The Most Important Lessons Team SN Learned From Our First Jobs

No matter how many summer jobs or internships you've had before, embarking on your first corporate job is a major milestone.
And the learning curve is steep: from leading meetings and making Excel spreadsheets to setting up your 401K and navigating your health insurance plan, your first job is also an introduction to the wonderful world of corporate life! We asked members of team SN to share the most impactful lessons they learned from their very first jobs–read on for every piece of advice.

Tara: Your First Job Will Lay a Foundation

After graduating from college, my career started at Marc Jacobs where I was a Business Planning Analyst. Every summer internship I had was in finance, which taught me one of the most critical lessons–that I didn’t want to work in finance. I knew I was meant to be in fashion, and my first job felt like a perfect marriage of my education and passion–a role in the business of fashion! I was thrilled by both the sound of the role and that it was at a credible and multi-dimensional global fashion brand. Fast forward two years later, and I spent the majority of my time at Marc Jacobs (days that often lasted 12+ hours) behind Excel spreadsheets with minimal exposure to actual products. In hindsight, it felt more in line with a financial position than what I had envisioned a fashion one would be. That being said, I learned fundamental, quantitative parts of the business that I would not have learned nearly as robustly if I jumped immediately into a Sales role. I now had an analytical foundation that would set me apart from my peers at my next jobs. Boiled down, I think what I recommend is trying to seek a first job that teaches you the why behind what it is you really want to do, as un-glamorous as the day to day may be! In addition, the office I sat in at Marc Jacobs was next to that of the President. Having such close access was very valuable and I recommend thinking about how you can gain exposure to senior leaders at your company early on.

Dana: Don't Be Afraid to Pivot

In my first job, I was a Litigation Assistant in the Complex Commercial Litigation group of a major law firm in NYC. I  was basically a paralegal, which means I learned a TON about how to make binders, cite check cases, and sleep under my desk :)  At the time, I was studying for the LSAT and planning to go to law school. I carefully watched the associates around me and saw how stressed out they were, and I realized I didn’t want to go down that path, so my first job actually taught me that you need to take leaps of faith and pivot when something doesn’t sit right with you. I ended up resigning after less than a year, and I applied for an entry-level position at a beauty company I was obsessed with. I was able to show them how the basic skills I learned at the law firm could apply (organization, time management, people skills) and the next thing I knew I shifted my career from law to beauty. 

Maggie: Treat Everything As a Learning Experience

My first job was as a digital editorial fellow at Marie Claire. It was my absolute dream publication–it was (and still is!) one of my favorite magazines and I was beyond excited to show up at work every day. The most important lesson I learned from my time at Marie Claire was to say yes to just about everything–I made it my mission to help the team in any way possible and saw everything as a learning experience. Even transcribing incredibly long interviews (a task I know most people in the journalism industry know well) was an opportunity to learn: I basically figured out how to conduct interviews by hearing how the writer approached each question and formulated the flow of the Q&A. Another lesson I've carried with me is learning how to articulate your goals, whether they’re day-to-day or long-term professional goals. My boss at the time was the incredible Jessica Pels (who is now the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan)–she initiated a conversation about my professional goals and what kind of job I wanted next, and she ended up helping me get my first full-time gig at Hearst on another amazing team (Town & Country!). I’m eternally grateful for her kindness and mentorship, but I also learned how important it is to articulate your professional dreams–because people will help you along the way!

Anna: Embrace Every Opportunity That Comes Your Way

I started out doing freelance photography for about a year in Los Angeles. I shot for different small brands, and that brought me to my first job. My friend's older sister was launching an e-commerce fashion website and asked me to come to New York to help her shoot and launch it. I was supposed to come for only two weeks and I ended up never leaving! She ended up hiring me full time. This really sparked my interest in startups. I was able to do everything because it was just us two working on it. From website design to photography to social media to influencer marketing and even buying, I was part of every process and that really helped me figure out what I was looking for in my next role. I worked with her for about a year and then I applied for the Something Navy position. I learned so much from being at a true start-up from the beginning, where I got to see and make mistakes and learn from them. My biggest lesson from all this was that you should take every opportunity you are given and treat it like it's your baby. I wasn’t expected to do all that I was doing (my role was really just social and photography), but I took on so much more for myself. Not only did it teach me about different aspects of the business, but it helped me grow and develop professionally.

Sydney: Show Your Passion and Dedication

I was freelancing for a bit right out of college as a creative consultant and graphic designer, but Something Navy was my first official job. I started off with an internship and I worked my way to becoming the Digital Media Assistant and my position has evolved since. I never saw my role as an internship. I took my work very seriously! I was able to grow my role on the team and evolve beyond my internship because I had a positive attitude, I made an effort to prove myself, and I showed that I was extremely passionate about the company. I realized it is all about being dedicated, knowing your strengths, and being ready to jump in and learn wherever you can.