere around him, or even better, could I see my colleagues? In short, do you see yourself working with him every day! You spend a good part of your time with your manager, in any case it is the most important person to get feedback, receive advice, share information ... So, if the interview leaves a mediocre impression, pass on. Because if it goes badly in the first hour, ... what if it lasted for days!

Find a job in line with your values

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When the right choice is made

To get to this stage, you naturally need to meet managers! You could oppose me this prerequisite and tell me that before choosing someone with whom you have a rapport, you must have the possibility of having your CV selected. And that would be fair. To do this, you have two ways of doing things. Either you apply to ads, or you investigate.

Yes, it is also possible to investigate! An example will speak for itself. Let's take the example of Maud. I advised her to meet people who work in the health sector. Any contact she may have, any meeting she may initiate will enable her to question the type of positions, jobs, projects, missions, which may echo a technical subject in this field. This will allow her to investigate to see "places" that may be of interest to her. And one thing leading to another, she will undoubtedly be directed towards professional contexts (public structures, research centers, consulting firms, etc.) that will allow her to better understand what she can do there. And who knows, she may meet a manager on this occasion. And who knows, this manager might have a job to fill. And who knows, this manager could be the one who will allow her to blossom in her first job?

When you have studied, this moment when you take the plunge into professional life is always a source of apprehension. It's normal and healthy to wonder about it. However, when there are doubts, it is essential to think differently. It is also to help these moments that Primaveras has imagined a special coaching for young graduates. The right way is always to go ahead, even if you are not completely sure... after all, you are not risking anything!

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