A Uniquely UVA Guide to Acing Your First Job


Starting a first job is a big leap into unfamiliar territory, away from the experiences that defined your last four years at the University of Virginia and toward some pretty significant unknowns. What will your first job be like? How can you make the most of it? Where will it lead?

Faced with these questions, you will draw on many lessons learned at U.Va. – the knowledge imparted by favorite faculty, the critical thinking honed by rigorous discussion, the research prowess built on countless days in the lab or the bowels of the library.

Certainly, these things will be helpful. But, you might also find yourself relying on smaller lessons – little quirks unique to Grounds, but applicable far beyond them; memories that make you smile and teach you a thing or two about approaching your new job.

Take a look at this list, inspired by some of the Class of 2015’s most memorable moments and approved by the experts in the U.Va. Career Center.

Dress the Part

U.Va. students know how to dress to the occasion, and that goes well beyond the “guys in ties, girls in pearls” label. In your new job, strive to look neat, put-together and professional. Take cues from your boss and coworkers … and maybe a few from your classmates.

Network Like You’re Back in First-Year Dorms

Old dorms or new dorms, we all remember how it felt to walk into your hall on move-in day with little idea who you would encounter there. You will feel the same way walking into your first post-graduation job and, as with your first year, many of the connections you make could far exceed your expectations. Remember that girl you sat next to in O-Hill who became your best friend? The guy in the cubicle down the hall could connect you to your next big break. Never underestimate the value of reaching out to new people.

Find Ways to Stand Out

Last fall, as U.Va.’s football team valiantly took on Miami, one fan stole the show, serenading his plastic goose with a rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and leading veteran ESPN announcers to break down in laughter on-air. We’re not suggesting you bring a duck to work, but it is important to look for creative solutions, step outside of your comfort zone and understand how you can offer unique value to your employer. 


Remember That Honor Extends Far Beyond Grounds

The honor pledge that you signed during Convocation your first year should endure well beyond graduation. Your reputation is one of your most valuable assets as a professional, and from day one you should work to be known for your integrity and character. 

Set Goals and Aim High

U.Va. students are typically unafraid of high expectations. Set goals for your new job and work every day to make them happen. Don’t be afraid to think big. Even if a goal seems unachievable now, it might become much more realistic as you gain on-the-job experience.


Find People Who Inspire You

Behind most successful professionals is a network of people who encouraged them, supported them and spurred them on. Many people might’ve played this role at U.Va., whether it was Ms. Kathy making your day with a warm greeting at Newcomb, a professor introducing you to new material or a classmate encouraging you to join a new CIO. Look for these people in your new job and don’t be afraid to reach out and have lunch or coffee with them.

Be a Lifelong Learner

Thomas Jefferson famously believed that you could never reach an end to learning and that is why we still say “fourth-years” instead of “seniors.” Embrace the meaning behind the jargon and vow to continue learning long after graduation. Seek out professional development opportunities, volunteer for new tasks at work and ask questions when you do not understand.


Media Contact

Caroline Newman

Associate Editor Office of University Communications