Three steps to kick-starting your career without selling out

Here’s how to land your first job while staying true to your interests and values.

Three steps to kick-starting your career without selling out

Land your first job while staying true to your values.

Have you ever heard someone say they want to find a high-paying job, but they don't want to sell out? That sounds all well and good, but what does it mean to “sell out”? And, seriously, when you're just starting out and applying to entry-level jobs, can you afford to be picky?

“Selling out involves choosing a career you dislike just to make money,” says Stan Kimer, founder and president of the North Carolina–based business coaching company Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer.

Looking for an entry-level job can be stressful and discouraging, and you might be tempted to take the first offer. You might even get this close to applying to the types of jobs your friends are applying to just because you think you should—even though you have a hunch you’ll hate them.

But you don’t have to settle for a bad job or sell out. Okay, but how do you find a job while staying true to your values and convictions? We spoke to career advice experts for tips to help you land a first job that you'll feel good going to every day.

Do some self-reflection

“So, what do you want to do with your life?” If you already know the answer to that annoying question that you’ve probably been asked by everyone in your extended family at least 100 times, you're way ahead of the curve. If not, no worries, we’ll help you figure it out.

Try these reflection techniques recommended by Deena Baikowitz, co-founder and chief networking officer of Fireball Network, a New York City–based coaching and consulting firm. Think about your extracurriculars, internships, and jobs. Now write down the jobs, assignments, or experiences that made you happiest and note the most rewarding thing about each. (Bonus: Take out your metaphorical Burn Book and write what you liked least so you know what makes you say, “Thank u, next.”)

Now get some insights from close friends, family members, classmates, and co-workers. Ask them to describe your strengths and give you specific examples, says Baikowitz, or you can use career assessment tools such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder or How to Fascinate.

Network with like-minded people

Walking into a networking event and making small talk with people you don’t know can be uncomfortable, but it just may help you land your ideal job. Instead of approaching each event with the goal to score a job interview, use it to start relationships that can be helpful in the future and get important insights for your job search.

“Look for like-minded people, and like-hearted people, who also care about making a difference while making money. Find people in the types of roles that appeal to your strengths, and get to know people you admire, in companies you respect,” says Baikowitz. She suggests talking to people with a variety of strengths and skills in an array of sectors to find out more about different industries and roles.

“Ask for advice and introductions. Use the information and advice to plan your own career path, and to learn how to apply your skills and passions to various jobs and fields,” she says.

Find jobs that are the right fit

Good news: There is a formula to finding jobs you’ll be successful at: Interests + Skills = Swipe Right.

“The sweet spot aligns skills and passion with something you're both good at and truly enjoy. Being in a job that you dislike becomes drudgery, which will lead to lackluster performance,” says Kimer. “And, of course, doing something you enjoy but are not good at won't lead to success or results.”

When you're looking for entry-level jobs, it might seem tempting to go for the job that pays the most, even though you aren’t really sure what management consulting is and why so many of your friends are pursuing it. Think about the future—you're more likely to perform better and get promotions when you actually like what you do, according to Kimer.

“If you really like to help people, being a social worker may be a better choice than an accounting auditor or computer programmer, but the pay will be much less,” Kimer says. “But over time, if you're a superb social worker, you could become the executive director of a health clinic or non-profit making six figures.”

Find a matchmaker

Once you've figured out your strengths and your interests, make sure your resume reflects them. Recruiters scan resumes looking for keywords that align with open positions. In order to make sure your resume signals to hiring managers your top skills and how they can match the right positions, get a free resume assessment from Monster. Our experts will not only give you feedback on the overall look of your resume but will also offer keywords and a full analysis of which industries and jobs match your experience. Recruiters search Monster every day looking for top talent. Don't let an opportunity pass you by because your resume didn't stand out.