09/10/2012 05:06 EDT | Updated 11/10/2012 05:12 EST

Your First Job is Worth More Than Just a Paycheque


Last year, I hired a bright recent college graduate who was working as a part-time bartender while job hunting. He had relocated to New York from California after graduation and, like thousands of well-educated liberal arts majors, he found himself lost in the tough job hunting maze.

He was willing to volunteer for a short time, then accept minimum wage, and then ultimately became a full-fledged employee with decent weekly paycheque, a cool apartment in the East Village, a company-paid iPhone, travel perks, flexible work hours, and a sweet little office space in Soho, where he "co-works" with 20-something entrepreneurs.


Working in your PJs? Not likely in your first job...but put in the time, and you can get there!

Says Jacob a year later, "Serving clients creative marketing ideas is way better than serving tequila shots. Plus, I have my Saturday nights free!" Jacob and I both took a chance, and it paid off. What can you learn from his story?

• The value of your first job is more than just a paycheque. Learning a new skill with long-term benefits, work-life flexibility, and extras like travel and electronic toys are all benefits.

• Calculated risk-taking can pay-off. You may not get your dream job or asking price from day one, but if you prove yourself in that first job, the money can come later. Jacob got his first raise after a mere six months. He continued to bartend and do some acting work until his income stabilized.

• Immediate gratification applies to Google searches, not to job-hunting. Small steps can ultimately build big careers and patience can be a virtue in the working world.

• Your dream job search can turn into an unemployment nightmare if you hold out for the perfect position. Especially in today's economy, employers choose candidates with experience and drive -- not prima donnas.

My business has grown significantly thanks to Jacob's positive attitude, long-range perspective, and skill set. Now we're getting ready to hire another recent grad; one who possesses gratitude, not just attitude.

(What's especially gratifying is that Jacob was actually responsible for finding our next hire.)