Your program is slowly coming to an end and you’ve successfully secured a co-op placement.
You’re excited – you can’t wait to put all that you’ve learned to good use – yet nervous – you don’t know what to expect at your placement.
The transition from school to an actual work environment can be quite nerve-wracking for any student. Working in the real world comes with new responsibilities and it can take some getting used to.
Ready to get cracking at your new position? Here are some of the biggest adjustments co-op students have to make when experiencing a work environment for the first time.
A New Work Schedule
In school, you probably had the ability to create your own schedule. You may have had the option of sleeping in until noon and not have a class start until later. If you were really lucky, you may have had every Friday off.
While this may have been possible in school, life in a real work environment may not be as flexible. Some jobs are shift-based such as those in Healthcare, Retail or Skilled Trades, while others may be Monday-Friday, 9-5 office jobs. Schedules can vary depending on your employer and field of work, so being open to the demands of your particular work schedule is important. You may no longer have the option of sleeping in until early afternoon during weekdays, and any extracurricular activities will have to be incorporated into your routine after work hours or whenever you can squeeze in free time.
Getting used to a new work schedule can be tricky in the beginning, but it is an inevitable adjustment when transitioning into the working world.
Appropriate Work Attire
Strolling into a lecture hall in sweats and a hoodie may have been acceptable in college, but depending on your field of work, this dress code may be frowned upon in the workplace. Majority of employers require you to wear proper work attire, whether it’s for health and safety reasons, such as steel toe safety boots for Skilled Trades jobs, or simply just the nature of the business – a suit and tie for the office and scrubs and comfy running shoes for those in Healthcare.
Determining what is acceptable to wear in a new work environment can be difficult, especially when dress attire can differ based on company culture and your field of work. While companies will usually give you a dress guide in advance, take some time to observe and learn what your colleagues wear and ensure that you have the proper clothing at home. Whether you’re working in an office setting or a field setting, it is important to show you understand the expectations and make the effort to adhere to them.
Meeting Deadlines With New Consequences
When you’re a student, every assignment comes with a due date and if you need extra time, you usually have the option of asking for an extension. You’re responsible for your own efforts – if you don’t complete something or fail to hand it in on time, YOU reap the consequences, whether it’s a bad grade or having to redo the assignment altogether.
Deadlines in the working world are a little different. Depending on your position within a company, your responsibilities will not only affect you, but also your colleagues and the company as a whole. If assignments and projects are a team effort, everything you are responsible for will directly impact your team. If you miss a deadline, the team misses a deadline, and that can spell trouble for your company. Clients may not be attended too in time and organizational goals may not be met, and your company could suffer.
Not meeting deadlines doesn’t mean bad grades in a work environment, it comes with new consequences that can lead to being demoted or even terminated. It is important to be aware of your new responsibilities and take into consideration the consequences that are possible when experiencing a work environment for the first time.
These are just a few of the adjustments to expect when entering a real work environment. Being mindful of these adjustments when starting your placement will help to ease your nerves and make the transition from school to work a lot smoother.