Throughout most of your schooling, you probably had a career in mind that you were working towards. You worked and worked, from high school through college, and people kept telling you that it would all pay off. Finally you walked across that stage at your college graduation and were handed a degree in a field of study that you devoted your entire adult life to studying. Now you’ve started at your first real job. With any luck, you’ve found one that uses all the skills you learned while earning your degree, in a field that actually interests you. On the other hand, you might be in a transition period; you’re working a job that pays the bills, but it’s not really what you want to do the rest of your life. No matter the job, the transition from college life into a full-time job can be difficult. So what changes?
In college, your schedule fluctuates. Some classes can be scheduled around your preferences, and your days are usually varied. Maybe you avoided early morning classes so you could stay out late and sleep in. Now you’re working a full-time job. It might be a normal 9-5 job, Monday through Friday, or maybe your schedule is more scattered and you work weekends. Either way, your new work schedule is likely to be a lot less varied than it was in college, and your employer probably isn’t scheduling the work day around your preferences.
Nodding off in class isn’t the same as nodding off at work. At your first real job, your new employer is paying you to be alert and ready to work when you arrive. That means you need to make sure you get the right amount of sleep each night, and that you stick to a reasonable schedule. The National Institute of Health suggests that adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night, you might need a little more or a little less. Either way, figure out how much sleep you need and make sure you get it every night.
“I can’t believe how many of my employees would be on their cell phones chatting with friends right in front of customers.”
You hit the snooze button one too many times and now you’re running late. You throw on your sweats from yesterday and run to class. That might work in college, but you can’t do that in an office. Every day you come to work, you are representing yourself and your company. Here are a few key guidelines to maintaining professionalism in the office.
- Be early or on time, but never late.
- Make sure your clothes aren’t wrinkled.
- Don’t look like you came off the set of The Walking Dead. Make sure your hair isn’t pointing every direction and that you have an overall well-groomed appearance.
Remember you’re representing yourself and your company when you come to work. That means how you dress, how you act, you’re making an impression. Make sure it’s a good one.
Starting on the Ground Floor at Your First Real Job
You were at the top of the totem pole as a senior in college; you’d already proven yourself to your college friends and to your professors. Now, in this new job, you’re probably at the bottom. All that hard work you did in college doesn’t just land you a job at the top, you have to work your way up. Look at it as a new challenge. Make a good impression on your coworkers, your boss, and your boss’s boss. Network within your company and outside of it. Make connections with people that can help you grow and learn, and who will make you a more valuable employee.
Transitioning from college into your first real job can be a jarring experience. After all, you’re not just transitioning into a new job, you’re transitioning into a new lifestyle. Maybe you moved across the country for this new position, or maybe this is the first time you’ve lived in your own apartment. The point is, the pains of transition are to be expected. Just prepare yourself to learn new things and remember, college prepared you for a career, but there’s plenty left to learn.