Tips for Smoothing the Transition from College into the Professional World
Graduating from college is a huge accomplishment and one of the biggest milestones in a young adult’s life. However, the process of leaving your familiar and oh-so-comfortable college surroundings and entering the ever-perverse “real world” isn’t always an easy one. 20-somethings encounter the challenges of separating from many of their closest friends, leaving the world of academia and party, having to dress professionally, and so much more all in just a few short summer months. This can be jarring and, well, just plain difficult for many recent college grads. The “real world” is something all of us have been hearing about since we were teens—in fact, we’ve heard so much hoopla about this “real world” that at this point it’s almost sickening. But, like it or not, our college bubbles look nothing like the real world and the “real” professional world can be a difficult place to gain your footing without some practice and knowhow.
Following are three important tips for recent or soon-to-be college grads hoping to enter the professional world with some amount of confidence and composure.
Rehabilitate Your Sleep Schedule
College students’ sleeping patterns come in two types: there are kids who sleep all the time—they nap regularly and never make it to their early morning classes—and there are kids who never sleep, not a wink. Either way, these sleeping patterns won’t hold up in the professional world. One of the biggest challenges of becoming a working “adult” is maintaining a stable and consistent schedule. In almost all cases, you will have to be at work at the same time every morning (eight or nine) and you will be getting home and eating dinner at around the same time. Your schedule will not change each semester; you will not have large breaks between your “work hours” to catch up on work or take a nap. You schedule is set and that is the way it will be for the rest of your life (not to sound drab or fatal). Your college sleeping patterns just aren’t going to cut it. In order to really function the way you should at your full time job, you’ll need a consistent round of full night’s sleep all week. Adjusting your sleep schedule can be difficult and take time, but it is essential to staying healthy and happy as a professional adult.
Figure Out What “Professionalism” Really Means
In college we exhibit and experience colligate levels of professionalism. Every peer that we meet is a potential good friend and while our professors are certainly authority figures, they are also mentors and personal guides. This is one of the most wonderful and engaging aspects of the college atmosphere. You are all there to do the same thing—learn, grow, prepare. This college level of “professionalism” looks completely differently than it does in the industry. When you are working, you cannot (usually) call your boss by their first name (at least you shouldn’t try that right off the bat) and every coworker you have isn’t going to be your new Facebook friend. Adjusting to the social and professional aspects of the working world can be tricky. Understand that everyone is not here for the same reasons necessarily and all you are supposed to do is complete your job as thoroughly as you can. You should communicate in a professional way and you should conduct yourself in a professional way.
Network the “Real” Way
Networking, networking, networking—this is what everyone talks about for new grads and real job hopefuls. And, in many ways, they’re right. Networking is essential today to finding the job you really want and making waves in your industry of interest. Becoming successful has a lot to do with knowing the right people. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it never hurts to make some professional acquaintances that you can call on for assistance or use as references.
But what does “networking” really mean to a recent college grad? In all likelihood (at least in my case), newbie professionals hear the term “networking” and think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, grabbing a beer with a family friend. While these aren’t exactly wrong, they definitely don’t make up the entire picture. Learn how to network in the professional world. Meet with people you know working in areas you are interested in working and get coffee. Discuss your future goals; take a resume with you; give them a personal card—these are all ways to demonstrate that you are a solid professional acquaintance who is interested in the professional world. It’s people like this and wiggling your way into their inner networks that you may find the tip, job opening, or reference you are really looking for.
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