What to Look for in Your First 9-5 Job

Recently I graduated from a respected engineering school in May 2021 and started my first job in August 2021 at an Electrical Contracting firm in NYC. I joined the project estimating vertical that focuses on mid-market MTA commercial construction & development contracts ($30MM to $350MM). I have typical hours from 8am to 4:30pm in an office with cubicles. It is quiet and peaceful in the office. With some occasional busy weeks and longer workdays. The opportunity for growth is incredible and the available help from my boss and other higher-up personnel is amazing.

Construction experience carries significant weight so being able to work with experienced personnel provides opportunities for me to gain valuable knowledge in the industry without spending the time. It’s a smaller company with a max of 15-20 people in the main office with over 100 engineers, project managers, and electricians out at our field offices. I am very happy with my position and the work I complete. I feel like an important asset to the team and company. The environment is rich with energy and will grow this company to the next level. So how did I land this job? How did I come across such a healthy work environment? Where can you find similar positions? Let’s keep it simple and cover two points I feel are extremely important to look for when searching for your first 9-5 job.

Go Where You Feel Wanted and Valued

Time and time again this is the main target people talk about when looking for a job. Personally pushing paper around for a first job is not interesting. There are many companies out there that are just buying you for your time and have you running errands never doing important work for the growth of the company. Companies that ask you to start immediately after your acceptance more often than are doing this to you. Advice that has stuck with me from an old boss goes something like this…

“For your first job if a company cannot provide you with 1-2 months of free time before your start date they are not interested in you or your growth, they need busy work completed as soon as possible”

I requested 2 full months before my start date and I spent those 2 months traveling and getting my life in order before my 9-5 began. It was amazing. A friend of mine couldn’t join me in my travels. His start date was within 2 weeks of graduation and it was difficult for him to move his start date back. They “needed him ASAP”. Last I spoke with him he told me he feels like the work he is doing is busy work and isn’t happy with the company. He wants opportunities to grow and help the company move forward. Unfortunately, he is now looking for a new place of employment.

I have interviewed for a couple of companies and also did my research on them. You can tell in an interview whether a company wants your skills or time. There’s a big difference between the two. You can always check out Glass Door for employee opinions of the company and reach out to people on LinkedIn to get a grasp of the company as well.

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Personal Experience

Since joining my company there is a clear interest to develop my skills. Opportunities have been given. There continues to be challenging work. Trust has been built between myself and my boss. Which all leads to ultimate growth. I am not worried about failure or my boss being upset with my work. I am at liberty now to attempt my own methods of estimating.

Try to remember this piece of advice when searching for your first job. A great company will come along, be interested in your skills, and help you reach your potential. This is the company you should want to work for.

Size of the Company

I thought I wanted to work for companies like Deloitte, KPMG, or Ernst & Young. Each with thousands of employees. With huge chains of command and lots of competition between you and your coworkers. Everyone always wondering who is going to get that promotion. I found out that my company with over 100 employees provides a great nest for moving of the chain. My chain of command at the moment is from me to my Boss to the President to the CEO. Yes… only four people make this chain of command.

For example here is the chain of command at Deloitte (Per HierarchyStructure.com)

And this doesn’t even include VPs, Presidents, and CEO. You’ll never come across these people in those large companies. Add the fact that there are multiple people at each position and all of a sudden being an Analyst and wanting to be a Senior Manager is daunting.

Taking a step back to my current place of employment. With four people in my chain of the company, I get to work with my boss and our President every day. Our President’s office is 20 feet away from my desk. I have also participated in meetings with our CEO. My company happens to be part of a family of companies with similar hierarchies. My and coworkers will get exposure to other upper-management positions and get opportunities to work one on one with them.

Smaller Company

Being in a smaller company provides that opportunity to work with people who have been in the industry for 15, 30, and even 50 years. All with an unmeasurable amount of experience to learn from. A perk of a smaller company is you can explore outside of what you are hired for. There is plenty of work to go around and no competition within the company of who is going to complete what work. All that matter is we work together to complete the work.

Most importantly, the more you stretch your wings and successfully complete work. The more likely you are to receive bonus and salary boosts. Compared to the larger companies where it might take your bosses boss 2 to 3 months just to learn your name. My advice would be to find a medium-size company where everyone knows each other and you are valued in terms of growth and skill.



Categories: 9-5 Job

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