13 Things Millennials Should Know Before Their First Real Job

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As millennials graduate from college and enter the workforce, they might feel ill-prepared to start their first jobs. Here are 13 things millennials should know and do before they start working or looking for a job.

Related: 5 Reasons You’re Still Unemployed

1. Build an Honest Resume

Above all, when you’re creating your resume, it’s important to be truthful about your educational background, professional history and skills. Embellishing or lying on your resume can come back to bite you, and it will either cost you the job in the interview or get you fired down the road.

You can showcase your skills without being dishonest by highlighting what you can bring to the job you want. For example, you can describe your excellent customer service and communication skills instead of simply listing that you were an office assistant or cashier.

2. Utilize Your Personal Connections

When you’re job hunting, it can sometimes feel like the good jobs only go to people who have an inside contact. It might not be a coincidence.

Go through your network of family members, friends, friends of friends, past professional contacts, schoolmates and teachers. Research the industries and companies each person is part of and then start making some phone calls. Let people know you are a recent graduate looking for a job in their field. They might be able to provide you with recommendations or help you get interviews.

3. Expect Every Job to Involve Some Grunt Work

No matter the field, every position you could possibly imagine — even what you think is your dream job — will require at least one task you don’t like doing. It might be filling out paperwork, running errands, organizing a supply room, having to come to work early or driving for long stretches. Keep that in mind and don’t be tempted to quit when you have to do some cold calling on a Friday afternoon.

4. Research the Company You’re Applying To

Before you show up to an interview, read as much as you can about the company. Find out what the company does, what it stands for, how it got started and who the head honchos are. Make sure you understand the duties of the position you’re applying for so that if you’re asked any specific questions about the job, you know how to answer them. You’ll stand out if you can compliment your interviewer about an article she wrote or say you recognized one of the company’s executives from his TED talk.

5. Know How to Fill Out a W-4

A W-4 is the form you fill out at the beginning of employment or anytime your financial situation changes so that your employer knows how much tax should be withheld from your paycheck. Have your ID and Social Security number ready, and ask someone in the human resources department if you have any questions about how to fill out your W-4 or other paperwork.

6. Know the Difference Between Net and Gross Income

Gross income is what you earn before taxes, deductions and garnishments are taken out. You might make $5000 a month in gross income, but if you pay $1000 in taxes, $350 for health and dental insurance, and $500 in 401(k) deductions, your net income is $3150 per month.

Read: 20 Things You Should Know About Saving Money in Your 20s

7. Know the Basics of a Professional Wardrobe

Dressing appropriately for the interview and the job are important factors that can affect whether you’ll get and keep a job. If you aren’t sure what the dress code is at the company, play it safe: Men, wear slacks and a dress shirt with a tie; women, wear a modest dress or skirt with a blazer. If it’s more casual, you can wear something different on your second interview or your first week on the job. It’s better to be the only one in a blazer than the only one in jeans.

8. Ask Smart Questions During Your Interview

Asking questions shows your interviewer that you’re interested in the company and have thought about the job seriously. Ask questions like:

  • What have employees in this position done to succeed or move forward in the company?
  • What type of career opportunities are available through this position?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?

Avoid questions about vacation time, consequences for coming in late or what the company does.

9. Have a Bank Account Ready for Direct Deposit

Open a checking account with a local or national bank or credit union and make sure you are able to be paid through direct deposit. Many banks offer incentives or remove fees if you set up a direct deposit to the account.

You might also be able to link a savings account to your checking account and set up automatic savings transfers, budget plans and more through your financial institution. Having a bank account before you start your new job can make the transition to full-time work smoother.

10. Be Aware of Maintenance Fees

Some banks have yearly or monthly fees, such as maintenance fees. Read the fine print before you open an account so you know of all fees and restrictions associated with the account. Knowing what fees to expect can help you prevent future frustration or avoid getting surprised by costs down the road.

Related: How to Avoid Savings Account Maintenance Fees

11. Know Your Commute and Plan for Traffic

Drive — or bike or take the train or bus — to work a few days before you start your new job. The best time to try the commute is during the time you’ll be going to work so you can most accurately gauge what traffic to expect on a typical work day. If you fail to plan for commute time, you could risk being late on your first day, leaving a bad first impression.

12. Have a Positive and Professional Attitude

Even before you have a new job, show potential future employers that you are positive and professional. When applying for jobs and interviewing, be clean and professionally dressed. Use intelligent, appropriate language, and show gratitude for the interviewer’s time. Once you start working, you can be a motivating team member by meeting your deadlines and having a good attitude.

13. Keep Your Long-Term Goals in Mind

Remember that this is your first job, not your last. If you land a job and can’t see yourself staying there long term, just think of it as a stepping stone on your career path. Learn everything you can from the people around you, make strong network connections and develop useful skills for your next job.

You can alleviate fears or nervousness you have about your first interview or job by being as prepared as possible. Approach every opportunity as a learning experience and take what you can from it. When you’re onto your next job, or even 10 years later, you’ll likely still be relying on something you learned from your first job, whether it was how to present yourself or how to maintain a good attitude.