Leaving university behind and embarking on a completely new chapter of your life is both exciting and daunting. Making the transition from education to employment opens up a whole new world of opportunity and responsibility. Naturally, it is difficult for graduates to know what to expect as they leave the ‘bubble’ of university and enter a professional environment, sometimes for the first time. I reflect on the most distinct changes facing the new young professional in the first few months of employment.
The most obvious alteration is the adjustment to your schedule. As a student, you were undoubtedly given the freedom of time. Although students have the responsibility of attending lectures and completing deadlines, contact hours are often minimal and you could organise your time however you wished. Because of this, every day had an element of spontaneity.
In stark contrast, work will consume the majority of your time and learning to manage your time efficiently becomes a significant life skill. Delegating time periods to certain tasks will help you to structure your day and ensure you meet targets. Time management is an important skill to develop and can be transferred into other areas of life.
As your mind and body start to adjust to the routine of working life, you begin to apply your time management skills to your personal life. You find that having a sense of structure and routine means you are motivated to be a lot more proactive and productive in your downtime.
This may mean taking up a hobby, socialising with friends or seeing an exhibition. Working full-time means that time becomes more valuable, and you learn to make the most of your time and really appreciate the free time you do have. This is an unexpected benefit to establishing structure to your daily routine.
Another significant change is that you will become part of a team, part of a company and therefore part of a community. This means you will start working alongside lots of new people; all different types of people of different backgrounds, cultures and ages. This, of course, gives you the opportunity to form professional relationships as well as personal ones. It is a chance to be motivated and inspired by professionals who are further up the career ladder, helping you to shape the type of worker you will become.
A part of this learning curve is that sometimes you will come across people who you find difficult to work with. It is important to learn how to cooperate successfully with all types of people, especially if you are working as part of a team. Teamwork requires maintaining a positive outlook to help drive and deliver, as well as overcome any challenges that arise. Being a valued team member is really important, no matter how hard you work, if you fail to cooperate in a team this will become detrimental to your career.
There is a hierarchy at work, and being managed by your superiors is something you will learn to handle, particularly in the early stages of your career. Figures of power are often under high amounts of pressure, and sometimes you will have to get on with your work without much direction. Using your initiative, you must learn to deliver successfully and cope with the responsibility of completing set tasks. Your relationship with your manager is critical: you must nurture this relationship with effective communication and cooperation. Just as important as learning to be managed, is learning how to manage your manager. This involves the right kind of attitude, patience and respect. This is a necessary step that will help to shape your professional and cooperate image.
Finally, forming and maintaining relationships to build a wider network of contacts will be of the upmost importance. Networking will help to establish a pool of people you can seek for advice, support and opportunities throughout your career. Network with all kinds of people- the man you met in the coffee shop could find you your next job! Socialising is great way to spread your name and goals, and having a respectful reputation will always serve you well.
Transitioning into working life is a complete lifestyle change, and establishing a healthy lifestyle will benefit your career hugely. As a student, missing your 9am lecture because you went out the night before is not a huge problem, but missing work or coming in hungover is detrimental to your performance and therefore career.
You must settle into a routine of eating well, exercising regularly and getting plenty or sleep. This will help you to discipline yourself to remain motivated and proactive from the start to the very end of the day. A strong work ethic will be observed by your employer and help you to benefit from more long-term rewards.
Lastly, finding and maintaining the right balance between your working life and personal life is important. Do not let either side suffer; dedicating all of your time to work is not necessarily a positive thing. Enjoy your free time, but give yourself the chance to relax and rejuvenate. Coming into work on a Monday with a fresh perspective and an enthusiasm for the week ahead will help you to get the most out of your week.
Talent Management Executive @ Vantage Point