Every other Tuesday, you’ll get actionable tips to land your dream job. Subscribe

How to Get Your First Office Job (8 Tips)

Getting your first office job after working retail can be a bit of an adjustment, but it's absolutely possible. Read our guide on how to make the switch.
How to Get Your First Office Job (8 Tips)

You aren’t alone.

Many people worldwide are looking forward to their first office job — but most of those people can also attest to how difficult it can be to find a more professional, office-based role when you don’t have the experience.

Even if all of your work experience is tied to the service industry, transitioning to an office job isn’t impossible.

You need a guide for exiting the service industry and stepping into a more professional role, and we’ve got exactly that for you in this article.

Get your first office job by implementing the tips below.

Understand How Office Jobs Differ From Service Positions

You gain valuable work experience in service positions. You can transfer most of what you learn to an office job with no problem. But it’s essential to understand how your role in an office job will differ from that in your service work.

Here are a few things to focus on when examining the differences between an office job and a service position:

  • The pace in the work environment
  • Your specific role and daily responsibilities
  • Management style
  • The attire you wear to work
  • Who you’re working with
  • Hours and weekly schedules

You’ve likely gotten used to how service jobs work – schedules aren’t fixed and ever changing, you probably work most (if not all) weekends and the rapport with your co-workers and managers is probably pretty casual.

Some consider these parts of a service job to be perks, but it may be more of an adjustment than you realize for these things to change in your first office job.

Hours at your first office job are likely to be fixed and the environment pretty stagnant. You can, of course, form professional relationships, but there’s generally a different standard for how co-workers communicate with each other.

Prepare yourself for the differences before you change career paths. And speaking of career paths…

Define Your First Office Job Career Path

What do you want to do for work? What industry do you want to break into? How do you see your professional life evolving?

It’s essential to answer these questions to define your career path. Going for your first office job after working service is much easier when you know where you’re going and why.

Think about your current skill set, interests, and desires when determining the best career path for you. Imagine how you want your day-to-day to be and who you want to work with.

Also, consider whether you’ll need additional training or education to break into the industry or profession you want to be in.

With your career path in mind, move on to creating a great resume.

Create a Great Resume For Your First Office Job

The first thing most hiring managers look at to determine if you’re a good candidate is your resume. It must be polished, professional, and highlight what makes you the best match for the role.

(Check out our library of free resume templates)

Focus on your transferable skills. This is important because the work you’ve done in service may not fit the job description exactly. You have to show how what you did in your service position can be useful to the office position.

Also, tailor your resume to each job. Use keywords and phrases from each job description in your resume to show the company you understand what they need. Then, prove it by showing them you’ve done exactly that for another company or something close.

Be Intentional in Your Job Search

Don’t apply to any and every job. Instead, approach your job search with intentionality. Narrow down your job search to specific companies you want to work for, jobs, or industries.

The companies you choose should align with your core values and workplace culture needs. The jobs you apply for should have responsibilities you’ll enjoy and excel at. And the industries you want to get into should pique your interests and align with your career goals.

Also, don’t limit yourself to job search websites to find open positions. Instead, reach out to people in your professional network to learn about job opportunities. Here’s a list of the top US cities for finding a job, it might help.

Ask recruiters how you can better your chances of landing your first office job after doing all service work. Or approach family and friends about your plans to leave service behind and see if they have any leads.

With so much involved in the job search process, practicing effective time management is crucial.

Practice Effective Time Management

You’ve probably heard this before: “Searching for a job is a job.” You should be filling out applications, building rapport with companies, and networking like it’s a job.

You don’t have to do it for eight hours a day. However, you do need to put in work every day to get your first office job.

(Read our Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Job Search)

Practicing effective time management will help you in your job search. It’ll also help you with the transition to office work.

The service industry can be fast-paced, but so can working in an office environment. Also, your daily responsibilities may require more mental energy, time, and effort. So, you must be prepared to use your time wisely every day. Good time management can also help reduce the learning curve you’ll face when starting your new office job.

Practice effective time management by:

  • Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals
  • Taking frequent breaks
  • Limiting screen time
  • Setting intentional work times
  • Planning the next day the night before
  • Trying different methods like the “Pomodoro Technique” or the “Pickle Jar Theory”

Once you’re immersed in your job search, you’ll notice how many companies ask for a cover letter. Be sure yours is ready to go.

PS: Ineffective time management is one of the top work mistakes. Start practicing now so you know how to be respectful of others’ time and your own time when you’re in the office.

“Sell” Yourself in Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter is one of the best opportunities to make a case for yourself as the best candidate for a role, especially if you’re trying to land an opportunity outside of your current work experience.

“Sell” yourself in your cover letter. Share the story behind how you acquired all the skills and experience on your resume. In addition, talk about your ability to get the job done despite your background.

(Read our guide on How to Write a Cover Letter)

You’ll eventually land an interview if you stay diligent in your job search. The first step in dominating the interview is your look.

Build Up Your Business-Professional Wardrobe

Service workers can typically get by with a more casual outfit. But, on the other hand, companies require a more business-professional look in an office role.

Build up your business-professional wardrobe to prepare yourself for your first office job and the interview.

Start with neutral colors like tan, navy blue, white, and black. Slacks, pencil skirts, elegant dresses, and suits are great staple pieces in a business-professional wardrobe. You also want to acquire blazers, shirts, shoes, and accessories that scream business-professional.

Your business-professional wardrobe doesn’t have to be completely void of personality. It’s all about how you put together patterns, textures, and colors in a way that speaks to your professionalism.

Practice Answering Common Interview Questions

The last thing you want to do is “wing it” in an interview. Interviewers can absolutely tell when you’ve come to the interview unprepared. Not having the exact work history and experience the company is looking for is already against you. Don’t add a terrible interview to that list.

Practice answering common interview questions. You can do it alone in the mirror or with a loved one. Pay attention to your body language and facial expressions. Get feedback on your responses and improve them before the actual interview.

You can also use a software like Big Interview that was specifically designed for this purpose.

We have dozens of practice sets across hundreds of industries that will quickly get you up to speed on interview best practices, how to discuss your transferable skills, and how to handle tricky interview questions like, “what is your greatest weakness.”

If that sounds like something that would be of help to you, learn more about it here.

Join Big Interview

Great interview preparation is about practice. It’s not enough to merely read advice. You have to put it into action. Big Interview’s practice tools simulate live interviews in real time, making you really good, really fast, guaranteed.
Get Instant Access Today

Be sure you have a solid answer to why you want to leave the service industry and break into office work. Also, be prepared to converse about your ability to transition into an industry or role that’s entirely new to you.

Practice your answers to these common interview questions: (This guide will walk you through exactly how to structure your answers)

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
  • How would you excel in this particular role?
  • Do you prefer working on a team or individually?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Can you tell us about when you had to navigate a stressful situation?

Come to the Interview With Questions

“Do you have any questions for me?” If you don’t, you should. Interviewers remember the candidates that ask them meaningful questions.

Be memorable. Ask questions that matter to you. They could be about company culture, what’s expected in the role, or the technology you’ll be asked to use. You could also ask about the people you’ll be working with, scheduling, and compensation.

You don’t have to come with ten questions. Two or three open-ended questions will do.

You’ll also stay top of mind for hiring managers when you follow up after the interview.

Follow-Up After an Interview

Hiring managers are looking for things that tell them that a candidate is the right fit and serious about the position — that they’re going to do what it takes to land the opportunity. Following up after an interview could be that thing.

Send a thank-you email after every interview, and send it within 24 hours. Thank the interviewer for their time and express what you loved about the interview. Let them know your plans to continue the dialogue until they reach a final decision. Keep it short and straightforward.

Following up after an interview could get you an offer of employment. When you do get that offer, negotiate your terms.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

Before you get an offer, don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms of your employment. There are things we want from a company if they want us. Ask for them. Negotiate your compensation, benefits package, schedule, and specific responsibilities.

Don’t ever feel like you have to settle because you don’t have the work experience or skills they’re looking for. You’ve got a lot to offer, and they’re lucky to have you as much as you’re fortunate to receive an offer from them. Fight for what you want and deserve.

(We have an entire course dedicated to learning how to negotiate the salary you deserve inside Big Interview)


Getting your first office job after working in the service indusry isn’t hard with the right intention and strategy. However, it might take time. So, be patient in the process. Then, conquer the entire journey, from application to offer, with the tips above and a whole lot of confidence.


Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Pacific Northwest. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to workplace culture and business strategy. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on LinkedIn.

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

Turn interviews into offers

Get our Chief Coach’s best job-seeking and interviewing tips in your inbox every other week.

Share this article