How Redefining "Perfect First Job" May Help You Build a Career You Love

This post is part of a sponsored campaign we’re participating in with Wells Fargo. I'm a compensated contributor, but thoughts and opinions are my own.

The pressure that young people put on themselves as they reach the home stretch of college (and initial years of their careers) really bums me out sometimes. I’ve worked with some of the most wicked smart, motivated millennials in recent years. And time and again, I’ve noticed a clear pattern of undue stress that they create for themselves in their quest to find the be-all-end-all “perfect” job, right out of the gates.

“What if I pick the wrong thing?” they’ll ask. “What happens if I take something that’s bad for me and I screw up my entire career?”

Folks (and I’m talking to both you millennials and your well-meaning loved ones with this), I’m here to tell you that it’s pretty hard to screw up your entire career at age 20-something.

You’ve got miles and miles of runway ahead of you. The way I see it, there’s no better time than now to take risks and experiment in your work.

I also need to emphasize that there is no one lifelong “right job” anymore. There’s no Santa Claus job or company that’s going to give you everything you need to grow professionally, feel eternally fulfilled and climb your way up to whatever rung you’re aspiring to reach on the so-called ladder.

That job may have existed in 1966, but it sure as heck doesn't in 2016

And so, for any of you young professionals anxiously toiling to find “the one,” I hereby give you permission to loosen up the reins and take a few deep breaths here. I want to assure you that it’s totally OK to find a job outside of that narrow little sliver of the pie that you have somehow decided represents “the one and only perfect job / company / industry.”

(Feels kinda liberating, doesn't it?)

I also want you to realize that there are many – and I mean mannnnnny – early career job opportunities out there that will enable you to gain important skills that will benefit you throughout your entire career, no matter how it evolves—skills like customer service, problem solving, project coordination, account management and team collaboration.

And you know what? Some of these jobs are in organizations or industry sectors that you’re probably not even thinking about. (And they may even have pinball machines in the break room and free snacks, just like all of those snazzy tech startups you’ve been eyeing.)

Companies across the board – even those that have historically been considered ‘old school’ – are realizing something important right now: In order to attract fresh, talented young professionals, they need to step up their game and make themselves as attractive as the no-brainer “cool kid” organizations with whom they compete.

And that’s great news for anyone in this “new to the career world” boat, because it opens up this giant pool of possibilities.

One company at which you can see this unfolding is Wells Fargo, a financial services firm founded in 1852.

Recognizing that fresh-out-of-college talent may not immediately correlate a 164-year-old bank with “really cool place to launch an amazing career,” the organization’s HR leaders and employee branding specialists have embarked on a mission to appeal to young professionals, through both the company’s culture and its on-the-job opportunities.

Among the specific tactics and offerings that Wells Fargo is dishing up are formal programs designed to help emerging professionals stretch, learn and grow in their areas of specialization, a wide array of philanthropic opportunities, and the kinds of perks and benefits that young professionals tend to really value, such as tuition reimbursement (more school, anyone!?) and various wellness perks.  One division even rolls out a new fitness challenge to employees every quarter, including an “Amazing Pace” challenge, and boot camps (and get this, the company pays eligible employees up to $800 just for participating in their health & wellness program)!

“We want early career job seekers to realize that being in banking doesn’t have to mean ‘I work in a stuffy corporate atmosphere’ or ‘I work in a bank branch,’” said Aaron Kraljev, VP of Employer Brand & Candidate Advocacy for Wells Fargo. “We want them to see the wide range of jobs we have to offer, and how much they can gain professionally and personally within an organization they may not have previously considered.”

And Wells Fargo is just one example of an unexpected company offering cool, valuable career paths for emerging professionals. It perfectly illustrates how great stuff is happening at a company you may have never guessed had all that to offer a younger, hipper worker.

And so, if you’re a hip (of course you’re hip) soon-to-graduate or early career professional—and you’ve been torturing yourself over the pressure to find "The One," I vote that you let yourself off the hook right here and now.

Let yourself off the hook for finding the job and then open yourself up to finding one that’s going to set you on a path of learning, growth and fulfillment. (And, potentially, be a heck of a lot of fun.)

And don’t forget that it might just be found at a company founded in the same year that Emma Snodgrass was arrested in Boston for wearing pants in public.

For real.

Photo: Creative Commons (Sara V.)