As one who has been out of school and working full-time for over a year now, I think I have some insight into the world of young professionals. Our teachers, advisers, parents and friends have given us advice and have tried their best to prepare us for life in “”the real world,”” and while I thank them for providing as many tools as possible in order to succeed, there are a few things I wish someone would have come clean and warned me about. Below are the 11 things they don't tell you before you graduate:
1. Your employer wants you to stay later than the company's hours of business. It doesn't matter if you're actually doing work or leisurely browsing through different social media messaging with your friends, as long as your employer sees you parked in your seat after hours, you get brownie points in his/her eyes and it shows “”commitment to the company.””
2. When you land your first job out of college, you will be so excited to start working and getting a steady paycheck that you'll eagerly tell your employer that you don't mind working late. Cut to several months into the job and your butt and eyes hurt from constantly sitting and staring at your computer, by the time 5 or 6:00pm rolls around you're ready to bolt out of there. (Unfortunately, this counteracts with #1.)
3. You think that time cannot go slower than when sitting in a classroom full of students listening to a professor's lecture, but then you work Monday-Friday 40+ hours a week and realize that no, time goes much slower when you are confined to the cubicle in the office all day long. You will begin to cherish your 30 minute lunch break (when you actually take one) and feel giddy to get on your feet and walk around outside. Once you begin working in an office you'll start to wish you never complained about the walk to and around campus from your off-campus house.
4. Enjoy being able to roll out of bed several minutes before class because that won't be acceptable once you enter the workplace. You must look put-together at all times.
5. Even if you've been trained a certain way, every colleague you work with will like things
done a little differently. Not only do you need to be knowledgeable in your industry and perform well at work, you also need to have the skills to be able to read your colleagues. Being able to communicate well with other staff members and being able to foresee the things they may want before being asked is almost as significant as your work experience.
6. You will work your butt off and will most likely be underpaid. Colleagues and advisers do warn you in advance that you have to start out at the bottom to get to the top, but it doesn't quite set in until you're actually on your own and realize that one whole paycheck goes to rent and darn, you still have a student loan payment to make too. It's tough, but on the positive side, you learn to budget better. 🙂
7. It's just as important to be involved in groups and clubs after college as it is to get into a good college. Especially if you move to a city without many contacts, you kind of have to start over and join memberships and go to networking events to make new friends and meet potential business partners. (I'm a PRSA-NY member, AWNY member, I'm in two book clubs, and I don't even know if that's enough.)
8. Coming out of college, you almost expect everyone to have basic skill sets that you once had shared with your school peers, but that is not the case. Once you're integrated with several generations in one office, you must take out your patient pants when you see that some colleagues type painfully slow with their two pointer fingers or can't figure out how to put on their own out of office automated reply. In turn, those same people can be very knowledgeable and experienced in other (non-tech related) areas.
9. While working day-in and day-out with the same people, you'll naturally develop friendships with some co-workers. It's important to remain somewhat cautious, and try to keep your verbal filter on at all times.
10. Obviously one is hired based on previous work experience and accomplishments, and most of us know that the majority of internships are unpaid. Parents and advisers will tell you that you can certainly find paid work during summer breaks, but what they either don't tell you or simply don't know is that many of the internships you need under your belt are the unpaid ones, and those unpaid internships are often the golden ticket to get an entry-level job at your ideal company after graduating. The little money you make at that summer paid job may be outweighed later when you have to spend a year gaining experience at one company in order to get an entry-level job at the one you've wanted all along.
12. Not everyone is willing to help. Recruiters and people you thought were your friends will happily exclaim that you sound like a great fit for a particular job and that they will certainly pass along your resume. You will then follow up with them about the opportunity just to never hear from them again. That's rejection, best get used to it in the “”real world.””
11. Even though we have been preparing most of our lives for the big step from school to the workplace, just remember that when you're super stressed and feeling down about work it isn't the end of the world. Of course there will be good and bad days just like we had some good and bad exams.
I felt ready to graduate by May 2010, and while I do feel nostalgic from time to time about my college days, I'm still happy to be at the beginning stage in my career. It's fun and exciting and there are still so many possibilities. Colleges nationwide encourage us to focus on one field for the best chance to get a good job and succeed, but now that I'm out of school I'm realizing that no one should feel “”stuck”” in one particular area. Whatever your major may have been in college, it does not define who you are to be the rest of your life and it certainly doesn't set your career path in stone.