It’s Been a Year! What We Learned From Our First Real Jobs

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Hi! I’m not sure if you remember us, but we’re the AfterCollege interns.

Well, actually we’re no longer interns.

A year after starting as the “newbs” in this office, we’ve really found our footing and transitioned into full-time, salaried employees.

Now, we’re ready to reflect on the past year. Here’s how we’ve grown since starting as interns and what we’ve learned from our first real jobs.

First, a quick recap of who we are.

Simon Luppescu: Software Development Intern. Now, Software Engineer.

Jessica Moore: Interaction Design Intern. Now, Interaction Designer.

Kellen McKillop: Social Media and Editorial Intern. Now, Editorial Assistant

How has your role changed since starting as an intern?

Simon

Since starting with the machine learning project during my internship, I have broadly expanded my roles here by working on the AfterCollege.com website for desktop and mobile browsers and the brand new Posting Portal website.

The Posting Portal website is another part of the main site that allows our clients to post jobs, events, and scholarships. In addition, the site is set up with the white-label feature meaning clients can rebrand the Posting Portal site with their logo and content as if it is their own. We had an original Posting Portal website, but it was outdated and the code was unorganized and difficult to read. The best decision was for us to rewrite it in a different framework, Ruby on Rails. This mini-project took us about two months, but was very enjoyable. Since we started from scratch, we avoided the trouble of having to follow someone else’s code.

Although my work has shied away from machine learning since the internship, I have worked on numerous features on the website that communicate directly with the machine learning API.

In addition, previously the developers’ roles were spread out and versatile. Now, we have formed small teams where each of us works on a specialized project as part of AfterCollege. As a result, I have worked closely with one particular developer and built a new website basically from scratch (which was really fun).

Kellen

My role has really developed a lot since I first started working here. As an intern, I had a lot of guidance and instruction. My manager Melissa coached me on creating posts that were styled for a blog rather than an essay or short story. She would come up with topics for me to write about, edit my work until it was “blog ready,’ and keep the editorial calendar in check.

Now, as the Editorial Assistant, I work a little more independently. Though she is still very present when it comes to producing content for the AfterCollege Job-Seeker Blog, Melissa is now a little more focused on the Employer Blog (and some other projects, too!). That means that I am in charge of the Job-Seeker Blog editorial calendar, figuring out what topics to write about, and producing copy that needs as little editing as possible.

Jessica

My role has changed by becoming more independent. I have been given significantly more freedom with my role since being an intern. I went from having a lot of supervision and being told what to work on next, to being guided through how to pick what to do next. It has been a lot of fun learning how to take more responsibility for our product and becoming our only product person has been a serious learning experience.

What has been the most surprising part of your time here at AfterCollege?

Jessica

The most surprising part of my time here at AfterCollege would have to be the confidence that I’ve gained in myself. After my former manager left, I was really nervous about what would happen next. I wasn’t sure if I would do well as the only product person for an entire company. I was put into a situation where it was sink or swim. And I swam. I mean, it wasn’t the type of situation where I was instantly an Olympic champion of swimming, but I wasn’t drowning.

I think that that allowed me to be able to gain confidence in my abilities to design and make product decisions. When you have a boss that is crazy smart and they guide you through the design process, it’s like having an answer guide there to help you through when you get stuck. Without them, it’s just you and you have to trust your choices. Relying on myself without having an answer guide nearby was initially really difficult, but I have been able to develop a trust in my designs and decisions since then and that has been the most surprising part of my time here at AfterCollege.

Simon

I was surprised by how closely I was able to get along with my coworkers despite differences in interests or professional work. We’re as much a large team as we are a family and it makes every day a lot of fun. On the other hand, it’s also a pleasant surprise that the more I get to know my coworkers, the more I find out things I share in common with them. Some play soccer, some play chess, some speak Japanese, and others are competitive cyclists.

Kellen

I’m surprised about how quickly it’s all gone by. Seriously, it feels like I just started a few months ago… not an entire year. The other thing that really surprised me is the fact that everyone at the company is learning and developing along with me.

As an intern, it felt like I was the only one who didn’t have everything figured out. What I’ve come to find out is that everyone is still learning. AfterCollege is anything but stationary. We’re constantly moving and trying new things so that we can become a better company for students and recent graduates as well as employers. This means that no one has everything figured out. We’re all experimenting and learning as we go.

What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned during your first year at a “real job”?

Kellen

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned on the job is that no matter where you work, there are going to be good days and bad days. Be humble. Admit not only to your boss and peers that you’ve made a mistake, but also to yourself. It may feel humiliating or frustrating but the sooner you face an error the sooner you can fix it.

Simon

It turns out that college does little to prepare you for the working world. College teaches you the fundamentals and theories about what you’re studying, but has trouble teaching practical workplace concepts of software development (or any major / skill). I have absorbed considerably more practical knowledge working as a developer in a company than I did in four years majoring in Computer Science at a university. The lesson I’ve learned is to put all your effort into learning as quickly as you can when you start your job. Trying to act like you know everything because you already learned it will delay your growth in the professional world and will also make you look like a jerk.

Jessica

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that leaving college and becoming a real person with a real job isn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. I mean, don’t get me wrong—there are intimidating parts— but once you just start doing it, it’s not totally scary. I think that not being terrified of life after college might have been the most important first step in my “real job” and real life actual personhood.

What’s your fondest memory of your time at AfterCollege?

Simon

My fondest memory is first starting work at the internship. I remember just being excited to begin new things and work with a team of developers (which I never really did in college). Everything was new. I had never been to San Francisco (or anywhere in California), I was meeting a large group of new people, I would be doing programming work I had never tried out and, oh, it was my first “real job.” I felt like a kid in a computer store!

Kellen

Two moments immediately pop into my head. My first day at AfterCollege is definitely one of my fondest memories. It was just so full of promise. I was so nervous before getting into the office, but upon entering, I remember getting this huge gust of confidence. I am usually such a hot mess but for some reason after I came into the office I felt so ready. I have no idea where this confidence came from—adrenaline, the double shot latte I had right before, or the fact that I had no choice but to see this through. Whatever it was, I was confident.

The other moment that comes to mind is after I got offered the full-time position. There had been a lot of doubt and I had even started looking into other jobs. But then I was brought on as a full-time employee. I remember a weekend after that I went to see my mom in Desert Hot Springs. I felt so proud that I could tell her that she didn’t need to worry about me. I was okay. Such an amazing feeling.

Jessica

I think that my fondest memory of AfterCollege is actually a collection and jumble of memories that are all about eating lunch. My favorite part is when we all eat lunch together and play puzzles or riddles, or one of my favorite games: guess what movie Truman (one of the Engineers) watched this weekend.

When it’s nice out and we, as a company, go outside to eat, it’s totally awesome. Not only awesome because San Francisco is finally sunny, but also because we’re together as a team becoming better friends and better coworkers. My favorite part of AfterCollege is the people I work with, so my fondest memory would have to be a collection of all the times we hang out together.

Any last thoughts for recent graduates about starting their first jobs after college?

Jessica

It’s okay to be nervous about the real world, but it isn’t as scary as you think. You should remember that college didn’t just teach you what you studied, it taught you how to learn and because of that, you’re more prepared than you think for the real world.

Simon

Make sure you choose a job that you enjoy! If you take a job that you will hate or find boring because it pays well or a friend is doing the same thing (or because you think you have no other options), the job will waste your time. Do your research and look for a job you truly find interesting. It will pay off later (metaphorically and literally).

Kellen

Don’t try to define your job before you start. What I mean by that is, whatever you imagine your job will be like, the reality is going to be different. Take it for what it is and learn from it. Also, there are going to be some really great days and there are going to be some not-so-great days. That’s part of it. One bad day doesn’t mean you hate your job or that you’re bad at it. It means you had a bad day. Go to sleep. Wake up. Face each day as a new day (but don’t forget to learn from your mistakes).

Have your own story? Have an interesting story or anecdote to share from your own experience going from intern to employee or at your first job? Share it with us! Leave a comment below.

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