Three Challenges of Transitioning from College to Career (And How to Crush Them)

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One of the toughest things college students face is the transition from university life to full-time work. The hours are different; the expectations are more challenging, and you often don’t have your best friends around anymore to help ease the stress.

Here are the top three challenges you’ll face in your transition to the work world and how to combat them.

Working 9 to 5

Having to be somewhere five days a week, eight hours a day is a big adjustment. You’re used to making your own schedule, blowing off class when you feel like it, and having a week off for spring break. No such luxuries in the work world. It’s a different schedule altogether.

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I’ve had new grads come to work for me who confessed that sitting in front of a computer all day was hard for them. They just weren’t used to having to stay in one place all day. It’s understandable, but you don’t want to look like a slacker who can’t handle a desk job. So how can you maintain your sanity?

Take a Walk

Get out at lunch and walk. Ditch your cell phone and go electronics-free for thirty minutes. Take micro-breaks and walk the stairs in the building. Just getting your heart beat up and a change of surroundings will help.

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Run Errands

Tell your boss you need a change of pace now and then. If there’s errands to run, parking meters to plug, lunch for the employee meeting to pick up, offer to do it. Not because you’re the lowly recent grad, but because you need to get out.

Smartphone Withdrawl

Unless your gig is to be on Snapchat all day, you’re going to have to curtail your texting and social media on the job. Yes, you can probably get away with a fair amount of online connecting throughout the day, but the price you pay is that you’re never completely engaged at work. It creates a never-ending bad feedback loop.

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If you always have part of your mind on your Snapchat feed and your friends’ texts, you’re never 100% committed to your job. The inability to focus will produce lackluster work, and  you won’t fully connect at work so that you can make a difference. There are plenty of studies that prove that the constant distractions and inability to focus will cost you plenty in your career.

Restrict Your Cell Phone Use

Leave your phone in your car when you go to work. I can hear you screaming from here, but just try it for a week and see how your productivity at work improves. Yes, you’ll initially feel naked without it, but the constant need for social media assurance is killing your ability to focus on the job. If you haven’t seen Simon Sineck’s video on millennials and their devices, it’s a must-see. He artfully outlines how the constant interaction with your phone is undermining your ability to relate to others and make an impact at your workplace.

After you’ve successfully weaned off the constant device checking, bring the phone into the office and leave it turned off in a desk drawer. Schedule three times a day when you will check it and stick to the schedule. Turn it off in between those times. Over time, you’ll stress less about what you’re missing and be more successful at work.

Assignment Expectations

When you handed in an assignment at school, you knew if it was an A paper or a this-will-get-me-a-C paper. Moving into the work world is challenging because there are no C’s. You have to hand in A’s all the time, or you’ll soon be branded as the weakest link. If you hand in enough below average work, you’ll be looking for another job in short order.

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Ask For Clarification

When you get a task at work, be sure to ask when it’s due and what the expectations are around it. Who is ultimately going to see the work? The CEO or an intern? Who else is counting on your contribution and how will it affect their ability to do their job? And always, always make sure you understand why this particular assignment is important. If you don’t, you may mistake something critical for busywork and cost the company money and possibly yourself a job.

No Task Is Too Small

I had a recent college grad who was assigned to upload products into a client’s website. She forgot to keep checking on the upload, and the software got stalled at product #300 out of 10,000. She didn’t notice the error all day. To her, it seemed like a boring, menial task but to the client, whose website she was supposed to update, it meant products available in an overcrowded warehouse that couldn’t be sold. It was a big deal to them. When we took her to task for her lack of attention to the assignment, she got offended and handed in her resignation. She saved us the trouble of firing her. What you do at work, no matter how small it seems, it matters. Treat it as such.

It is tough to go from classes to career. It’s a whole different set of rules and expectations. You may find it exhilarating; you may find it overwhelming. Keep in mind that every college grad you’re working with has been there. Be honest about your adjustment worries and ask for help.

Working for Yourself

And if you’re thinking that 9 to 5 and working for someone else isn’t for you, on March 30th and April 6th I’ll be sharing what agency owners around the country and in the UK learned in their first year of running their own marketing firm.

Marilyn Heywood Paige is the Vice President of  FiG Advertising and Marketing in Denver Colorado. She earned her Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University in 2013.

Other articles by Marilyn Heywood Paige

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