6 Ways To Smooth Your Transition Into The Workforce

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As you move into the world of the working, there are some things that need to be left behind, and we’re not just about your tendency to eat week-old pizza or that ratty old exam sweater that you claim brought you good luck.

Christine Lucy, the Director of Robert Half Canada, says she’s seen common mistakes among new grads transitioning into a professional environment. In school, students manage their own education, she says, but when students become employees, they are managed in a professional environment, very different from the casual campus atmosphere.

Going from watching Office Space in a college dorm to actually having your own space in a professional office is a big step – but you want to make sure you put your best foot forward. How new grads act on their first “real” job can “start to define the rest of their career,” says Lucy.

Here are some tips to help ease the transition when you finally exit university life and enter the workforce:

Be on time

In university, you had it down to an art. You knew which classes you needed to show up to, which ones you could skip, and which ones you could casually sneak into 15 minutes late without anyone noticing. While your timetable for school was theoretically open to interpretation, in the office, showing up late can lead to your boss showing you the door. Be on-time and don’t skip work.

Swap all-nighters for the 9-to-5

Procrastinating until the last minute and pulling super caffeinated all-nighters is not an option in the real world. In university, you were able to work around the clock, but in the office you need to get things done within the eight-hour workday. It is your responsibility to get your projects done and get them done on deadline. Get past the days of two minutes of work followed by two hours of procrastination. At work, saying your dog devoured your project proposal just isn’t going to fly. Manage your time wisely, set deadlines for yourself and stick to them.

Stop slinging slang

You’re totally like, a big kid now, so you gotta start talking like one, y’know? Lucy says that “college speak” is a common mistake for new employees in the workplace and a quick way to appear unprofessional. The people in your office are your colleagues, not your college dorm mates so polish your communication skills for the workplace. Be careful what you say and how you say it.

Look the part

Say goodbye to pyjama bottoms and varsity track pants. It’s time to suit up. It may have been OK to show up to class in your “laundry day” outfit with a bad case of bed-head but in the office, it’s important to look professional – and that means going beyond the basics of human hygiene.

Once you’re all prettied up, don’t ruin it with ugly posture. Slouching down in your chair may have been fine in lecture but at your work desk, try and heed your mother’s advice and sit up straight.

Check your personal media at the door

You’re not sure how it happens but every time you open your Internet browser, somehow you end up on Facebook. We’ve all been there. Google chat, personal emails, Facebook, Twitter and text messages were great study distractions in class but in the office, these tools are more taboo. If you have time to text friends or update your Facebook status seven times in one work day, try taking on more responsibility at work rather than filing your hours chatting.

Starting on the right foot

Finally, don’t just aim for a passing grade. In the workplace, demonstrating good work habits and exceeding expectations will help you secure a job for the long term. Volunteer for projects and pitch ideas. Show your boss that you’re more than just a student, you’re a worthwhile hire. According to Lucy, “all those things, right out of the gate, can go a long way to making a lasting good impression.”

Photo credit: 186 – Office Work

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About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.