What Are the Most Valuable Lessons to Learn From a First Job?


This question originally appeared on Quora.

What were the best things you learned in your first job?

Answer by Michael Chen, director of media, social and tech investing at Participant Media.

My first job was at a management consulting firm. Though I did not particularly enjoy the two years [I spent there], I learned a lot of things that have been helpful as my career has progressed. Below are a few of the main points.

  • Early on, attitude matters as much or more than actual output. No one likes working with a [jerk], even if they are good at the job. If you are truly extraordinary, you can get away with it — but most of us aren’t that good at any one thing.

  • Unless you are the CEO, regardless of your job title or job description, your actual job is to make your boss/supervisor’s life easier. The sooner you realize it’s about them and not you, the smoother things will be.

  • Take performance reviews with a grain of salt; they will never be perfectly accurate. As with all things, human bias and irrationality is built into the system. You are typically not as good or as bad as whatever your review explicitly says. Use whatever you get as feedback that you can process, and choose whether or not you want to make those changes. Read more…

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