Transitioning From College To Career

By Matt Weisman, Intern at DRI & Senior at Indiana University

So you’ve just graduated from college. Congratulations—and welcome to the real world. Now it’s time for your first job. Whether it’s your dream job or a job your father’s friend found for you at a company you’ve never heard of, you’re in for a shock. Going from rolling out of bed at 11:50 a.m. for your 12:00 p.m. class to having a 9 to 5 job isn’t easy. So how does one properly make the transition?

Internships can provide an opportunity to show you how to be more professional, but old habits are resurrected upon returning to school. The reality of the situation is that there is no “right” way to transfer from college life to work life. But there are some helpful tips to help the transition a little smoother.

Change partying habits. In college, every night had the potential of being a party night. However, it’s time to curb your drinking and behavior.  It’s not going to be fun to deal with a full day of work when you have a hangover or just a few hours of sleep. Plus, this type of behavior can cost you the job.

Get social with co-workers. During your college days, you were very social. Just transition that to your career. Take time to get to know your colleagues. Find out what you might have in common with them and what they like to do after work. Perhaps they like to work out, Zumba, or simply meet at local pubs for Happy Hour. Also, if there’s a Young Professionals Group at the organization, join it. Your social life doesn’t have to end because college did.

Get enough sleep. Telling yourself that you’re going to bed at midnight doesn’t mean crawling into bed and binging on Netflix until 2 a.m. It’s hard to be productive and successful at work if you’re sleep deprived and lacking energy. So make sure that you’re getting the necessary amount of sleep. If you have to get up early, go to bed early—your body will thank you in the long-run.

Exercise. This is important to help clear your mind and release stress. Even a light workout a few times a week will help you feel better and be more productive at work. Whether you get up and exercise before work, hit the gym on your way home, or even just go for a walk at lunch, make sure you’re doing something active during the week.

Read. Even if you didn’t enjoy reading in school, it’s a good way to stimulate your mind and learn something new. The beauty of reading on your own is that if something doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to read it. Find something you enjoy—fiction or otherwise—and read when you have some downtime. You won’t be given any Scantron exams in the real world, so if you want to learn something new, read about it.

De-clutter surroundings. Sure, you don’t live with your parents anymore and it may seem trite. But avoiding clutter is just another thing that will ultimately help you clear your mind. Being able to think clearly will benefit you in every aspect of your life. Coming home from work and not being overwhelmed by finding your things strewn about will help you maintain your sanity.

Accept change. You may have your whole life planned out now that you’ve graduated. But have you accounted for any change within that plan? Sooner or later, life is going to call an audible and you’re going to need to deal with it. Do you let it knock you down and affect your performance at work or diminish your personal life? It’s great to be organized and have a plan, but don’t let it cause a crisis when something strays from that plan.

If you keep these seven things in mind, the transition should be smoother than if you were to approach it with blissful ignorance. One last thing to keep in mind is that your first job should not dictate the rest of your life. If you don’t love it, you can find a new passion. Just make sure that you put your best effort into it, even if it’s not your dream job. Having good references is always important.