College to Job — 5 Tips for Transition

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Mar 05

The hint of spring is here in Seattle-land. Today it is supposed to be sunny and almost 60-degrees, creating that yearning I had while still in school to stay outside longer and have class out on the lawn. Hints of school being over and getting some time off before working during the summer.

For seniors coming out of college this year, though, the change is different. And bigger. They will start their “full time career.”

The work environment is very different than the academic environment, even if working part time while attending school. Transitions from school to full-time work, even without relationship changes (e.g., getting married close to graduating) or moving to a different city (or country) for your new job, place significant stress on an individual.

Here are some hints to help with the transition:

  1. Work pace is faster and longer. College has built in breaks for classes and even some hours that are different then classes. This variety provides a surprising amount of differentiation in what is done resulting in better personal energy management and lower stress. Work is often flat-out all day with back-to-back meetings, lunch at your desk, and no time to process all of the incoming stuff. Being physically fit makes a big difference in your new job.
  2. Unwritten rules count. If you are “late” for work when the culture is to be on time, you’ll get dinged for it early by your peers and/or your manager. There are lots of unwritten — social — rules in the workplace and it would make good sense to learn them quickly. You many not think (or want) this type of stuff to make a difference, but it does.
  3. Performance counts. Performance at work is a lot tougher than school. You don’t get an “average” of your work for a grade, you get a perception of your work and a rating. That perception can come from one screw-up or one below exceptional piece of work you perform.
  4. You are on a team. While academics has its share of teamwork in a particular class or study group, the work place is constantly about teamwork. Not providing your part of the work to the team results in big hits on your career, so ensure you know what is required of you and when so that you are supporting your matrixed team members.
  5. Learn about finances — and saving. While this is probably not your first job, it probably is your highest paying job. The additional money earned needs to be put aside for retirement (yes, really — learn about compound interest and the tremendous power of saving early in tax deferred accounts), pay down debt, and build an emergency fund. Hold off on the cars and all of the stuff necessary to build out a household for a while and get your financial life in order — and on automatic. It makes a big difference.

Every generation wants to go out and change the world and this year’s graduating class will be no different. If you’re going to be working for a company out of college, get engaged with your coworkers, management, and the work to be done. Building a Personal Brand as one who delivers while internally building your financial security goes a long way to reducing stress and successfully managing your new job.

  • t h rive says:

    I think you about covered the important ground. One thing that is good about my (and the upcoming) gen entering the workforce is that they are good at quick adjustments, at least the clever ones are. The ones who aren’t so clever will either 1. try too hard, be labelled as so…2. not try hard enough, and subsequently not be assigned important work. It’s all about finding the right level for your own space.

    …have a gander at my most recent post about adjusting etc.

  • Rebecca says:

    I like the first point the best. I think that’s what I wasn’t prepared for in my first job, and it made it bad. Really bad. Thanks for sharing!

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