Your First Job Out of School

Whatever type of school you have attended, a small college or sprawling university, your first job is going to be vital to your subsequent career.  You have to take it very seriously. You are starting out on your professional path in life. All schools try to prepare their grads for the real world and offer internships and other programs as preparatory to the ultimate goal. Starting out is tough and students need any advantages they can get. They will tell you that your first job may be mundane and low paying, but it will provide valuable experience and an entrée to other more lucrative positions.

Thus, the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t sneer at your first offers and evaluate them according to what they can teach you about the working world. I don’t care if you are a clerk in a sporting goods store, a yoga instructor, a barista in the new corner coffee bar, or a receptionist answering phones, filing, shredding documents, and the like. Any job can showcase the talents of a young grad, if only your ability to work as a team, get along with the boss, and execute your tasks on time. You want to put your best foot forward; your next employers are going to read your letters of recommendation and form an immediate opinion.

Menial tasks are part and parcel of so many careers at any level. I remember a friend telling  me about his first job in an office building as a mailroom sorter. You can’t get lower down than that! He got to walk about the entire company, however, and was able to observe everyone first hand—from the lowest admins to the top brass. What a learning experience. He noted that one of the executives could often be seen shredding documents once a week, right there in his spacious window-laden office. Wow! He was surprised, but soon noted that this routine was important to corporate security and confidentiality. Shredding, in fact, was not a menial job at all, but something only the most valuable people could execute. He longed to be able to load the machine himself and had read about all the different models reviewed by Getting his own would be a symbol of his arrival in the workplace.

Let this be a lesson to those who scoff at entry-level jobs. Whatever is asked of you is relevant to your future. Your willingness to perform your responsibilities gives insight into your character. If you are resistant at a young age, imagine what you will be like later on. My guidance counselor was clear on this subject. He told me many stories of grads who quit their first job because it was tedious and boring, but who failed to secure something better for years. A bad attitude is hard to shake. You carry it with you day one.

Surviving the Acting Program

I loved my years at Regent’s in London, known as one of the most respected of England’s independent universities and one of the most internationally diverse. No wonder I have devoted an entire blog to its assets. I had a great time in the drama department although acting was not my major academically. Regent’s had a fine program that drew the most talented students from everywhere in the country. As a result of the competition, it was tough to survive. First you had to get a role in a major production and then perform admirably for all the world to see. This was not the end of it. Then came the reviews—sometimes good and sometimes bad. It was mental torment waiting for them to come in. You would either brag as loud as you could or hide your head in the sand. The opinion of fellow students actually counted for more than that of the writers. Well, at least to me.

After my regular classes to satisfy my requirements for graduation, I rushed over to the theater. I remember the long days of rehearsals and the director’s critical barbs; but he made us all better in spite of it. Over the years, we grew in self-esteem and confidence. I give him a lot of the credit. He never praised us unnecessarily on Facebook, but gave us our due when we merited it. Our nerves would be frayed, only soothed by the sound of the audience clapping at the end of the performance. We gathered together after receiving our special guests and the press and went for tea to soothe our tired voices. The warm liquid was a palliative to a parched throat.

We had other survival tactics including a wonderful foot spa for aching feet that have been stuffed into ill-fitting stage shoes. We had to make do with the costume sizes available. My feet relished the massaging water and I would leave them in for hours, getting up only to refill the spa. It was self-heating but there was always some evaporation. The theater company had purchased more than one of these gems for the student actors. We badly wanted to take them home, but it was not allowed. It was all about sharing in those days. The spa had to be plugged into an electrical outlet and since it contained water, we had to be careful not to spill it on exposed stage wires. We set them in a corner or a dressing room. After the show, it was first come first served as we rushed to get in line. We tore off our tight shoes, ripped off our stockings, and immersed our feet. If we had time we would scent the water with essential oils like lavender, hibiscus, or lemon.

Some ingenious stage hand produced small soft white terry towels, the kind you find in most gyms. It was as good as being in a real spa. All I needed after this was a foot massage and a bit of fragrant lotion. Now this is indeed survival!

Party Clean Up

Parties are big at small or large schools. College kids love to socialize. It is not all about studying, my friend. On a university campus, one party is a drop in the bucket. On a smaller one, it is a major school-wide event and everyone is invited. This is what I like about them – very democratic. No one is excluded. Larger schools can be clannish with people dividing up into groups. If you are an outsider, it hurts. A chance to have fun and let go is part of college life, the more raucous the better. I didn’t even mind when I participated and things got a bit out of hand. People smoked and threw the butts on the floor. They drank beer and crushed the cans before tossing them in the air, with a trail of liquid following behind.

We got to be experts at cleaning up since it was required. No one else was going to do it but the attendees, and many of them were in no condition to do anything useful. We waited until the next morning, which didn’t help dissipate the smell of stale beer and cigarettes. You could choke on it. I can still remember it as a phantom odor in my memory. After hauling everything away in trash bags, we got to work on the air quality of the venue. We opened windows and set up large electric fans. This is something you might not consider, but it works. If there was any residue remaining, any telltale sign of what happened in fun the night before, we sprayed the room with a good quality deodorizer. I got the idea on Facebook. It took a couple to times to become one hundred percent effective.

Burning a scented candle is surprisingly efficacious by the way. Let it burn until it is completely used up. Scouring the room’s surfaces with ammonia also helps. Clean up can be quick and easy if you know what to do. Hence the handy tips in today’s blog. My friends and I garnered a lot of experience! I remember it well, as Maurice Chevalier sang in the movie, Gigi, decades ago. How odd that it came to mind as I was writing this blog. It is as entrenched in my brain as stale cigarette smoke after a big party. The difference is that memories of the movie are far more pleasant.

Back to clean up tips. We tried to head off the mess of a student bash by putting large lined trash cans around the room. After the last person teeters home, we close them up, tie them closed, and carry them promptly to the outside trash bin behind the building. It’s a happy moment when you are all done and go on with your normal life—until the next party, that is. In my day, they were all the same. Maybe we had more or less food, but never fewer drinks!

How to Look the Part in Job Interviews

The college years are divine. At Oxford, like any small college, you are in a cocoon of nurturing professors and close-knit friends. Classes aren’t crowded and the library is never full. It is a far cry from the hordes trekking to class across an enormous campus at a metropolitan university. You are practically invisible. Some students like the anonymity, but not me. I prefer knowing everyone within sight. Socializing is easy and frequent.

A couple of students and I were once sitting around a communal table in the dining room discussing job interviews. We were a bit intimidated by the process at the time and tried to reassure one another that we could learn the ropes. We read up on demeanor, what to offer first in the way of personal information, and, of course, the appropriate attire from pages like The Internet was our major resource and there was a lot to learn. We role played being the interviewer and the candidate. We weren’t sure what was asked, so once again we turned to the Web. This made our practice sessions more credible. We all but memorized our answers. We even practiced smiling!

Preparing for your first job is something that haunts you during senior year. You think you have made up your mind about careers, but you aren’t really sure. You have ab major and a minor, but each field has several options. You are ready to try your wings at one of them. It all comes down to what positions are available in the region of your choice. You always hope that there are few candidates. You know you have to stand out in the crowd no matter what.

One of the students who had participated in the role playing asked the group to reconvene. He had been talking with the job counselor and wanted to share some news. They had gone over proper attire for an interview and he had some photos and lists of potential items. He recounted some good advice. The counselor emphasized neatness and good grooming. Have a haircut the day before your interview. While it goes without saying that your shirt should be clean and pressed, many young people don’t know to look at the state of their pants and shoes. More than one interview has been failed due to unpolished footwear. This is a forgotten sin. For men, a tie and coat may be appropriate unless you know for sure that it is not required. Women must avoid excessive makeup and jewelry, but both genders need to have a look at the condition of their briefcase or backpack and maybe check on Facebook before you take it with you.

He had a few more tidbits that would prove helpful about posture both sitting and standing. Never shift your feet as it makes you look nervous. During the interview, keep your gaze on the person across the desk and not on the floor. Do not wring your hands, heave a sigh, or stammer. Be aware of your entire presence from top to bottom.

Summer Jobs

Graduates of small colleges often remain close. They keep in touch and share life stories as time goes on. They are products of a unique environment that fosters the formation of long-term relationships. Everyone knows everyone; it is not the case at larger universities. The latter are more impersonal in every way. Classes are larger and the volume of students can be intimidating. It hinders the formation of easy friendships. Social occasions are fewer as people go on their merry way after class. There is nothing quite like a small college. It is not surprising to see connections that last for decades. Reunions are always well attended.

New grads are particular eager to get together and recount their immediate adventures. They know they will get wide open ears. They like to compare their lives after graduation with what has happened to others. It is not necessarily competitive; it is just fun. This is especially true when experiences are similar. Everyone sees summer jobs the same way: as a necessary step in the right direction. But when students discuss summer jobs, for example, a lot of moaning and groaning is shared. Not all these positions were top tier. Some lucky people got to clerk in a law office or intern in a corporation. Others had to spend time selling things like toilets and tankless water heaters while working for a local plumbing store called Water Heater Watch. Many prefer to be outdoors doing gardening, cleaning pools, assisting with summer camp activities, or going on the road. You can make good money, according to student reports, in sales or doing social media on Twitter. You get a commission while you learn the ins and outs of making a presentation and closing the deal.

One student explained how tankless water heaters earned him enough money to move into his own apartment after leaving school. If you add all the summers up, the amount is considerable. Who thought such appliances would make such a difference in one life. He had gotten pretty good at making a demonstration, showing illustrations and models of the small-size units. He had all the features and benefits down pat. He discussed the savings a homeowner gets after installing the new state-of-the-art units. They take up less space in your attic or basement and don’t need replacing very often.

Because most people have an old-style water heater, there is a huge market for the new tankless one. It makes selling that much easier. The student quickly learned the art of persuasion. These water heaters practically sell themselves if you reveal the right information. They don’t cost as much as people think. That is usually the only obstacle and misperception. In sales, if there is an issue (such as cost), you remind the customer of other relevant benefits. In the case of water heaters without a tank, the most important is a lower utility bill. The student told a group of listeners how he sought the same job year after year until some of his friends got the message and competed with him for a sales position.


Oxford has its traditions, and they should never be violated as they date back centuries, and having a portable basketball hoop in the common room isn’t one of them. Students are now straddling the fence and debating whether or not to add to their campus recreation. Usually, they save their energy for academic matters, but this controversy has invaded the hallowed halls. Why is it so important? Anything new is as a matter of fact. Students don’t like policy imposed on them unless it has been there for some time. Who even thought up the idea of the hoop anyway?

Rumor has it that a former player misses the game and needs some additional time to practice. It is not that Oxford has a team, mind you, but that this lanky fellow wants one of his own. While others are burying their noses in the proverbial books, he wants to be in the common room looking for a sports opportunity. He is sure others will follow and it will rise in popularity. He wants to convert others to his side. There are plenty of middle of the roaders who don’t care much one way or another, but they might be persuaded. He knows playing hoops can be addictive in any environment. Other supporters who agree know that a little exercise never hurt anyone and that diligent students often need a break now and then. Why not alleviate burnout with a portable basketball hoop from here  in a strategic location?

The common room at Oxford. Yikes! This is a sacred space for social engagement and relaxation. The proponents respond that what better form of relaxation is there than a rousing game of basketball? Opponents feel certain that Oxford is all about studying and discussing current events with fellow students and professors. They believe that Oxford’s traditional image should be maintained at all costs. Once you violate the historical aura, it could happen again and again. God forbid! You would think that these old fuddy duddies never heard of innovation and change. They don’t seem to know that the world is evolving constantly to become up to date. Those against the portable hoop don’t get it. Life should be a balance of academics and sports. Health is the buzzword these days in every sector of society. Do these naysayers want their muscles to atrophy along with their brains?

As it turns out, the portable hoop was eventually installed despite on-going protest. Enough free thinkers were supportive to convince the powers that be to take action. It was a happy day indeed for our original proponent who was the first to initiate the hoop. The moment was commemorated with a photo to be placed in the school paper. This would anger the opponents, but they have lost the battle and should retreat. Now it is clear that a true and well-rounded education is the hallmark of Regent’s College.

My Talents Lay Elsewhere

When you go to a small school, some projects fall in your lap by default. Lots of do-it-yourself tasks fall my way. I wish that I merited the trust. Recently I had to use a random orbital sander to refinish a bar top in the student lounge and I encountered a bit of a mishap. Maybe my talents lie elsewhere—say in the realm of studying. Academics are no doubt my forte, not power tools and gadgets.

All the students contribute to refurbishing their environment when the need is apparent. I could have been tagged for painting or cleanup, but no, I got the top job. I had some familiarity with the sander and word had gotten around. My father had a work area in the garage and it was laden with equipment. I had used each one at least once or twice. I liked his variable speed unit that came with all the requisite accessories. What you want in a random orbital sander is low vibration, a high removal rate, and the most efficient onboard dust extraction you can get. The better the tool, of course, the more it will cost. If you want versatility, a good sanding pad, comfort and good power, select wisely. Read the testimonials and learn the uses. It is all about utility and control for your sanding jobs whether you are a hobbyist or a professional—or a meager student.

The students had selected a weekend day to join forces and refurbish the student lounge. It made it more fun to work together. But it also meant that someone got in the way of my sander and received a mouthful of dust. You must wear protective gear and be sure that those around you don’t stand too close. I should have known better. We had to send the poor chap to the nurse’s office for an oral rinse and also an eye wash. The sand is tiny and gritty and just goes everywhere. It made for a nasty cleanup job when I was finished with my countertop. I did a good job, but the mishap meant that I was no ace. If I were selected to work on other areas of the campus, I might hesitate or start implementing some safety rules. We all should.

The lounge looked wonderful after we washed the walls down and dusted the surfaces. We were all going to enjoy our new space and it didn’t cost the school an arm and a leg. This was the idea. We want the school’s funds to go toward education and scholarships. There are many students who can benefit if we save money. Our willingness to work has given the team a lot of extra jobs from time to time. We are proud to offer our services. We have been duly rewarded with big thanks and some time off from class. Who knew I would be so admired for using a random orbital sander.

Finding a School that is Right for You

We had some joking about the title of this post—because the obvious way to find a school that is right for you is to have one accept you, of course. But if you are unsure of where to apply or if you have more than once place that you have been accepted to, you clearly have a decision to make. We all feel that we made the right choice for ourselves, and so we decided to offer up some advice on how we arrived at our choice. This is in the hopes that you might find it at least a little useful.

Many people are too intimidated to apply to a school as academic and famous as Oxford. Its prestigious reputation and long list of successful alum are too daunting for some and they decide not to apply. Instead of being overwhelmed by what they think Oxford is like, people should be checking out the colleges that make up Oxford. They will find much smaller colleges within that might not be half as intimidating. It opens the door to schools that you might not have considered. It is how many of us came to discover Regent’s, and there are similar schools all over the world. Take any big university and you will find that it is broken down into parts. The most important thing is to find the school (or path of study) that interests you the most and will enable you to get your desired degree. Do most of your information searches on those places specifically, instead of at the broad, university level—it is where you will spend the bulk of your time, after all.

Don’t discount a small school because you think it lacks resources. As you can imagine, a place like Regent’s—with its 100 students—lacks things like a huge library. However, we were still considered students at Oxford, which meant anything available to university students was also available to us. So if you look at a small school, see if it has a University affiliation. Will you be considered a University student, with all the privileges that come with attending a large school? If so, what are those privileges?

If you will be boarding at the school, you need to find somewhere that feels comfortable, provides you with the things you need (like food) readily, and that you feel safe at. For many, this is the first time you will be on your own. Don’t make the decision lightly. If you can, visit the campus. Talk to the students who live there and get a feel for what student life is really like. You will get a better idea of what you are likely to experience this way, as opposed to reading about it in a brochure.

Deciding where to go to university may seem like a huge and irreversible decision. We are here to tell you that it isn’t. You can transfer if you make the wrong choice—it happens. It is the same with people who switch careers. Sometimes things seem like a good idea and then they aren’t. Or it doesn’t work out quite the way you thought. If you make the decision to the best of your ability with the information you have, chances are it will be the right choice. Good luck!

A Small School in a Big Place

There has been much discussion about all of the things we liked about our time at Regent’s. Much of it had to do with friends and the fun that we had. One of the things we kept coming back to as the thing we all liked best about Regent’s was its size. It is one of the smaller colleges in all of Oxford.If that was not a selling point for us before we arrived, it became one once we experienced life at Regent’s. It was incredibly easy to make friends, and we had many opportunities to socialize. There is always something going on at Regent’s. It is home to the cheapest bar in all of Oxford and has one of the most well-appointed Junior Common Rooms around. It is always a hub of activity and converted into a dance hall quite nicely for Formal events! Unlike other colleges at Oxford, all year groups intermingle socially. We found it very easy to chat with upperclassmen and learn from their experiences. Another benefit to being a small place was the food. Meals were a great opportunity to spend time with fellow students, especially on Friday nights for Formal Hall. Because it was such a small community, most people made the effort to attend.

Another reason why Regent’s is a great place to be is that it boasts a great location. It was right in the middle of Oxford. You do not appreciate something like that quite as much reading this post as you do when your alarm does not go off and you roll out of bed with only five minutes to get to a class. We are not saying that did or did not happen to any of us, but it is more for informational purposes. You can probably ride your bike or walk everywhere you need to go. As a student that certainly helps the wallet! Another good thing about the location is that if you felt like getting out into the wider world, it was quite easy. There was always something happening around Oxford, and we had the ability to attend those events just as any other studentat Oxford. Oxford’s resources are second to none as well. The Bodleian Library—the main library at Oxford—is within walking distance. So are grocery stores and restaurants, and just about everything else a student might need.

Small schools in big places can be a smart choice. You get all the comforts of an extended family within your chosen location but you are easily connected to the larger world. University can be a scary and isolating experience for many. A large university can be incredibly intimidating for students—especially those of us who come from rural areas and have never experienced the fast pace of city life. Having somewhere familiar to go back to at the end of the day (or night, as it were) that has all the comforts of home is a wonderful asset.

Utilising Alumnae Connections

While we would like to think that we can get a job based on the merits of our skills or the great CV that we have written, it often depends on who you know. A significant advantage to finding a job once you have graduated from university is through connections. They might be people that your parents know or people that you have worked for (or with) while at school. They may be classmates from years prior who are now in positions to hire more staff. You can also make great connections while you are still at university that can pay off in the long run.

For example, Regent’s is humanities based. That means most people there already are going into one of the arts fields. Since it is so small, it is easy to intermingle with upper years and those who are graduating before us. If you keep in touch with those people, you can find out where they land. It is another lead for you when it is your turn to graduate and are looking for that first real job utilizing your skills learned in school.

Many alumnae will offer internships to students at their alma mater, and that can also help one line up a job after graduation. Whether it be at the same place you interned, via connections made while working there, or by using the real-world experience you gained to your advantage somewhere else, an internship can often help launch your career.

Many schools also maintain alumnae directories. The entries may contain names and contact information of graduates from the school, as well as possibly the places they now work, along with their position held. You may not know some of these people but they will remember their time at university. Since they know the level of education you received—having received it themselves—it is something else that can work in your favor. Reaching out to those in your desired field may not net you a job, but you may be able to set yourself up with a mentor.

Obviously, a bigger school will have a bigger pool of alumnae to reach out to. The odds of them remembering you even if you had a class or two together is probably slim to none, however. That is where a place like Regent’s provides the best of both worlds. We can reach out to fellow Regent’s alum, and even those who were graduating when we were arriving will likely be able to put a name to a face. The college is so small that everyone knew everyone else. When we need to, we can also make connections through Oxford itself, and it doesn’t require much looking to find a successful Oxford alum.

Sometimes when you are looking for a job, you need every advantage you can. You also need to set yourself apart from the other candidates. You can be the most qualified person for the job but if you cannot get a meeting with the person hiring or get your resume in front of them, it won’t matter. Using alumnae connections is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Social Life at a Small School

If you grew up in a small village like many of us, the idea of going to a university can be an intimidating one. You are sure that all the other students will be much more experienced and sophisticated, hailing from places like London or Birmingham. You anticipate solitary meals, being overwhelmed with questions in large lecture halls, or having a terrifyingly rude roommate. Perhaps you are concerned about all of these things. While that is probably a worst-case scenario even at the biggest schools, smaller places do not have that overwhelming fear. Of course, it is impossible to get along with everyone, even at a smaller school. But when you know you have to see someone day in and day out, in the halls of both your home and your classrooms, you tend to find a way to live with them. And when you attend a university made of up smaller colleges, you will be grouped with people who are in similar fields of study. You are more likely to have things in common. It gives you a place to start as well as something to bond over. Regent’s, for example, is humanities based, so we were all very arts-focused. This meant that in all our years there, we avoided having to strike up conversations with brooding and socially awkward mathematicians over beef and ale pie at dinner.

Smaller schools tend to have more opportunities for the students to mix. They cannot necessarily compete with bigger schools on certain things like laboratory equipment or sports teams, so they have to make up for it in other ways. One of those ways typically involves student life. A place like Regent’s actually provides many opportunities for the students to mix. Mealtimes are a good example. While there are many places to eat around Oxford—and students have the ability to cook for themselves because they have access to kitchens—most students at Regent’s wound up eating at College Hall. It was a good way to meet and spend time outside of classes with fellow students.

At Regent’s, we also have a student-run bar as well as an excellent common room (JCR) that hosts comfortable places to sit and chat, has table tennis and table football for friendly games, snacks, a tv, and a fantastic sound system. While not all schools have quite this many amenities, small schools often have recreational facilities or common areas available for students to socialize and should be taken full advantage of!

Sports are another great way to get involved in school and with your classmates. Whether it be a casual club or a super competitive team, university sports can be a memorable time in life. Teammates at a smaller school likely already know each other. It provides people with a non-academic means to work together, forming bonds that will last long after your time at university comes to a close.

University is a time to learn both academically and socially. It is the perfect chance to mix and mingle with people from other places and cultures. Small schools are perfect for this purpose!

Lecture Hall vs. Classroom

Most colleges and universities teach courses in a fairly standard format. There are lectures, consisting mostly of professors talking AT a class about a given topic, and then smaller classes that are taught in a more informal learning environment that often includes back-and-forth between the students and instructor. At a school like Regent’s which is attached to a much larger university, you may have classes in both styles. The following is based on our experiences as we remember them, so you may not find yourself in exactly the same situation. There are pros and cons that universally apply to both, however, and we felt we should discuss them in a post to help you learn more about them.

Lecture halls are bigger and have more students in them. Depending on your area of study, class size might decrease as you continue your education. Lectures are often taught by professors with help from teaching assistants or aides, and the most you would likely get to interact with the professor would be during office hours.However, office hours, depending on the instructor, may also be manned by an aforementioned teacher’s assistant. Lecture classes are often also broken down into smaller classes for study or tutor groups. It is easy to meet likeminded peers in that setting. While it is true that we all preferred the smaller college style of Regent’s, lectures are definitely a good way to go sometimes. They can often be easier to get into, as there are more spots. Some truly great minds are professors and the only other way you might get to see them would be if someone filmed one of those lectures and put it online. Big schools can attract big names, and their classes are popular. By teaching in a lecture hall, more students are able to experience a great professor.

On the other hand, small colleges do not often have lecture halls for many classes. You sit in a more typical style classroom and have regular access to your professors and staff. You can pose questions and be answered in a less formal setting. You tend to be graded by the actual professor and not some poorly paid graduate student. Your professor will know your name. The coursework will not be any easier, but you will have more access to the professor. If you attend a school like Regent’s, you will have full access to Oxford resources such as library materials and exam halls. Other small schools may not have as many resources and that can be a negative. Nowadays, if you have a good internet connection, that might not matter as much.Your ability to get your hands on some dusty old text as opposed to downloading a copy for a paper might work out to the same advantage.

Many people thrive in the larger environment of the lecture hall and others do better within the structure of a much smaller college. It depends on what you are looking for in your time at university and how you will learn best. If you have more questions about this topic, you can reach out to us in a comment and we will be happy to respond.