corridors of power

First Job Dictionary

During my many years experience as well as time spent as an MBA coach,  I have encountered multiple cases of post- graduation disillusionment, with ex-students going through what I call F.J.S. or First Job Syndrome. Indeed I had it myself back in the day. Emerging from the intellectual hot houses of university or business school with so many like-minded people,  as the promise of corporate excellence recedes, our first flush of euphoria is replaced by a nasty dose of career realism.

Where are those corridors of power?

Junior account executives are not closing those high-profile, six or seven-figure deals, but up updating the prospect data base via hour after hour of grinding internet research or cold calling. Trainee lawyers are not wheeling and dealing in the corridors of power, but pulling all nighters proofing deadly boring legal documents and checking precedents. My H.R. career started somewhat ingloriously with many hours spent in the photo copy room.

Why is there such a wide disconnect between the realities of working life and the expectations of the newly graduated?

The reality is that in many cases there are sure “tells” in the adverts for the position which we have all failed to see.

What we need is a First Job Dictionary to guide us through the pitfalls of our first months in our new jobs to avoid the debilitating and demoralising condition of F.J.S.

Here are 10  translations that I have identified over the years:

  1. Hands on mind-set:  you will have to do absolutely everything your self which will almost certainly involve hands, most probably yours. Anyone else’s is a bonus. (Get their number)
  2. Flexible hours: you have complete freedom to arrive as early and stay as late as you want.
  3. Challenging environment:  our profit margins are down, our cash flow is non-existent and the boss is a sandwich short of a picnic. What can we say?
  4. Attractive salary package and vibrant team spirit:  we pay up to 20% less than the market rate but we do go to the pub at Christmas.
  5. Regional training schemes: you are likely to be sent (on a train) to a remote outpost where its redeeming feature is that it is no longer a war zone.
  6. Your strong interpersonal and communication skills will be an asset: many of the team are highly dysfunctional and some can’t spell. Be happy if no one talks to you and be worried if they do.
  7. Strategic risk analysis: we have an office Dream Football team so with the World Cup coming up we badly need someone who knows things about soccer strategy and gaming. Strategic risk analysis is part of the Health and Safety function, clearly because it’s so dangerous and risky.
  8. Exciting plans in the pipeline: we have absolutely no clue what will happen next week let alone next year (see points 1, 2, 3  6 and 9) which is why it’s so fun.  
  9. Multi- faceted experience:  you will fill our four open vacancies. Don’t worry if you don’t have an Engineering degree. English and History work fine  – what we really need  is someone who can figure out how old everything is.  So you do need to be able to read. Ideal really.
  10.  Open plan office:  We are a 20 minute walk from the nearest train station. Plan a long walk in the open air.

So what other translations would you add to the First Job Dictionary for the Class of 2015?

4 thoughts on “First Job Dictionary

  1. Celine

    Self- starter: you will have to teach yourself – keep us posted
    Rapid learner: no one has a clue what you are supposed to be doing, but you’ll get the hang of it


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