What I learned from my first job:
1. I didn't know anything.
2. The world was a much bigger place than I had imagined up to that point.
3. The best way to make a mark in the world was to show up and when given a chance to specialize, basically throw yourself into learning everything you could about the area of speciality in order to make yourself somewhat valuable to the organization you were in.
My first job was as an Assistant Basketball Coach in college basketball, at a place called UAB. It featured a hall of fame coach in Gene Bartow, as well as a pedigree created for the program when it was formed out of nothing in the late 70's by Bartow. When I arrived, it was already known as a basketball school. Here's a picture of the kid at work in his first job (email subscribers, enable pictures to view):
Could you find me in that picture? I'm the dapper guy. Not the white suit (yes, you are hilarious), the navy blazer with taupe slacks on the bench just to the right of the action.
UAB is in white uniforms in this picture. The guy challenging the shot for us is a guy named Frank Haywood. He was a kid from the inner city of Birmingham, who was an undersized big man, who got great results because he would absolutely grind on a nightly basis. Every forward we brought in was supposed to take Frank's minutes. It didn't happen. There were lots of lessons with Frank and some of the other kids as well for me. The world is a big place, and the most talented aren't always the ones who get the best results.
But the main lesson for me is #1 and #3 above, and it's what I would impart to my kids. Find a great place to learn, and don't be scared when you find out you know nothing. Realize you know nothing. Learn from everything, but find something you can own and do it better than anyone has ever done it at that organization. It doesn't have to be a big thing, just something that's in the daily operation.
For me, that was advance scouting. I did all the scouting for upcoming opponents by travelling to watch them play and watching about a 24 hours worth of film on everyone we played. No one knew the tendencies better than me the years I was there, so as a 24-year old I was actually involved in meaningful conversations.
Find a niche while you learn, youngsters.