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A Step into the Real World: Transitioning from Student to Professional

Congratulations! You’ve crossed the academic finish line and are ready to dive headfirst into the exciting realm of professionals. Cue confetti cannons and applause.

But wait, hold on to your graduation cap, because the journey from student to professional is more than just a mere transition. It’s a transformation, a metamorphosis of epic proportions. It’s like evolving from a clueless caterpillar to a confident butterfly, ready to spread your wings and conquer the corporate skies (or self-employment skies, whatever you’re path holds).

So, grab your metaphorical briefcase, put on your imaginary power suit, and join us as we navigate this wild ride together. In this article, I’ll cover everything I wish I knew after graduating into the real world.

Tip 1: Adopt a Healthy Time Management System

Balancing a multitude of responsibilities as a full-time student is no easy feat. From coursework to part-time jobs, extracurricular activities to club commitments, you’ve likely become a master of juggling it all. According to The College of St. Scholastica, approximately 40% of college undergrads work a minimum of 30 hours per week. 

With that being said, you may have already developed a method to handle your time. But, transitioning to a full-time work schedule is different as you are only juggling one job and can focus on that one job. 

Don’t be fooled, you will have many tasks within that job with very real deadlines in which you will have to find a time management system that works for you. Some advice for this from my personal experience are the following:

  • Set up multiple calendars and reminders. 
    • Take advantage of digital calendars and schedule reminders for yourself.
    • Get yourself a physical calendar or planner as well. Writing things down the “old-fashioned” way has its benefits. Plus, having a written plan in addition to digital is a great back-up to have because we all know technology has its moments.
    • With the current environment presenting many work from home options, you may find a remote job. Keeping a schedule is extra important as you may not have coworkers at your side to remind you of upcoming events or due dates.
  • Check your emails very regularly and read them thoroughly.
    • As a student, it can be easy to overlook an email, as many are announcements, not requiring any sort of action. In the professional world, emails become much more important.
    • Make sure to read emails thoroughly to monitor any attachments, meeting invites, or instructions within. 
  • Set up personal goals and deadlines before the actual deadlines.
    • This one is very important. If a project is due in a week, consider setting a personal deadline a few days before the actual deadline to ensure accuracy and give time for correction and feedback.
    • As a student, you may be able to get away with submitting a project a few minutes before it’s due, with potentially minor consequences, such as a docked grade. But in the professional world, or shall I say, the ‘real world’ there are many real issues that can arise from submitting unapproved work, rushed/not accurate work, etc. You want to maintain your level of credibility and avoid any penalties that can arise.
  • Prioritize.
    • Prioritize your work. Having a mom as a nurse, I like to call this “triage” which is a nursing term in which essentially the most important or urgent goes first. 
    • The same applies to the professional world. Some work is more important than others. Some projects have sooner deadlines. Make a priority list to help yourself manage the work without overloading yourself. 
  • Pace yourself.
    • You may find yourself overwhelmed with your workload, just keep in mind, the work will be done, don’t burn yourself out. I repeat, don’t burn yourself out.
    • As stated above, work on the highest priority first, and let the rest follow.
    • Outside events stemming from COVID-19 may present even more distractions and challenges, so it’s imperative that you give yourself a break! 

Tip 2: Let Deadlines be Deadlines

You may have had very lenient professors in your time as a student. We’ve all heard the phrase “if you submit this assignment late, your grade will be affected,” in many different variations. This isn’t always how it works in your career.

As a professional, you will have many deadlines. Some may certainly be extended, of course, that’s a different story, but it’s super important that you take these deadlines seriously. Here’s why:

  • In a team environment, your work may be required for the next steps to take place. 
  • Meeting deadlines eliminate the risk of overlapping with other deadlines. 
    • Once one project is done on time, you are able to start other projects to meet those deadlines as well.
  • Meeting deadlines gives way for approval.
    • Your work may need to be checked for quality standards, which takes additional time. 
  • Meeting deadlines ensure that you are reliable and respectful towards your team.
  • If you are proficient in meeting deadlines, you will be supported and trusted by your team. 

Deadlines are set for a reason. Others are relying on you. If you are constantly missing deadlines, you are making things harder for yourself as the work will build up, quickly. 

Tip 3: Communication is Key

This may go without saying, but communication is key, not just in your student and professional life. As a student, specifically a business student, you’ve most likely covered courses on communication, interpersonal skills, ethics, what have you. As a professional, yes, these concepts are necessary. Let me explain:

  • You may be working with multiple people with various roles on numerous projects.
  • You may be writing plenty of emails.
  • You may be calling many people. 
  • You may be leaving plenty of voicemails.
  • You may be a part of many meetings.
  • You may and most likely will have to host a presentation at some point. 
  • This list doesn’t really end.

It’s important that you are able to ask the right questions and communicate effectively in projects. You must also have the ability to be concise, which essentially is using the least amount of words to get a point across. 

Pay extra attention to what you’ve learned regarding digital communication skills. Since many workplaces have adopted a remote work environment, refer back to what you’ve learned about email communication, phone communication, etc. 

Tip 4: Dress Code 

Let’s be honest, unless you’re taking online classes, we’ve all had those days where you wake up late for class, so you throw on the easiest thing you can find and rush out the door. Nope, not in the professional world. You want to appear clean-cut and professional at work, which may seem like common sense.

What to do:

  • Pick out an outfit the night before.
  • Iron your clothing.
  • Keep your work clothes away from everyday attire.
    • Don’t mix up your wardrobe, be organized.
  • When in doubt, dry clean! (If your attire requires it of course, no need to spend that extra money if you can do it at home)

Be sure to check in with your place of employment to get familiar with their dress code, as they may not have strict guidelines, either way, ditch the habit of choosing a last-minute outfit and make it easier on yourself by doing the above tips. In the end, it’s about dressing for the job you want, not the one you have right? 😉

Tip 5: Be socially aware.

Okay, I’ll admit, I learned this one the hard way. I’m a very open person, hence why I have this blog to put my mind somewhere other than the word vomit I spit at those around me. But anyway, I’ll spare you the long story, and make it a long story short. In a nutshell, I shared a story at work that I shouldn’t have, and it struck a nerve of a bystander, who reported me to corporate. Womp, womp. 

The lesson? Don’t treat your coworkers as you would your childhood friend. 

At school, you can get easily carried away with side conversations, whether it’s in class or on a break, it’s easy to get away with that in school. However, in a professional setting, you need to be just that, professional. This means you need to watch what you say, and avoid any inappropriate side conversations at the workplace. 

Consider these questions below before talking about certain topics in your workplace:

  • Is this topic going to offend anyone?
  • Is this topic related to the project I am working on?
  • Is this topic personal?
  • Is this topic appropriate?
  • Would I regret saying this?
  • Do I really need to say this?

Now, of course, you are going to talk to your co-workers. They may ask about your weekend, ask how certain things are going in life, but keep your surroundings in mind and make sure you are keeping things appropriate. And remember, people are sensitive nowadays. 

You might think working remotely eliminates this problem. In reality, it doesn’t. With many instant messaging platforms and virtual meetings, it’s important that you still consider the above. Plus, being a digital platform, consider yourself being recorded at all times. You never know who’s taking notes.

Last recommendations

If you are a student in your last semesters, I highly suggest finding an internship in your field of study to give yourself a glimpse into the professional world. My personal experience was amazing and is the reason why I am able to write these tips today. 

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Featured Image Provided by Pineapple Supply Co.: https://www.pexels.com/photo/macbook-pro-on-brown-table-near-pot-of-cactus-139234/

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