Not going to college? Well, your education has officially ended. Congratulations. Now, go find a minimum wage job.


I don’t think so. Graduating high school and getting your first 40-hour a week job is a huge first step in your career, not a death sentence with a guaranteed earnings cap. How would I know? Because I’m a corporate recruiter for one of the top 125 construction contractors in the nation. So, instead of going along with the outdated conversation above, this is what I say when I hear a young person has decided to enter the workforce after high school:

“You’ve decided to embrace the challenge of work. Congratulations. I think you’ll soon agree your education is definitely not over. In fact, it’s just beginning.”

So, if that’s you, let’s prepare for the exciting world of work.

Step 1: Find a Job.

I think there is a myth that our first jobs are our forever jobs. Quite the contrary. First jobs as just that. First jobs.

In fact, a lot of successful people have had first jobs that weren’t exactly exhilarating. Jenifer Aniston was telemarketer. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, was a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. Vin Diesel was a bouncer. (Okay… I guess I could see that one.)

My advice — target the right company and culture, not the job. When you find a company that is supportive of their people, that actively promotes from within, and that provides education opportunities to their employees, you have found your company.

Step 2: Apply.

Prepare a resume. If you are just entering the workforce, you might have a very limited resume. That’s okay. Google the right template. Even if you don’t have a resume, go ahead, fill out the application, and get the process started.

Step 3: Get Hired.

You will have interviews, background checks, drug tests, etc. Yep, you’ve heard it before — don’t do drugs. Just know it’s going to be part of the process for almost any job in a skilled industry.

Step 4: The real work starts — learning the job. Here’s how to make sure you succeed in that role.

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  1. Embrace this as your career, not your job. Successful people don’t just chase a paycheck; they build careers. Surround yourself with people who are successful. Remember when Mom used to warn you about certain friends? Well, chances are, she was trying to help you build a support system that would help you succeed. (Dang it, she was right again…) Successful people create more successful people. This is a great example of when to tap into the resources on social media. Follow successful people on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Learn their habits.
  2. Get there early. Every single day. If work starts at 7:30 a.m., be there ready to work by 7:15 a.m. Nothing will hurt your first impressions more than arriving late and leaving early. Remember, not only are you establishing a career, you’re building your brand, and that will be something that follows you from one place to another.
  3. Have the right attitude. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to receive all types (and styles) of guidance. Embrace that correction, as it will help you hone your skills. Definitely easier said than done, especially when someone is calling you out for a mistake. In response, just ask questions, respectfully and tactfully. You are not going to love every day — nobody does. Find the positives and learn to manage the negatives.
  4. Meet your coworkers — it helps you plug into the best parts of your company’s culture. You’ll have someone to socialize with at meetings, safety events, celebrations, etc. Moreover, they can act as your sounding board. This might be counter to typical advice – you’re just there to work, don’t make any personal connections – but I say let’s put that advice in the terrible category. Reach out to your coworkers— don’t wait for them to get to know you.
  5. Laugh through the pain. Yep. New jobs bring pain of some kind. You may be using muscles you haven’t used in a while. You may be making mistakes because you’re learning a skill. The best solution for survival and increasing the value of your brand: just laugh through it. Remember, tomorrow is always better.

So, for those of you entering the workforce after high school, congratulations. Regardless of whether your campus is on a jobsite or at a school, remember, we are all lifelong learners.