The 5 Most Important College-to-Career Transitions to Conquer

college to career

When you toss your cap at graduation, you feel a surge of empowerment that real life is finally beginning. When you’re young, milestones come close together, and that reflects how you measure the course of your life.

The transition from college to career opens the great expanse of the rest of your life and what to do with it. Naturally, you feel a mix of excitement and panic. Here are five tough adjustments you’ll face and conquer with determination in your adjustment process.

Balancing Social and Professional Networks

Graduating from college is different than graduating from high school. When you start college, everyone is on a level playing field for the most part, with a blank slate to build on. When you start your career, your friends go on with their lives and may move across the country.

Graduation creates gaps in your support systems and social routines. So, you build new ones.

Your social and professional lives may overlap somewhat, but these are typically separate. Amp up existing social and professional support systems. Ask for help where you need it.

To make new friends and expand your horizons, join meetup groups for specific interests, or attend local events such as trivia nights and social dancing lessons. Many work cultures also recognize the importance of socializing at work and develop activities for employees to engage each other — ask for a list of these events. Attend professional networking events and conferences. Don’t overload yourself, but realize the importance of balancing social and professional networks.

Adjusting to a Different Schedule

In college, you had blocks of time between classes, but the schedule shifted every semester. Did you stay up to study all night, or did you schedule specific study periods based on your classes? Your career schedule will differ —  especially as you conduct the job search process and adjust to a new job schedule.

You may feel tempted to skip sleep. When you skip sleep to study or work, any short-term productivity you gained in time fades.

When you get quality sleep, your brain eliminates toxic proteins from neurons — these neural activity byproducts adversely affect your focus, mood and performance if you don’t give your body a chance to 8remove them, costing businesses more than $63 million annually in productivity loss. Researchers link sleep deprivation with risks of developing stroke, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. More than half of Americans regularly get fewer than seven hours of sleep, but most folks need between seven and nine hours every night to function optimally.

Develop a routine that works for you and allows you to get adequate sleep. Go to bed and wake up at regular times. Schedule time periods for job searching, and don’t take work home with you when you start your new job. Most of all, give yourself a transition period and recognize the importance of taking time out for yourself.

Moving Beyond Assessment Focus

You must move beyond the assessment focus mindset to cultivating a growth mindset. In college, you may have skimmed your textbook to absorb enough information to pass your exams, only for it leak out of your brain later. However, don’t skim through your training manual, assuming you’ll pick up knowledge on the job. While it takes time to adjust, winging it won’t get you to your career goals. Orient your focus toward growth and learning.

Develop a continuous improvement plan, and assess your existing skill set. Where are you? How will you check in with yourself as you move through the material and your learning experiences?

Learning isn’t linear and requires flexibility, and your continuous improvement plan and learning style differ from others. X doesn’t equal Y, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t each correct. Document your experiences and what works for you to continuously improve, but look at your language. Instead of “review,” use “improve.” Instead of “study,” think “retain.” The word choices you use when you talk to yourself are just as important as those you use on a resume.

Being a Team Player

You worked on various assignments with a partner and planned club activities with a group, but being a team player at work encompasses more of your time. You flew solo during your college career as you studied and managed your assignments, tests and achievements.

At work, you’re always a team player, completing tasks in order of priority assigned by the company. That’s subject to change and frequently shifts. You must remain flexible. Practice active listening, so you can realize where you’re wrong and meet others with mutually beneficial solutions. Don’t stay in the background. Go over your goals with your supervisor, and strategize ways to be a better team player while shining as an individual.

Dressing the Part

Sadly, you can’t show up to work in your pajamas. Depending on the dress code, your expression through style may feel hindered or enhanced. It’s also in perception — find out in advance what the dress code is and look at your existing basics.

See at this as a challenge to channel your style on a primed canvas. Professional clothes don’t have to feel uncomfortable or lack style. Different necklines, lengths, colors, prints and tailoring offer versatile outfit combinations.

Create a professional capsule wardrobe by first shopping your closet for items you love, and pick a favorite power item, such as purple pumps or a brightly patterned tie. Then, pick two neutral bases, such as a pencil skirt or tailored pants with a textured black blazer. Finally, focus on two colors for accents — the purple pumps count.

Dressing the part doesn’t mean you have to dress like a clone of everyone else at the office or fit into a corporate box. Adapt to the dress code in a way that lets you show off your style the way you show off your talents while being a team player. It’s the same philosophy.

The College To Career Transition Can Make All The Difference

Transitioning from college to career comes with tough challenges. You must adjust to a new work schedule and balance your social and professional lives, while dressing a new way and learning how you function at work.

You’re moving into a major milestone in your life as you start your career, and it’s more than passing a road sign on the way to career excellence. Take this next step with confidence in yourself, and continue to work hard — it will pay off in many life-changing and rewarding ways.

Sarah Landrum

After graduating from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR, Sarah moved to Harrisburg to start her career as a Digital Media Specialist and a writer. She later founded Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate the work world and find happiness and success in their careers.