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First-Job Limbo: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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Though The Clash vocalist Joe Strummer wasn’t referring to his job woes in the 1982 hit song ''Should I Stay or Should I Go,'' his message rings true for many recent graduates struggling in their first jobs.

<<We've all gone through it, and if you haven't, you will. Many recent graduates have a tough time adjusting to work at their first jobs in the real world. This ain't no after-school job at McDonald's . This is the real deal.

The core question, though, is "Is it the first-time adjustment that's the problem or the job itself?"

Here are a few tips to help you make your next move when you have the first-job blues.

1. Look Around You.

The easiest and probably most effective step you can take once you decide something is not right is looking at those who have been with your employer longer than you. Take a look at your seniors. Do you aspire to do the jobs they are doing? Or are you so glad you're not them? That will tell you something.

In almost any job you take as an entry-level employee, the work can be overwhelming at first. You may get a lot of projects you don't prefer. The hours may never end. It can be a struggle, but if it will all pay off one day, stick to it. If not, be glad that you know now instead of later and start looking for a new job that fulfills you.

2. Find a Mentor.

Everyone needs a mentor. It's the most surefire way to guarantee you will do well in a profession. Mentors can provide road maps to reference. You can follow what they did or change it up a little. Either way, you can track what they did and where it got them.

If you find yourself doubting that you're in the right position at a specific company, do your best to connect with one of the organization's older, experienced executives.

Without whining and revealing your job troubles to the person — because that could leave you unemployed — try to find out what his or her experience has been like at that company or what his or her experience was like wherever he or she started. Did this person experience similar feelings or thoughts? How did he or she overcome them? When did the conditions improve?

By listening and talking with a veteran professional in your area of the industry, you can gain valuable insight and decide if it's right for you to remain where you are.

3. Spell It Out.

Look at your daily duties and tasks. What do you like about your job? What do you hate about your job? Sit down and make a list that categorizes all of the aspects of your job to help yourself find the root of the problem.

You might not like the commute, the atmosphere, the people, the actual work you're doing, the people you have to deal with — the list can go on and on.

Sometimes, however, the problem is only change. Getting used to change is often a huge component when a recent graduate realizes that he or she is not happy at his or her first job.

Getting used to being on a nine-to-five schedule is a big factor. And if you're constantly working long hours, that can be a devastating transition. The carefree, flexible schedule you had in college is no more. Now you're on someone else's clock, and you have to make it matter. It's always depressing to go on your lunch break and see students studying at their leisure at the corner Starbucks. Sigh.

Getting the hang of a new job can also be frustrating. It can bruise your ego when your boss isn't blown away by your first project. You have to understand that this is your first job, and it will take time for you to learn the demands so you can properly deliver. It's part of learning and growing in any industry.

And in almost any industry, one's first job is going to involve some unpleasantness. That's where the expression "paying your dues" came from, so don't give up. These hard times will build character, and they will help you appreciate your career success once you achieve it.

If you find that these menial details of your job are not the problem — that it's the people, the environment, or the type of work you're doing — then it may be time to visit a career consultant so you can find out what kind of sales job will make you happy.
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