How to Transition Smoothly From College to the Working World

  • Briana Saddler
Life & Careers

As college students, we do nothing but continuously wreak havoc on our own bodies - we don’t sleep enough (and when we do, our sleep schedules are erratic, at best); we “nourish” our bodies with unhealthy foods and obscene amounts of caffeine; and because of daily meetings and assignments, we constantly subject ourselves to high amounts of stress, pressure, and anxiety. Like many college seniors, by the time graduation rolled around, I was more than ready to have a consistent schedule. I was sick of staying up for hours to read assignments and write papers; I couldn’t stand to attend one more Sunday meeting; I was tired of eating on a college budget. I was ready to enter the workforce.

However, while entering the workforce can offer some semblance of stability and independence, it can also bring its fair share of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. As entry-level professionals, chances are we no longer create our own schedules, we no longer live right down the hall from our best friends, and we no longer have financial support from our parents. It can be one of the most challenging transitional times, fraught with uncertainty and self-doubt. However, over the past few months, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that have helped smooth my transition to the working world:

Create a personal routine and stick to it

Routines aren’t for everyone, it’s true. While it’s not necessary to plan out every second of your day, establishing some sort of structure can drastically reduce unnecessary stress. A morning routine, in particular, can ensure that you are mentally and emotionally prepared for the workday ahead. Additionally, having a short list of priorities for the weekend will ensure that you’re taking adequate time for personal needs and responsibilities, while still making time for the activities that you would like to do.

Exercise (!)

No, clicking from your Netflix tab to your Buzzfeed tab to your Facebook tab doesn’t count.

Exercising in college is incredibly easy - whether you’re running from class to class or playing an intramural sport, your body is always moving. Now, as a full-time professional, you’re forced to crowd workouts into slim slots of time between your work responsibilities, your social obligations, and your personal to-do list. Find an activity that interests you and make a conscious effort to incorporate it into your routine. It’s important to remember that physical well-being is closely tied to mental and emotional well-being, and by finding time to exercise, you can minimize any of the stress that you might be feeling from the college-to-job transition.

Continue to educate yourself

Even though I’m only a few months removed, I sometimes find myself romanticizing about college. While I don’t miss the all-nighters and hundreds of pages of weekly assigned reading, I do occasionally miss the titillating lectures and discussions that are specific to academia. Which brings me to my third point: just because you’re no longer forced to complete readings and assignments doesn’t mean you should cease to educate yourself.

Attend free lectures and discussions in the city. Crack open that new book that everyone has been raving about. Learn a new language. Learn to play an instrument. Learn how to pickle vegetables, if you’re into that. Do anything that interests you and challenges your traditional skillset. Better yet, find a job where you can incorporate your interests into your daily work grind!

Create a budget...and stick to it

After years of living on a college budget, receiving your first paycheck can feel as though (insert deity of choice) personally descended from the heavens to bless you. With your newfound wealth, you might feel a strong urge to treat yourself by splurging on three gallons of Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk.

...Resist this urge. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a terrible idea.

Instead, create a monthly budget -- tally your set expenses (rent, student loans), as well as fluctuating expenses, e.g. groceries, gym membership, personal care, happy hours and make an earnest effort to stick to those budgets and conserve money whenever possible. Additionally, aim to set aside savings every month, in case of unforeseen emergencies.

Reinvest in pre-existing personal relationships; invest in new relationships.

After an exhausting day at work, interacting with anything or anyone besides your television screen and your bed might seem like an alternate form of torture. Trust me, I know; the struggle is real.

But in my opinion, this is the most important thing to remember during the college-to-job transition: don’t allow your personal relationships to wither away. Make regular efforts to call or spend time with your friends from home and from college; chances are, they will be able to serve as your support system in many ways, and you will be able to serve as theirs. Call your family at least once a week, even if it’s just to let them know you’re still alive. In addition to maintaining old relationships, create space to cultivate new relationships with co-workers or gym buddies or friends from that vegetable pickling workshop that you took last week; after all, you can never have too many friends.

Briana joined AlphaSights in August of 2014 and serves as an Associate on our Private Equity segment.