Transitioning from the classroom to a full-time career can be difficult for many young professionals. It’s hard enough just getting a job in your desired career path that most can’t spare the time to worry about anything else. Once you find full-time employment, however, there’s a good chance you’ll face some culture shock when faced with the differences between life as a student and life as a career professional.
Here are ten ways you’ll have to adapt, and some tips on how you can help ease the transition.
1. From Essays & Exams To Jobs
Students have an array of assignments and tests for multiple classes. It can be a bit of a culture shock when you get your first full-time job and it involves a narrower assortment of subjects and tasks to deal with. Eventually, there’s a good chance that you’ll come to feel stuck in a rut.
Tip: Ask your boss if there’s a new type of task that you could handle. This can help you stay stimulated, gain a more diverse assortment of skills, and impress your boss with your willingness to work and evolve as an employee.
2. From Classes To Work
Your schedule as a student is flexible and constantly changing from day to day, term to term, and year to year. However, your job will have a fairly set schedule: 9:00 to 5:00, Monday to Friday, for almost every week of the year—or something close enough to that.
Tip: Make sure you get plenty of sleep each night before work, or your focus and performance at work will suffer. Keep any late night outings for the weekends.
3. From Free Rein To Strict Priority
When you had a pile of assignments to finish and tests to study for, you decided what to finish first or what to focus on the most. That won’t be your call to make, not early in your career anyways. You can finish a task you thought was important, only to find out that your boss thought otherwise.
Tip: Make a list of all your given tasks to keep track, and when you’re given a new assignment just point to the list and ask your boss what your priority should be.
4. From Jeans To Suits
There might not be any expectations on you as a student when it comes to appearances—you could get away with wearing pajama bottoms and a hoodie to a lecture, with unwashed and unkempt hair. However, a much higher standard will be demanded from you at your job to be dressed and looking professional.
Tip: Look to your peers to see what dress code culture they use, and at the very least match them. If you want to build a strong reputation, take it up a notch in your dress and cleanliness.
5. From Slanguage to Language
Similar to how you look, there will be expectations on how you behave—how you speak to co-workers and clients, your body language, your manners, and so on. Being professional in this manner means being respectful at the very least, and friendly if you want to stand out.
Tip: Start being purely professional and respectful with your co-workers, and establish a working rapport with them. If you come across a casual conversation between colleagues on a topic you’re confident in, try to politely include yourself but don’t force it.
6. From Knowledge To Skills
In school, the emphasis was mostly on knowledge—gaining knowledge and then proving you have it through essays and exams. In the workplace, however, the emphasis will be on what skills you have, or what you can do. It still requires knowledge on your part, but only in terms of practical knowledge.
Tip: Many larger companies have training programs and might also sponsor outside classes you could take, ask your co-workers and bosses about them if you’re feeling out of your depth with anything.
7. From No Money To Lots
As a student, you won’t make a lot of money and what you make is used for school. It can be very exciting when you get your first paycheck from your full-time job, but it can be a distraction. You might make more money, but you’ll also have responsibilities and bills to consider, like car payments or student loans.
Tip: Make a list of your monthly expenses how much money you have left over for yourself. Consider setting a portion of that extra cash aside in every month to build up a safety net in savings.
8. From Care-Free To Responsibility
School gives you a lot of room to fail. If you miss the due date of an assignment, you only get docked a portion of the marks and can sometimes negotiate with your professor to avoid even that. You won’t have that luxury in your career, and missing deadlines will cost you a raise, a promotion, or your job.
Tip: Send a steady stream of updates to your boss about the progress you’re making. They’ll be more understanding if you let them know that you’re struggling with something as it comes up than they would if it’s too late.
9. From Your Age To All Ages
In school, your peers are all your age, but in the workplace your co-workers will be from all age groups. There will be some differences in professional and personal beliefs, practices and mannerisms. You’ll have to be understanding of this when you interact with them, or you’ll risk making a poor first impression.
Tip: During your first few months, do more asking and listening than talking. You can learn a lot from each of your co-workers, and eventually you’ll figure out how to interact with them in a friendly and respectful manner.
10. From Short-Term To Long-Term
As a student, it’s difficult to form lasting relationships, as you’ll have many different classmates and teachers in short bursts of time. In your professional life, networking is crucial to advancing your career, and the key to networking is to create strong, lasting relationships with colleagues, clients, and employers.
Tip: Every day, take a bit of time to build and maintain your network of relationships with past and present colleagues and bosses, and make sure you add all of your connections to LinkedIn!