How to Transition From College Into Your First Career

Career Transitions, Confidence
10/25/19 - Brooke McCord
tips and tricks to help you make the transitions you'll face in life

Welcome to the first edition of our Transition Tips series! If you’re like most people, times of transition bring up a lot of stress and discomfort and at times can be downright scary. You are not alone in feeling this way! Leaving something known and comfortable and stepping into the unknown can bring up a lot of fear. This series is intended to give you the tools you need to make your transition a little bit easier and maybe even allow you to be excited for what comes next! Today I’m sharing tips on how to transition from college into your first professional career.

You might think that transitioning into your first professional career can only happen when you’re graduating college at 22, but there are other times this is the case: graduating from graduate school, getting a certificate, obtaining your GED, or transitioning into a totally new career field. There is always going to be a little nervousness (if not outright anxiety) when starting a new job. 

transition tips for starting new!

What Makes This Transition Hard

You’ve Never Done This Before

This is a basic fear – the fear of the unknown. Know that you are not alone in this, and it is completely normal! But just because it’s normal does not mean you have to be paralyzed by it. Continue to move forward and lean into the unknown! Think about times in the past where you have rocked a life change, such as transitioning from high school into college. You had never done that before, and you graduated high school and made it through college – what a success! Remember that you can succeed here too. 

You Don’t Have Enough Experience

You’ve never had a professional job before – of course, you don’t have enough experience. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and this is your starting point. Go into this job with a growth mindset – absorb every single thing you can, say yes to things outside your comfort zone, volunteer for new projects. Create opportunities so that you can gain experience and confidence.

No Community…Yet

It’s intimidating to walk into a room where you don’t know a single person. Take a deep breath and remember that friendships and comfortability take time. To help with this, initiate with your coworkers – grab a coffee, get lunch, go to a happy hour. Over time, you will make friends and develop a sense of community. 

Unmet Expectations

Maybe you thought that this job was going to be one thing, and it turned out to be completely different. Maybe you feel blind-sided and maybe even lied to. You have two options: you can have a bad attitude or a good one. You get to control how you show up and respond when things don’t go the way you imagined. Remember there is something to be learned in every situation!

“I try to extract something positive from every situation, even if it’s just learning not to make the same mistake twice.” — Claudia Schiffer

The difficulty of transitioning from college into your first career is so normal, and you are feeling emotions that almost every single person has felt before. You are not alone in thinking that this is hard and overwhelming. Here are a couple of things that can help you make this transition a little bit easier.

transition tips from college to your first career

What Can Make It Easier

Research the Company Culture

Understanding the company culture can help ease your nerves when you walk into the office on your first day. It’s helpful when you know what to expect from the company and understand the general outlook of the employees who work there. Glassdoor is a great resource to learn about the culture and hear what employees are saying. Also, be sure to reach out to your company contact to inquire about expectations for onboarding (and it doesn’t hurt to ask about the dress code either). 

Set Achievable Goals 

Having goals that are separate from your day to day work tasks can help feel more settled and like you have a greater purpose at work. It can help your days feel fuller and more well-rounded and balanced. Some of those goals could be bonding with coworkers by getting lunch or coffee, working towards a promotion, or joining a committee. 

Have a Network of People You Can Rely On

It’s important to have people who are in your corner and support you while you begin this new stage of life. Being able to share how you’re really feeling can help you destress and also affirm that you have security in places other than work. 

Find a Mentor

Some companies are great and have an established mentor program. However, if yours does not, take initiative and find your own mentor! Having someone who has been through the onboarding process and at the company for a while can shed a lot of insight that you would not have gotten otherwise. 

transition tips find a mentor

Understand that Not Every Job Lasts Forever

It would be amazing if your first job out of college was perfect – it aligns with your values, you love the work you do, you feel like you make a difference, the coworkers are amazing, etc. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most people starting out, and that’s okay! Work hard and focus on the positives. When you move onto something that is a better fit, make sure that you take all that you learned along with you.

Trust the Process

Remember that everyone has been right where you are. It’s okay to feel that overwhelmed feeling because let’s face it – change is hard! When you do feel that anxious feeling creeping in, breathe and trust the process. Give yourself some grace and patience when coming into your new role – comfort, stability, and success takes time.

“The expert in anything was once a beginner.” — Unknown

Stay tuned for the next edition of Transition Tips!

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