Tips for the Transition: Adjusting from College Life to Work Life

Tips for the Transition: Adjusting from College Life to Work Life

college transition

By Aryn Lietzke

I knew that once I found a job, things would be different. I would feel more independent and less worried about my loans. I would use all those skills I strived for in college to shine in my new role. I would finally, unequivocally, be an adult. Or would I? Sometimes, I still feel like that nervous freshman, wandering through the quad – or even like I’m stuck at 17. Since I graduated, I don’t really feel anymore adult-like, except for a few odd moments. But does that even matter? I mean, a person doesn’t turn into a full-fledged, responsible, professional adult overnight, and everyone can still keep themselves children at heart – even in the “real world.” Just as it can be hard to define the transition into adulthood, it can take some time to find your pace when you go from school life to a full-time job.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you adjust to life in the workforce.

Find the Rainbow in the Rain.
Keeping an optimistic outlook is the best way to smooth the transition from college to work. What really matters is that we manage the transition as well as we can and stop stressing if things aren’t coming along as rapidly as we would like. My first reaction is to kick myself for every mistake and worry over it. But I’ve come to realize how deconstructive that attitude really is. When I step back, take a deep breath, and try my best to see the optimistic side, things seem easier. A positive attitude lifts you up and gives you a boost of courage and strength to face whatever the day has in store. I know that sometimes the bright side seems more like a blast of lightening directly in the eyes or a fanciful illusion than anything else. It can be hard to back up from the problems and see the things that went well. But once you can do that, those problems start to shrink.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions and Leave Notes.
Yes, I know. You don’t want to morph back into that freshman with your hand raised so often that it cramped and all your professors knew you by name since the first day. Excessive questioning can become annoying. But it’s better to take that gamble than to mess up simply because you didn’t ask first. Furthermore, any question that shows you are thinking about your task and clearly, politely asks for the information you need is not a nuisance. Asking the same question time and time again, however, may fit the nuisance description. Once you get your answer, make a note of it so that you can remind yourself before you sprout colorful feathers and squawk the same note. I keep a list of grammar and stylistic conventions that I constantly need to look over when proofing so as not to be a parrot.

Furthermore, I leave all kinds of notes and reminders at my desk or in the computer so I don’t lose track of meetings or drop the inexhaustible  grammar points I juggle each time I proof. I also suggest leaving reminders of clocking in and out, verifying time tables, or any other day-to-day housekeeping that can be easy to take for granted. Make sure you know about meetings as soon as possible. Use a calendar function on your email to send you reminders any time before the meeting starts or mark up a physical calendar. Find what works best for you.

Keep a Steady Schedule for Work and Sleep.
Set an alarm that gives you some extra time to get to work in case of traffic tribulations. Try to get up and go to bed within the same hour or two every day – even on weekends. I know this is hard, and I can’t always stick to this either. But I try, and when I can keep this up, I notice that I feel more alert in the mornings and throughout the work day. Sticking to a uniform schedule helps regulate your sleep cycles and will make it easier to adjust to your work hours. It might take a while to find just the right schedule, but try your best to stick with it once you do. Sleep is important, and no one works their best without it.

Another way to help you sleep is to think about your before bed routine. Avoid bright lights within the hour before you go to bed. This includes computers, T.V, phones, etc. Those lights keep your brain more active and alert and so prolong the process of finally falling asleep. Also, keep any nighttime snacks light and give yourself time between eating and heading to bed. Digestion can keep you awake as well. Once it gets late, I reach for milk and cereal or water and granola rather than cookies and cake. There are many valid reasons why people blame bouts of sleeplessness or nightmares on that midnight slice of pizza. Light snacks avoid indigestion and let your body focus more on producing quality sleep than processing food.

Keep Track of Past Projects.
Once you are rested, you can charge right into the day and have the energy to keep up with your work load. Organizing and/or remembering those tasks can be difficult, though. Keep an activity log of all your work projects, including start and finish dates. I suggest making a table to organize your progress. Use the categories that work best for you. This can function as a handy to-do list for each work day. It can also be a useful tool if you have routine performance evaluations. You can brush up on past work and remind yourself of successes as well as learning experiences. This may also be a great way to germinate some ideas for new ways to problem solve. You can make notes of how you solved something before and use that as a base from which to tackle a new challenge.

Soak in Some Serenity.
Breathe in and remember that even when you can’t help bringing in baggage from a bad day home, it doesn’t have to stay. Take time to de-stress. Spend some time with friends and family. Enjoy your hobbies. Also, it’s ok to just be still sometimes and not do much at all. Try not to get frustrated if you sometimes feel too tired to do much after work. Take your time to develop a balance between work life and home life. This is always a work in progress, and that’s fine. We all go through ups and downs. The key is to never give up, to remember the good so that we can find hope during the bad. Again, a positive attitude makes a world of difference.

Please share any other tips or comments about transitioning from school to work. I hope mine are helpful. Thank you.

Aryn Lietzke is a proofreader at the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) in Milwaukee. With a passion for the power of peace and the beauty of language, she enjoys working with words as a part of CPI’s mission to promote nonviolent solutions that nurture safety, respect, and well-being for care givers and those they serve around the world.



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