Life Lessons / New Experiences / Professional Development

Avoiding First Job Disaster: Tips From Career Coach Steve Langerud

Millennials have been raised in a time filled with innovation and endless possibilities. The traditional dream jobs of doctor and astronaut still apply, but so does being the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. College provides Millennials an opportunity to experience new things,  build new relationships, learn what they’re passionate about, and understand which career path or job would make them happiest. So, when they get that coveted first job out of college, it’s a shock when they realize they completely hate it.

In Why Millenials Hate Their First Jobs, Kristi Karrenbrock sheds some light on the most common reasons why this is the case, which include:

  • They aren’t learning enough
  • They feel pay is imbalanced to the high level of education they’ve invested in
  • They don’t feed valued or worthwhile in the workplace

To stop this from happening, it’s important for recent graduates and new job seekers to be both honest and clear with themselves about what they want when job hunting. Here to help with that is Career Coach Steve Langerud.

Steve Langerud is a counselor, facilitator and executive coach, who works with individuals and groups to improve their skills in communication, team-building, leadership and strategic thinking.  He has worked with over 15,000 people to facilitate effective professional development, career and life decisions, and improve organizational relationships.  Currently, Steve serves as the principal of Steve Langerud & Associates, LLC.

Langerud is regularly cited for his work on employment and workplace issues by media including FOX, NBC,, Chicago Tribune, The New York Times,, and The Wall Street Journal.

What are the most important qualities for recent graduates to look for in a company, and a position, when job hunting?

Recent graduates must look at the connection between what is important to them and where it exists in the workplace.   So, unlike most job seekers, they must look inside-out!

Recent graduates must not be afraid to define what qualities matter to them.

With my clients I use a four part model to clarify and structure what they need from an employer:  skills they wish to use on the job; issues or topics they wish to engage on the job; people they seek at colleagues and clients or customers; and, finally, the work environment that gives them energy.

Together, these things provide recent graduates with a touchstone from which to seek out the right employer.

From what you’ve seen, what are the most common reasons why graduates first jobs don’t work out? Are they unprepared? Are they lazy? Do companies expect too much of them? Are they not learning enough?

What I hear from employers as the most common reasons for first jobs not working out: first, work ethic.  Employers need new employees to show up every day physically and mentally.  Second, entitlement.  Employers consistently complain about new graduates who want all of the position, authority, and flexibility that comes with time and credibility.  Third, team skills.  Getting along with other employees is the key to success at work.  New employees who cannot engage with a team will not stay in that job.

As you can see, none of these issues is a technical work skill.  So recent graduates must be ready to answer the three key questions of employers:  Can you do this job or do you have the basic skills?  Will you do this job or will you show up every day?  Will you embarrass me in the community or are you a person of good character?

Do you think it’s beneficial for recent graduates to have a bad professional experience to help them better understand what they are looking for in a career?

Not really.  I think it is far more important to be clear on the front end of what you want and need from a job.  Then try to experience what feels right when you have those things.  Now, along the way you may have some less than stellar experiences, but I would not go out of my way to have bad experiences for the sake of learning!

If a professional realizes they are no longer interested in their career path, what is the best way for them to pursue the career path that interests them?

I work with this issue every day.  Again, we work from the inside-out.  Being honest about what you want and need is the key to finding it.

If you don’t say it out loud you have no chance of getting it.

So, we work hard to clarify on the front end what is important to their professional life.  This is harder than it sounds because we are socialized out of having what is good for us.  So, in many cases, we spend most of our time framing what it means to be happy and being ok with pursuing that goal.

And when it works, it is beautiful!

What advice would you give to a recent graduate that is struggling to adapt to the “real world” and their first job?

Center yourself.  Create some quiet time to reflect and renew.

Remember the strong mind-body connection between work, health, and happiness.  It is easy to get sucked into the business of being busy for the goals of others.  And when that happens we forget what makes us happy and satisfied.

Create ways to be healthy.  Be physically active, eat well, spend times with friends.  The work will follow.

The ‘real world’ is what you make it.  Don’t let other people define it for you.  And remember, you have to do this by yourself, but you don’t have to do it alone.  Ask for help.  Engage your family, friends, and mentors in your life and struggles.

And have fun!!!

Finding the place where you’re happiest doesn’t have to be trial and error. While Steve doesn’t suggest negative experiences in our professional lives just for the sake of learning, these instances can test our resolve, and help steer us in the right direction to avoid repeating past mistakes.


More From Steve Langerud

5 Things Not To Put On Your Resume via FOXNews

How To Overcome The Three Concerns of Employers via Steve’s Blog


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