4 Tips for Recent Graduates on Transitioning to the “Adult World”
It’s that time of year again. College seniors are graduating across the country, and the newsfeeds on social media are filling up with blog posts from these new grads, talking about how amazing the last four years were and how excited, but also completely terrified, they are about the future and their careers. Seven years ago, I was there, too. While I didn’t write a blog post about it at the time, I was equally as excited, and terrified, for the next chapter, and already nostalgic for the glory days of the previous four years.
As each day, month, and year passes after graduation, this feeling wears off. But for now, while it’s still fresh, here’s some friendly advice to help you move forward in “the real world” and your career a little more seamlessly.
- Figure out how your academic experience translates into professional skill. New grads are hearing from everyone that employers don’t care what clubs you joined or sorority fundraisers you washed cars for, and they’re right. Employers aren’t interested in the social life you had in college; what they do care about is how you contributed to the things you were involved in, and how those contributions translated into learned skills you can apply to your job. For example, did you plan the car-wash fundraiser? Did you serve as liaison to coordinate volunteers, collect money raised, etc.? These are all things that show leadership capability and professional skill. You’ve got it, now you need to showcase it.
- Be aware of how much you use the word “like” when you speak. “Like” has continued to creep its way into colloquial English over the years, and while this advice is important for everyone, it is especially applicable to young women coming out of college, because they typically overuse the word most. Using the term out of its intended context has no place in your weekly team meeting or on a conference call with clients. Several years ago, a client told me that every time I said the word “like” where it wasn’t needed, his trust in me dropped by five percent. His harsh comment made me assess my professional language and how I was portraying myself to those trusting me to do a good job for them. Getting ahead in the workplace is hard for women, especially young women, and you don’t want your word choice to affect how others perceive your competence.
- Learn to self-teach. In college, you get used to help desks, office hours, and scheduled one-on-one time with your professors. While a good manager will always make time to meet with team members, he or she won’t necessarily schedule a meeting at your convenience, nor will it be intended as a teaching or learning tool for you. Schedule a meeting with your manager only after you’ve exhausted all other options to try and find a solution to your issue. Valuable employees have the wherewithal to self-teach company processes and seek out solutions to challenges on their own before bringing an issue to a manager. Take time to review and teach yourself about the current projects your team is working on. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what work you should be doing, and don’t decide you don’t know what to do when the answer isn’t immediately obvious. Teach yourself the work flow and find areas where you can be useful. You’ll be much more valuable this way.
- Get your social media in order. The way you portray yourself on social media should be done with care and balance, especially if you add your new professional details, such as the company you now work for and your job title, to your social channels. Your online personality can directly affect the relationship you have with your employer and how you are perceived by future employers. While this seems obvious, many entry-level candidates are passed over for a job simply because their social media had content that was in conflict with company values. You don’t have to completely change what you post, but be more cognizant of how the content makes you appear professionally.
Graduating and heading into the unknown of adult life may seem like an ending to something great, and it is; but it’s also the beginning of something even better. There’s so much more to life than the classroom, and so much more you can learn and grow from as you move into your career. Starting a job and joining the “adult world” doesn’t mean your life will become boring, and it doesn’t mean you have to completely change who you are right now. You simply need to accept that there will be change, both good and bad. As long as you learn something from each passing experience, you’ll never really stop being a student. And maybe, one day, you can even be a teacher to some wide-eyed college grad who hasn’t the foggiest clue what’s coming next.8