Being a college student can be awesome; four years of independence and living away from home! You go to class, eat, sleep, party and repeat, right!? College is not all fun and games, though. During the five years that I spent in undergraduate and graduate school, I learned a great deal about myself and gained valuable work experience. Even though college prepared me with the knowledge and basic skills to be a successful working professional, I still had to learn quite a few things about work life on my own.
I graduated in May of 2016 and began working my first real-world job in September of 2016. I’ve been in the working world for exactly a year now and (even though I’m still learning) I’m much more well-versed on work culture than I ever was before.
One important thing that I learned since graduating from college is that being a student is very different from being a working professional. If you are a current student, soon-to-be grad, recent grad or just new to the working world, this is the post for you. I’m going to tell you eight ways that being a student is different from being a working professional and, more importantly, I will tell you exactly how to make the transition!
1. There’s no syllabus. There is no pre-made list of all the tasks you need to complete for the year along with instructions on how to get them done. This means it’s really important to make your own list. It helps me to make a to-do list for the week, that way as I complete any tasks, I can simply cross them off of my list (you can keep your to-do list in a notebook, on sticky notes, or on a cute to-do list pad that you can find at TJ Maxx, Staples, etc). It is also super helpful to use a planner. If you’re like me and tend to forget things easily, be sure to use some type of electronic version, like an Outlook calendar or the one on your phone. I like to take it one step further and even set reminder alerts for everything I put on my calendars ( I have my phone and Outlook calendar synced so that whether I am on the computer at work or at home on my phone, I will always receive alerts). This helps to ensure that I will not accidentally forget to do something important or miss any appointments or meetings!
2. No passing blame. Unlike in college, you can’t blame your work not being done on not having the syllabus or the book. When you’re in a work environment, you have to take responsibility for your own work with no excuses. Your supervisor does not want to hear sob stories about all the reasons why you couldn’t get your work done on time. This is why it’s important to keep track of all your assignments and make sure you complete them in a timely fashion (planners and calendars are so important)!
3. There are no built-in breaks. One of the best parts about being a student is that you get to be off from school for summer, winter and maybe even fall break (that’s not including all the other little breaks you may occasionally have). For the most part, when you’re working you do not get those lovely breaks. To be honest, the first summer I spent without a “summer vacation” felt a little weird, but I survived it and I’m here to tell the story (lol). Not having built-in breaks takes some getting used to, but if you plan ahead and use your leave time wisely, you can still take off for a few days (or maybe weeks if you’ve been there long enough) in the summer or whenever else you just need some time off.
4. You can’t just skip work. As a college student, skipping class is obviously a thing. For example, if you had a long night the day before class and just didn’t feel like showing up, it was super easy to just not go. Well, at work, it’s not! I mean, you can try it, but, trust me, it will not go well. Your supervisor and coworkers will definitely notice if you’re consistently not showing up to work (and will most likely be making note of it). Make sure you set an alarm for every day that you have to go to work and get there on time (preferably, a few minutes beforehand). It won’t go unnoticed! Time management is crucial in the workplace. It’s hard enough keeping track of all your meetings during the day, but if you also want to go out with friends or workout after you get off, it is so important to plan ahead (ie. put things on your calendar) to make sure that you get everything accomplished that day.
5. Unfortunately, you cannot take naps at all hours of the day. I know; this one is heartbreaking. This one was also particularly hard for me. I was the nap queen in college! I loved to sleep in and take a nap after any class that I could. However, this is not the case at work (currently sobbing). An average workday is eight or eight and a half hours long. So, if you’re like me and napping is a hobby of yours, you’ll have to get used to staying up for eight hours straight at work! It sucks, but with candy, coffee, and sweets you can make it happen.
6. Now you have money. You need to be smart with it. College students are infamous for being broke (most of the time they really are though). Now that you’ll be working a full-time job, you’ll finally have a steady stream of income. This means that you’ll have to be smart with and carefully manage your money. Make sure you’re prioritizing your funds. It’s good to make a list of all the monthly payments you need to make (ie. student loans, gas, car, storage unit) and designate how much money from your paycheck needs to go to each. It’s also super important to familiarize yourself with your pay schedule (ie. every other week on Friday’s). That way you know exactly when to expect funds in your account.
7. Be organized. In college, you can get away with being unorganized (I knew a lot of students who only kept a notebook and a pen in their book bag). I, on the other hand, was not that student ( I was extra and had a whole pencil case with colored pens, sharpies, pencils, etc). Regardless of what kind of student you were, as a working professional, you should focus on keeping your workspace and work life organized. It just makes things so much easier. I work better with a clean workspace so I keep a pack of Lysol wipes at my desk. I also keep sticky notes, labels, folders, assorted pens and highlighters (of course), several notebooks, a desk calendar and a planning book (just to name a few) at my desk. You don’t have to be an insane organizer, but it helps to, at least, have the essentials (a calendar, notebook, sticky notes) to help you keep track of all the things you need to accomplish at work.
8. Email is life. I cannot stress this enough! When I was in college I would occasionally check my email, but in the working world, occasionally is nowhere near enough! I quickly learned the importance of email once I started working. All work professionals communicate via email all. the. time. Anything from scheduling meetings, asking questions, or planning lunch dates are all corresponded through email. Be sure to familiarize yourself with out-of-office messages, email signatures and mail merge. Oh, and always make sure your outlook calendar is up to date (you don’t want someone to look at your calendar thinking you’re free for a lunch date on Monday at one, have them schedule it, but you can’t go because you already have plans that you didn’t indicate on your work calendar)! It’s the end of the world. Trust me. (I’m kind of joking, but kind of serious, lol). Just make sure your email calendar is up-to-date!
So, that’s it! Making the transition from student to working professional isn’t so hard after all. I did it, so I know you can, too!
Go forth with confidence and rock that work world!
Let me know what you think. Was this post helpful to you? Did I miss any important differences? Let me know in the comments!