Making the Transition from College to Work

By Bruce, Calvin E. | Diversity Employers, February 1999 | Go to article overview

Making the Transition from College to Work


Bruce, Calvin E., Diversity Employers


If you're like most college students, graduation is a time of mixed feelings and uncertain expectations. Along with experiencing pride, joy and / satisfaction in completing your / academic program, you and most graduates may be somewhat anxious about starting full-time employment.

Facing the unknown is always scary. But with proper preparation and the right frame of mind, you can launch your professional career with confidence and a bright outlook on the future.

Making the Proper Exit

As your senior year winds down, it's tempting to focus on the "fun stuff" associated with graduation. This includes going-away parties, sports banquets, and other campus socializing. As important as all of this may be, it's just as needful to take care of business before making your commencement day exit.

For starters, think ahead in terms of gathering information that will enhance your entry into professional life. In practical terms, it's smart to gather written references from esteemed professors, coaches, campus employers, and career placement officers.

It's so much easier for Professor Smith to write something favorable about your classroom genius while you're a fresh face in her mind - than it is several years from now, when she has to jog her memory even to recall who you are!

Ditto for other college administrators and academic heavy-weights. Over the years, they've come into contact with hundreds - or thousands - of bright and ambitious collegians. If you made a positive impression on them, get it in writing. Whatever they can say favorably about your communication skills, character, academic giftedness, and such can be part of the professional "dossier" you begin to develop.

Likewise, don't underestimate the importance of securing references from campus employers. For example, suppose you worked at the campus pizza parlor. Think of how impressive it would be to have written documentation as to how pleasantly you dealt with customers, motivated others on your work crew, reduced wastage and saved the company money, etc. These are the positive attributes that employers in big corporate America look for when hiring entry-level employees.

Similarly, it's advisable to stay connected with organizations that can benefit you in terms of future networking. Obvious examples: Greek fraternities or sororities, alumni associations, academic clubs, sports teams, and so on.

Career success is not just a matter of doing well on the job. As much as anything else, it's a matter of smart networking when it's time to make a career move. Most industries or professions are tightly knit. Thus. it's a small world in terms of "who knows who, knows who." By staying in the right communications loop, you can keep abreast of opportunities that your peers may be unaware of so easily.

Finally, as you exit the college community, make sure you leave with a "clean slate" in terms of financial obligations. The Financial Aid office should not have to track you down for loan repayments. Nor should the local police department send threatening letters regarding unpaid parking tickets. Something as simple as that can return to haunt you down the line.

Starting Your New Job Right

Once you receive your diploma and begin actual employment, it's critically important to start off on the right foot, so to speak. Here are some pointers for launching your career successfully.

1. Prepare mentally and physically for the transition. As you begin your new job, you will be on equal footing with every other new hire. You'll leave behind any campus acclaim for being the all-star sports captain, homecoming queen, hippest dresser, or most popular socializer.

Employers aren't looking for entry-level workers who are "cool." Rather, they seek young professionals who have the kind of ambition, focus and dedication to learn the job and do their best in furthering the interests of the organization. …

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