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Cubester® Chat - 5 Tips to Transition From School to Work

Posted on 10-31-2013
Cubester® Chat - 5 Tips to Transition From School to Work

By Erin O'Malley and Matt Powalski

Understanding what is expected of you at work can be difficult, especially if you’re a recent graduate. While college may not have been easy, it did provide a roadmap to secure your degree; classes even provided a syllabus to let you know exactly what you needed to do to obtain that sought-after “A.”

Unfortunately, work does not come with a “How-To Guide” to be successful. However, these five tips can provide some structure to head in the right direction. 

#1: How to Act
It’s finally here – the day you will be getting paid for all your hard work. Starting in a new environment can seem like your first day of college. It’s important not to pretend you know what you’re doing, like trying to fit in with the upperclassmen when you mistakenly sat in nuclear physics instead of English 101. When your boss asks you a question beyond your knowledge, don’t pretend to be an expert. Instead, embrace your rookie status. Speak up and ask questions. Remember that no one is an all-star on the first day of work. 

#2: What to Wear
Wearing sweatpants and flip-flops to your college classes was the norm, but you better not show up to the office like that!. What you wear to work can be just as important as how well you do your job. Perception is key. If you are not willing to conform to something as simple as a dress code, how will you conform to the other policies of the company? It is essential to understand your new employer’s dress code policy, especially the details. Every office is different, and every employer has different standards. What is considered acceptable work attire where you previously worked or where your friends work may not be acceptable at your new job. Be prepared to spend a fair amount of your first paycheck on a proper work wardrobe. 

#3: How to Make a Good Impression
When you are a new hire, everything you do is scrutinized and closely watched. People can form opinions of you based on a few words or a look, so making a good impression is imperative to a successful work life. No one wants to be deemed the “slacker.” Get to work early, look people in the eye when you are talking with them, always have pen and paper ready when asking a question to take notes and take on as much additional work as you can handle. In addition, stay away from controversial topics, such as politics, and keep conversations light. 

Work may be tedious and monotonous at times. While you may be doing the same thing every day, remember that this is your job; this is what you are there to do, and this is what you were hired to do. It’s important to pay your dues. Eventually, you will get noticed, and a larger variety of projects will come your way. Just keep in mind that once opinions are formed, it can be very difficult to change them.

#4: How to Continue Networking
If you haven’t heard of networking before, you’ve probably spent too much time texting instead of listening to your professor’s advice. What do people mean when they tell you to network?

Networking is critical. During college, networking involved joining organizations to meet new people who may eventually be able to help you. Although this may have been how you landed your current job, it is essential that you continue to network inside and outside the office.

Why not chat with the security guard you pass by every day and have conversations beyond the casual “good morning” with the person riding the elevator with you? You never know when you may need one of these contacts in the future.

Networking within the office is just as important. Having productive work relationships can make or break your job satisfaction. It is also a good idea to get to know the office support staff. They know more about the behind-the-scenes action than you realize, as well as the little things such as where the paper clips are kept.

#5: Create Your Work Life Balance
Going from having 12 hours of classes to 40+ hours of sit-at-your-desk work can be a difficult transition. All the free time of the college lifestyle is gone. To avoid getting burned out, you must balance your work and social life. Now, your only free time is two days on the weekend – and how you use those two days can significantly affect your morale at work. It is essential to prioritize your outside-of-work activities and hold on to those that are most important to you, whether that is a night out with friends, a date night or simply going to the gym. The college lifestyle may be gone, but your life doesn’t need to stop now that you’re working full time. 

Starting a new job in an unfamiliar territory will likely lead to some level of stress and anxiety. Hopefully, following these tips will alleviate fears you may have and allow you to take a big step toward the flourishing future of your professional career.

Erin O’Malley and Matt Powalski are tax associates at PKF Texas. Contact them at (713) 860-1400 or eomalley@pkftexas.com or mpowalski@pkftexas.com.