College Graduate to Workplace Professional

Whether you’re graduating this year or still have a few years left in school, the impending doom of the “real world” seems to loom over everyone’s heads. Moving to a new place, working 8-5, bills, a salary and responsibility all seem far away and unnatural. No matter where you’re at in your college career, you’ll have to make that transition at some point, so here are some tips for transitioning into your first real-world job as seamlessly as possible.

1. Give yourself grace

When I used the term seamlessly above, I meant it very loosely. The first tip I have is to give yourself grace because you will make mistakes, but that is okay. You aren’t the first to make mistakes or the last. It will take time to learn how to do the job, and it might be frustrating, but that is part of being in an entry-level position. Try to remember that no one expects you to know everything post-grad. Even the CEO started exactly where you’re starting: a little lost, probably feeling unprepared and very overwhelmed. 

While college is a time of learning, classes can’t teach you the systems and expectations of every company, and your new company knows that when they hire you. They didn’t hire you because you already know everything you need to know. They hired you because you’re willing to learn and ready to work to help them succeed.

2. Fix your sleep schedule now

I’m guilty of this one myself. Maybe you’re the college kid that goes to bed by 10 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m. every day, but that’s definitely not the case for me. Now we can go to bed at 1 a.m. and wake up at 9 a.m. for class, go back to bed for an hour and wake up ready to start the day. Unfortunately, once you get your first job, that sleep schedule won’t cut it anymore. Maybe you’ll get lucky, but it’s doubtful you’ll be able to take a nap in the middle of the day. More likely than not, you’ll be expected to arrive at work by 8 a.m. every morning and stay until 5 p.m. Midmorning naps will not be the norm, and after the pandemic, you’ll likely have to drive to work, so you’ll have to wake up every morning even earlier to eat breakfast, get ready and go to work. 

Plus, you’ll just be unproductive, so by the end of your senior year, try to adjust your sleep schedule for the sake of your own health and productivity. 

3. Find a mentor 

This tip is so essential and often unutilized. Take the time to find a mentor who’s already accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be exactly what you want to do, but at least similar. It also doesn’t have to be extremely formal. People often look at having a mentor as someone you report your every move to, but a mentor can help guide you in the right direction you need to go to achieve your goals. It can be someone higher up at your company or someone in a similar field. 

They can suggest new skills you need to learn to level up in your career, share the mistakes they made so that you can avoid them, connect you with others to help expand your network, challenge you to take a risk or next step you’ve been avoiding and so much more. 

4. Connect with your coworkers 

In college, we’re surrounded by other students who are our own age and likely people who think similarly to us. Once you’re out of college, your friends are likely to look very different. It’s normal to have friends of all ages and many different mindsets. A great way to benefit personally as well as professionally is to make friends with the people in your office. 

You don’t have to become best friends with your coworkers, but attend that office happy hour, grab lunch with a coworker on your break, take a minute to socialize with others as you get your midmorning coffee and smile and say “hi” to new people. Who knows, you might actually make a close friend. Plus you’ll enjoy being at work that much more. 

5. Ask for feedback

During undergrad, we receive constant feedback. We get tests and papers back with comments from our teachers, and after presentations, we get feedback on how we did. But in the workplace, that is not the case; we are given a lot more independence and may not receive feedback from those above us. While this may be a difficult transition to make, you can still ask for feedback on a presentation or deliverables from your coworkers and utilize any feedback you do receive to improve moving forward.

You can also use this time to practice self-awareness. Reflect on your presentations and deliverables, looking for ways to improve your presentation, delivery, or communication. Practice and constructive criticism will help you improve and continue to stand out in the workplace. 

While this is not an exhaustive list of what you can do to make this transition easier it is a good place to start. So work hard, ask questions and learn from your mistakes. You got this, you’ll have this 9-5 down in no time.

Written by: Tory Wilkison


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