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College to Career: One Is Not Like the Other

Menlo College
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Published on June 17, 2015

For the past few years, you have immersed yourself in the college experience.  You have taken advantage of the opportunities on campus, served in leadership roles, done well academically, and prepared yourself to become part of the work world.  Your internship is about to start and you are ready to make your mark!

Are you ready to make your mark?

Your internship is the first professional experience out of college and will serve as a glimpse of what the real world after college will look like.  While you have been enjoying your college experience, it is now time to take the first step and become a professional in your career.

Yes!  You have a career!  Let’s make sure you are ready for it.  No matter what the setting of your internship, behaviors and attitudes that exist in college are not necessarily suited for the office.  And, it is important to make any adjustments needed in order for you to have a successful transition from college to your career.

No more all-nighters.
Often a result of procrastination, college students are notorious for waiting until the last minute to study for a test, write a paper or prepare a presentation.  Waiting until the night before (or early morning of the day) something is due is sometimes doable in college, and the worst consequence most likely will be a low grade because you were not prepared.  Not necessarily a deal breaker.  And, you can get away with looking like you pulled an all-nighter because all you are doing is going to class and nobody really cares what you look like.

Quite the opposite in the working world.  You need to ensure you have adequate time for projects or responsibilities, and not wait until the last minute to get things done.  While in college your worst consequence may be a low grade, in the working world, it could cost you your internship, as well as future job opportunities.

Talk is cheap.   And, could cost you.
Conversations that take place on a college campus between peers, and even between students and faculty tend to be more informal in nature.  And, peer to peer conversations, even more so.  In fact, many of the conversations that happen on college campuses surround gossip and focus more on the irrelevant college activities that occur on a Friday or Saturday night.  While this is the norm in college, the office setting is not a place for gossip or meaningless conversation.  The result of this behavior could change how people perceive you, and cost you a job opportunity.

It’s all in the presentation.
Whether you roll out of bed five minutes before class or pick your daily outfit off the pile on your floor, how you dress at school is not of great concern to you, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be.  How you present yourself in the office, however, is a completely different story.  In college, when you are dressed sloppy, or inappropriately, the worst that might happen is that you get a strange look from someone.  No big deal!  At your internship, how you present yourself should be a top priority.  This can sometimes be hard, especially if you are on a budget.  Business attire is something that accrues over time, as most of us don’t have extra money to go buy a career wardrobe.  What you can make sure of is that you have the basics covered.  Brush your hair and teeth, avoid wearing clothes that don’t fit, and invest in an iron.  It doesn’t matter how nice your shirt or slacks are–a wrinkled outfit is a turn off.

You are not all that…yet.
You’ve reached your senior year in college.  You’ve done your time and are ready to swim with the big fish! You’ve just landed the internship of a lifetime and you are confident that it will lead to a full-time position.  Jackpot!  While this is an excellent position to be in, it is important not to let your success go to your head, or to be overly confident during your internship experience.

While you may feel that you can take on some of the more challenging projects at your internship, you will most likely start by doing some of the more simple tasks.  You will make copies during your internship, as well as other basic responsibilities.  Do them well and with as much enthusiasm as if you were in charge of a large project. You will be recognized for doing all tasks well, and excelling at the simple tasks will quickly result in more responsibility.  Having an attitude of being too good to do what is perceived as more menial tasks will not reflect favorably on you.  In order to move up in your career, you have to demonstrate an ability to handle the next step. Given that you are just starting out, you will need to show your supervisor that you can handle the basic requests as well as the more challenging tasks.

Realize the opportunity you have.
Regardless of what kind of internship experience you have, it is experience, which is what your resume needs at this point. Even if you don’t see your internship as somewhere you would want to work full-time, it is a great opportunity to build on some of the academic experiences you’ve gained in college and to show future employers that you have what it takes to make it in your career field.  And, you do have what it takes.  Show up on time, be present, dress for success, be on your best behavior and take initiative.  These will go a long way in your internship and will demonstrate that you indeed, have what it takes to swim with the big fish. Good luck!

Andrea Peeters is the Career Services Specialist at Menlo College, a small undergraduate business college in Northern California. She works with all students and alumni on general career and professional development as well as supports the internship program.  Prior to coming to Menlo, she worked as a High School Counselor and Adjunct Faculty teaching personal development courses in central California.

Menlo College

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