8 ways that being a college student is different from being a working professional: Learn how to make the transition.

September 23, 2017

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!

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  • Reply SVG September 23, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    This was super helpful and truthful. I wish I had this post when I graduated. I would have transitioned a lot better with these helpful tips! The only thing I would add is that in the work world if you don’t like someone you have to remain professional and work with that person. Often times college students don’t like their roommates, group project members or classmates and they can switch rooms, groups and classes or at least ignore the person they don’t like. This is not the case with the professional world. You will have to work with people who you don’t like and who may have even did you wrong.

  • Reply Berlin September 23, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Favorite one by far Rocsi, thank you so much for this!

  • Reply Ariana September 24, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Email really is life. It’s the very first thing I check when I wake up. This was a great list full of great pointers.

  • Reply Imran September 24, 2017 at 1:02 am

    helpful article

  • Reply Sabarish September 24, 2017 at 1:29 am

    So true. Nicely intro about the beauty of college life. The same I graduated in 2016.

  • Reply Kerri September 24, 2017 at 2:05 am

    What a great post! I’ve been a university lecturer for more than 10 years, and it would be impossible to count the number of times I’ve worried about whether students would be workplace ready at graduation. Of course they’re not though 🙂 but your advice should help a lot.

  • Reply Adilene September 24, 2017 at 2:41 am

    I’ve worked for many years since my parents own a business. But there is many people that don’t actually have until after high school or college and don’t understand the actual concept of having a real job. These are great tips to give to those that truly need it.

  • Reply Tisha September 24, 2017 at 6:16 am

    I’m about to do the exact opposite- going from a year of internships back to university but I can definitely relate to this- great post, don’t great tips!

  • Reply Claire September 24, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I think I need to remind some of my former colleagues about No. 2! That whole company was about making promises others didn’t know about and couldn’t keep, and dumping the blame on someone else.

    I also try to limit checking my emails to twice a day to improve my efficiency at work. Or else you end up wasting most of your day on checking your email. It takes a while for colleagues to learn to conform to this, but persistence usually prevails.

    So one point I would want to add is to try and improve your efficiency – you’ve a better chance at gaining a promotion if you can hold your own.

  • Reply Rebecca September 25, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    All of these tips are super helpful and true. They should hand out this post at college graduations!

    • Reply admin September 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you!! I agree, lol!

  • Reply Lauren September 25, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    i have nominated you for the blogger recognition award! head on over to my most recent post below to see what you need to do to pass it on!

    • Reply admin September 25, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      Wow, thanks so much, Lauren!!

  • Reply Kate September 26, 2017 at 12:17 am

    The funny thing is I’ve been out of college for 10 years and I still think “I could totally still be in college”. Then I visit my college town and remember how they actual love life and realize this mom of 3 has lost it 😥

  • Reply Timothy Gagnon September 26, 2017 at 12:40 am

    Very interesting post. I feel like college doesn’t prepare people enough for work-life, and this article helps with that. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Stephanie September 26, 2017 at 12:57 am

    #6 Made me lol. Yes email is important at work but remember that just like in college, the best way to really make connections with a client or a coworker is better done offline.

  • Reply Becca September 26, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I love this! super helpful, I will def be sharing with a few people 😉 haha beautiful blog <3

  • Reply Allie September 26, 2017 at 11:23 am

    These are amazing tips. It’s so true that college is really free… you can miss classes with little consequence, spend kind of frivolously and not feel the weight of your crushing student loans yet (haha). Loved the tips on email and spending smart. And definitely no syllabus in the workplace! Like you, I got my first full time job almost immediately out of college, so I learned a ton my first year!

  • Reply Lou September 26, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    This is so true, I remember I used to complained a lot when I was a student and now I’m in the active life and honestly, I miss my school years so much! Thanks for your article!

  • Reply Andrea Nicole Laranang September 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    I just finished college last July and I am I started working last month. I totally agree with you especially #6 haha. A helpful post 🙂

  • Reply silvia September 26, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Love this post <3 There's so much truth to it, and I'd add another one- you don't get to take sick days anymore, not unless you're almost on your death bed hahah

  • Reply Courtney September 26, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    This was a great read!! I graduated college years ago, but all of these things still apply. With this knowledge, I’m sure you’ll continue to succeed in the working world!

  • Reply patsy September 26, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    This blog does not really apply to me for worked since before I graduated Highschool but I can see how it would be helpful for college students. Will save for future reference.

  • Reply Aya September 27, 2017 at 7:56 am

    I can relate with the break-times like it was one of the stuff I missed so much when I started working. Also about the money, I was so used to have a weekly allowance and when I started working, it’s gone!! I’d have to wait for payday to come and budget my money wisely to survive until the next payday.

  • Reply Alexa September 27, 2017 at 10:04 am

    This was so interesting, and super informational to read 🙂

  • Reply Gery G. September 28, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Email is really life! Very useful post!

  • Reply Sandra September 28, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    All great info, sharing with my daughter =)

  • Reply juelzjohn September 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Such an awesome post.I love how real it is and I wish the reality of some of these would have hit me before I graduated campus.
    Especially no 6.I remember the first time I went for a shopping spree and by mid-month, i was broke again.

  • Reply Cleo Childress January 25, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Great post. Will share with current students I know. I definitely could have used this when I was in college.

  • Reply Tanya January 25, 2018 at 10:16 am

    This is so true! They don’t reach us about life after college in school. The email part is so accurate. The one thing I do now more than ever is check my email constantly. Great post!

  • Reply Brittani January 25, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    This was a great and extremely accurate post. I graduated in May 2016 with my Masters and landed my first full-time office job last year. The lack of a syllabus thing is the HARDEST! I always feel like I am failing and don’t know what to do each day, but now I am getting the hang of things. I could have certainly used this post on day 1 of the job.

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