Assuming that post-university employment qualifies as a real job, I'll talk about my first one.
I suppose I made my career-defining decision based on who was willing to hire me. I packed up my wife, and moved her for the second time. This is where I realized that my education was really just beginning. I learned the details about Quality Management. It all seems so long ago, but there was a day when I understood what SPC, TQE, Q1, TFE, etc. stood for, what they meant, and why they were important. It's not that they're no longer important, it's just that I haven't practiced any of it for so long.
Computers were becoming a big part of working life, but I started out not having a computer assigned to me and the computers we used were not connected to each other. Communication was still paper memos and telephone calls. It feels very strange to look back this far; we didn't even have voice mail, let alone email.
My first job out of university, and it was actually the last time I was employed by someone who didn't know me before the first interview.
I didn't stay very long at the first company. My boss had moved on to a better opportunity, and I asked him if there would be a place for me there as well. I was happy when he said yes, and it was difficult to wait for 5 months until the project was far along enough for there to be a place for me.
I learned the power of a personal network, and what 'character reference' really meant. I'll always appreciate the people I worked with on that first job. Getting back to SPC and statistics, etc. - I learned that it takes measurement to be able to improve.
Moving on from there was a good move; the plant closed a few years later.