College to Career

It’s exciting to graduate from college and land that first job. You’re likely celebrating this achievement you’ve worked so hard for and perhaps wondering what comes next. There’s a big transition coming and we’re here to help you navigate the unchartered territory of going from college to your career.

You’ve done everything you can to academically and socially prepare to start a new job. You’ve gone through interview processes and ultimately landed on something you’re excited about. When you are ready to start and settling in within the first 30+ days, you’ll likely feel nervous and anxious. That’s normal. Let’s look at how you can prepare to start your new role.

Do your research! You probably already researched the company before your interview, but now that you have accepted a position at this company you really want to get to know it.

  • Research who works there including who interviewed you or who you’ll report to. It will help to check out their LinkedIn profiles to learn more about them and their pathway.
  • Find the company’s core values and mission statements. Try to understand how your position will fit into it and prepare questions for your team during our onboarding. 
  • Search for any recent social media posts made by the company to try and get a feel for the company’s culture.
  • Research who your industry competitors are.
  • Refresh your skills in the software you may be using in your new position.
  • Test your commute to work and make sure to arrive early for your first day.  

Confirm the details with HR or your manager. Confirm your work schedule, your hours, lunch breaks and any other information you find relevant as you get started. 

  • Ask about procedures and routines.
  • Ask when folks normally arrive and leave. 
  • Is there a specific parking lot or security check point you need to be aware of? 
  • End the conversation by asking if there is anything else your manager thinks you should know before you start. 

Intentionally prepare for the first day. Make a good first impression! Introduce yourself early and often.

  • Understand it may take a few times for folks to remember your name. Be understanding and help them remember by introducing yourself often and using your name in casual conversations.
  • Dress appropriately. It’s always better to feel overdressed and adjust for the rest of your first week. 
  • Ask questions and show your interest in the company’s work. 
  • Offer to help and jump in on projects to get to know others.
  • Understand workplace technology etiquette for your computer and other devices. Many organizations have a dedicated IT team to support the safety and security of it’s company, but you have to do your part. Ensure you’re visiting sites that are relevant to your work and keep you on task. 
  • Utilize email to your advantage to communicate with coworkers and clients. If there are other systems in place, use those accordingly. Be timely in responding to incoming and outgoing communications. 
  • Understand your pay schedule, taxes and benefit deductions. You’ll want to make sure you’re not spending more than you are taking home. 

Settling into your first full-time position can be a big transition. Keep these things in mind to help you in the adjustment period.

Understand the difference between a job and a career. Most graduates will not work for a single company for 20 or 30 years anymore. You can have a single job in one industry and accidentally stumble into a career in another. You have a variety of skills that will be transferrable across positions and industries. Use these skills to advocate for why you’re ready to switch roles when you’re ready. It can be helpful to track your positive outcomes and recognitions at all past roles to use in future job searches.

Be professional. Ensure you’re meeting the expectations set for you in your position. This could be ensuring you wear the expected attire and have good professional mannerisms and etiquette. Stay true to who you are by weaving in your personality and style while staying within the boundaries of your company and industry. Always communicate with everyone in a calm, personable manner.

Find a buddy. This should be someone who you are comfortable with and can ask questions to. They may be on your direct team or in another part of the organizational structure. It could be a good idea to invite folks to have lunch with you to meet more people and get to know who might be a good buddy or mentor.

Dress the part and meet the expectations of your organization. Ensure you’re staying true to who you are while following employer guidelines on attire. Look around at your new colleagues to get a peek at what could work well for you in that setting. There may be special occasions in which a more elevator or casual attire may be acceptable too.

Create a welcoming space. This could be in your office and your home. If you’re working a hybrid/remote position, ensure you have space set aside to work from that is comfortable and allows you to maintain focus on your work. Use supportive elements like headphones or white noise machines to support your work environment and avoid disrupting others around you. In the office, bring a few personal effects to your desk to feel more at ease.

Face the realities of work. Entry-level roles are likely going to ask a lot of you and don’t pay what you may expect. Keep an open mind and find the right balance of the amount of work you put in compared to the expected salary. Have conversations with supervisors about how to navigate moments of work overload as needed.

Your first job may be just that, a first job! It’s okay to find yourself in a position that isn’t meant for you in the long haul. Many recent college graduates will find themselves changing positions frequently over the first few years of their post-graduate life. You can expect things to feel more settled by the end of the first 90 days of working in a position. Remember, you need to stay true to who you are and if this first job isn’t the right fit, start looking for other opportunities that may be better.

Remind yourself these people hired you, they already like you. Relax and let your hard work speak for itself.

When you finish a degree, you’re likely thinking that there can’t be that much more to learn about your career path. We’re sorry to tell you that’s highly unlikely. You’ve signed up for a life long education when it comes to learning about your career path as it will evolve over time. Take advantage of opportunities to gain skills and knowledge that are offered by your company, professional organizations and more.

Follow industry trends. As a new staff member, you’ll be able to have a bit of time to get to know the industry and trending topics. But if you start by making this a part of your regular work schedule, you’ll be caught up in no time. Determine who the thought leaders are in your areas. Find out if they are a specific set of people, a professional association or something else entirely. If possible, get a membership or follow these spaces on available platforms.

Build soft skills. It’s never too late to learn new skills and these aren’t ones you’ll only memorize for a test. Think about communication, organization, teamwork, creativity and more. Use systems provided by your employer or free platforms to continue building soft skills. You can look into what platforms your company may offer in addition to free websites.

Participate in events at work and in the community. You can expand your skills, knowledge and network at the same time by attending events such as Lunch and Learns, Networking or Social events, etc. These settings are a great opportunity to get to know more about your industry.

Volunteer in your community to gain skills outside of the workplace that may support your personal and professional development. Seek out a cause that hits home in your personal life or look at opportunities to volunteer with colleagues if your employer has an existing program.

No matter what career path you’ve taken, you’re going to need to reset your boundaries from college to career when it comes to work-life balance. It will look different for each person, their personal lives and career paths, but there are some similarities and tricks you can implement from the early days.

Time management. Getting used to a new schedule can be difficult for any number of reasons, but especially as you transition out of the college schedule into a career schedule. Find a system that works for you to keep track of personal, professional and other responsibilities. Make sure you’re adding appropriate amounts of time into your day to commute to an office or to an after-work activity. Have conversations with supervisors, friends and family to determine how to appropriately juggle your various responsibilities.

Don’t overcommit. It’s really easy to be the new person on the team and take on a lot of responsibilities quickly. Ensure you’re discussing your roles within the office and team structure with your supervisor. Advocate when you’re ready to take on more work, but also when you have plenty on your workload to keep you busy. There may be a time when you need to prioritize competing projects. Ensure you know who to ask for support when these moments occur.

Tips for Work

  • Set manageable goals by day
  • Set boundaries with supervisors and colleagues
  • Be efficient with your time
  • Ask for flexibility and take short breaks when needed
  • Communicate effectively

Tips for Life

  • Unplug by turning off work from personal devices
  • Get support from friends and family
  • Stay active and treat your body well
  • Get help if you need it. You may even have an Employee Assistance Program available to you.
  • Use your time off
  • Have self-improvement at the top of mind

When you are considering a job, something important to consider is the benefits that company offers to their employees. Common employee benefits include: health insurance, paid time off, sick leave and life insurance. Find out about each of the benefits that you could encounter so you can fully understand a job offer. 

Health insurance helps to cover medical expenses. Depending on the company, they can offer different levels of health insurance coverage. Companies can offer health insurance to their workers and extend the offer to significant others and families as well. There are out-of-pocket expenses that come with health insurance so it is important to understand what the coverage is. Employers will provide new employees with specific details related to their plans during the job offer or post-acceptance phases. Clarify if benefits start on your first day of work or if there’s a waiting period (typically 30-90 days).

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is regulated by the government and allows you the opportunity to set aside pre-tax dollars from your paycheck and direct them to medical expenses. This can cover out-of-pocket copayments and deductibles that are required by your insurance plan. A similar option may be called a Health Savings Account (HSA). The biggest variable between HSA and FSA funds is how you can utilize the money you pre-pay into the account. Both FSA & HSA are based around a calendar year and you should ensure you know when open enrollment periods are at your place of employment.

Retirement Matches (401k, 403b and others) are a big benefit to consider in your post-graduate career. It is important to know whether or not your new company offers a contribution match which typically means a certain percentage of your salary. Consider how much the plan requires you to contribute to receive the full match and if there’s a waiting period to receive the match. You should read the policies carefully to understand if your money invested into the retirement account will be available when you may decide to move on to another opportunity.

Life Insurance is coverage for an employee’s designated beneficiaries to get paid out if the employee were to pass away. Companies typically offer one year’s salary and give employees the option to purchase more. This coverage is there to help pay bills, debts, etc. 

Stock options within a company allow you to purchase stock at a set price. This opportunity allows for increased savings and can give you a chance to sell at a higher price to make money. This is typically available at publicly traded companies or start-ups that plan to go public.

Paid vacation and sick days are benefits given to employees that have worked at a company for an extended period of time. Typically the longer you work, the more days you accrue. These are days that you are not working but will still receive compensation. Typically when you leave a company, they may pay out your vacation days that you didn’t use. However, if your company offers unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) they are not required to pay you for unused time.

Relocation benefits may be provided for specific purposes. The employer will have a point of contact for questions related to relocation and you will need to plan ahead with their support. If you’re relocating, don’t forget to look for ways to meet new people and engage in activities outside of work.

Every workplace and industry will have terms specific to their roles, but here are some to keep in mind that pop up in most places.

  • Robust – a product or service that has a lot of functionality & benefit 
  • Punt – to abandon an idea or a project or make it less of a priority
  • Lots of Moving Parts – system or business with a lot of departments, employees and processes 
  • Core Values – the standards and ideas that a company or individual finds most important 
  • Drill Down – a thorough investigation of an idea, assignment or project 
  • Moving the Goalposts – changing or altering a project goal or objective & making it more difficult to complete 
  • Gain Traction – an idea or company project becoming more effective or popular 
  • Bandwidth – typically used when someone says they don’t have the “bandwidth” to discuss a topic, meaning they don’t have the time or resources
  • Bring to the Table – a certain skill or expertise that an individual can offer to a company or project
  • Trim the Fat – the act of removing unnecessary details, resources or individuals from a company or project 
  • Hard Stop – specific time when a meeting or discussion needs to end 
  • Move the Needle – getting effective results from a project or assignment that are meaningful to a company’s overall goal 
  • Food Chain – term used to describe a company’s hierarchy 
  • Circle Back – temporarily pausing a conversation or discussion and returning to it at a later time
  • Knee Deep – a phrase used by companies & businesses when they’re currently stuck in an unfortunate situation
  • Reinvent the Wheel – creating a product or tool that already exists to help you accomplish something 
  • Table the Conversation – the act of pausing a discussion with the possible intention of never returning to it again 
  • Backburner – to de-prioritize a task 
  • Deck – a PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation
  • Park It – to keep something on hold until it gets approval when talking about a project 
  • Push the Envelope – to give their best or get the most out of something 
  • Run Up the Flagpole – give feedback or approval from team members 

Resources within this page were gathered from the following sources:

  • Oregon State University
  • Babson College
  • Baldwin Wallace University
  • The Balance Money
  • Forbes
  • Business News Daily
  • Smart Sheet