160302421We’ve been taught from the time we were in elementary school that going to college and making good grades is all for the sake of graduating college so that you can go on to a high paying job as soon your graduation cap hits the floor. I’m a senior in college, and I’m going to let out a secret I didn’t learn until this year.

Simply put: we’ve been lied to.

If you graduate college with no work experience in your field, no matter how good your grades are, you’re not going to make much money, and you may even have to take on the dreaded unpaid internship.

The best advice I can give to current college students is to take that internship before you graduate, and are saddled with paying off your loans. For those who have already graduated, the best advice is to realize that your first few jobs are not about the money.

Sometimes it’s about learning more.

Before I worked at WrightIMC, I worked as a graphic designer and web developer for the marketing department of a gymnastics company in Dallas. I had been unhappy at my in-house job for a while. The people I worked with were great, but in terms of online marketing, there was really no one there to mentor me, and I was craving an environment where I could learn and grow.

When I was first offered an internship at WrightIMC, it was a really difficult decision for me. In order to take the job, I’d have to accept a 20 percent pay cut from what I was making at my former company, and though it was closer to my house, the money I’d be saving on gas wouldn’t make up for the loss in wages.

I fretted over it for hours, trying to crunch the numbers in my head as I pulled into the parking lot of my girlfriend’s office. I told her about the offer…and about the pay cut. I told her how, financially, we could make it work, but we’d have to eat Ramen Noodles and drink water from the sink for a while.

“Take it,” she said, to my surprise.

She knew that what I had been telling her all along was true – that this job was going to open up new opportunities for me, and that the skills I would learn at WrightIMC would be invaluable, and would give me experience I couldn’t get in the classroom.

So with her approval, I turned in my two weeks, and the first week of January, I plunged into the Search Engine Marketing Industry, where I eventually fell in love with my new passion – PPC.

Taking this job has made me qualified to grow my career in a host of directions including:

  • Web Design & Development
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Paid Search
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • and Account Management

Since updating my LinkedIn profile with these new skills, I get contacted at least once a month by other companies interested in hiring me, all wages I wouldn’t have dreamed of making while I still at my initial in-house position. These were skills I never learned in school, despite (almost) having a degree in Emerging Media & Communication. If I had made it about the money before, instead of about what I could learn, those opportunities would never have been available to me.

Sometimes it’s about building relationships.

Recently, I accepted a new job offer from another agency in the area. Again, the decision to move on to another company was difficult for me. I’ve built working relationships and friendships here that I know will last long after my two weeks are up.

Despite the fact that I’m leaving, I know that if I ever need a reference or even leads for future jobs, I can call my colleagues and friends at WrightIMC

The relationships you build at your first few jobs are the most important. The people you’re working for now probably know everyone who you will ever work for in your career. If you make a poor impression, it will follow you to your future interviews.

So even if you’re making a low salary (or not getting paid at all), work as if you’re making six figures. Otherwise, you might burn your bridges and end up working for peanuts for the rest of your career.

Sometimes it’s about having integrity in your work.

Long before I had even heard of WrightIMC, I had several graphic design jobs where I felt like a glorified crayon. My bosses didn’t care about my input on design and strategy; they just wanted me to be a tool they could use to make stuff in Photoshop.

There’s no integrity in jobs like that, and no matter how much money I made, I wasn’t happy. The experience became so awful that at one point that I felt like nauseous at the thought of going into work.

You have to find a job where you have a voice and your expertise is respected. No amount of money is worth giving up your pride. You may not always love your job, but you should never stay in a position you hate just to a make a few extra bucks. You’ll regret it in the end.

Sometimes it’s about your priorities.

Never accept a job that forces you to compromise your priorities just because of a higher salary. Research shows that you’re going to have about 11 jobs over your lifetime, and when your current job is gone, your priorities will still be there. Find a place that will help you accomplish your goals, and once they’re accomplished, you can make more money later.

There is no doubt in my mind that WrightIMC was the right place for me during my time in college. Not only did they offer an environment where I had endless opportunities to learn new skills, but they were also flexible with my schedule, so that I could work full time while still going to class.

Getting my education is a priority for me. It’s something that I know is going to help me build a better future for myself and for my family in the long term.

During my time at WrightIMC, I had several companies come to me and offer me a job, but all of them would’ve required putting my education on hold or slowing down on my classes. While they may have offered more money in the short term, I know that the longer I put off graduating, the harder it will be to finish. Staying with a company that supported those goals was the right decision in the long run.

The money will come.

The biggest thing you need to remember is that eventually, the money will come. My girlfriend and I survived our days of Ramen Noodles, and we’ve graduated to real food like home cooked chicken salad. We’re even planning to buy a house this year.

If you work hard to build strong working relationships, learn new skills, and show your talent, no matter what your salary is, employers will recognize that you’re a valuable asset. But first, you have to do your time with grunt work…just like everyone else.