How to transition successfully from student life to graduate employment

04 May, 2016

Making the move from student life to the workforce can be a nerve-racking experience, but there are lots of things you can do to ensure a smooth transition from student to working life.

As the end of the school year draws to a close, many students - both full-time and part-time - are looking to secure graduate employment. If you've already secured a graduate position, now is the time to start thinking about how you will transition successfully from being a student to working.

The most important thing to consider is this: how will you make a genuinely positive impact from the get-go in your new organisation?

1. Talk to people

Many new employees are nervous when they first start a job, and end up working in a silo with their immediate team. Don't fall into this (easy) trap. 

In your first few weeks, meet and talk with as many people as possible in a range of departments, to get a deeper understanding of how each department works, the issues facing the organisation, how different areas collaborate, and how it contributes to the organisation as a whole. This will help you understand the culture of your new organisation, and how the company comes together.

2. Act like a sponge!

Most employers don't expect new graduates to know every single thing, but they do expect you to learn quickly. Try and absorb information as quickly as possible, and learn from any mistakes that you make. Before you start, try to familiarise yourself with the key people, areas, and products and services that the company offers.

3. Know your values

When you start a new job, it's important to ensure that you come across the way you want to be perceived. Before you start (even before you apply for jobs) consider what your key values are, and if they match the values of the organisation.

Are you someone who is responsible? Are you someone who wants to ensure they go the extra mile? Do you want to be perceived as reliable or flexible? Whatever your values, you need to ensure that you actively market them to your new colleagues so that they are aware of who you are, not just professionally but also as a person.

4. Secure early wins

It's important to showcase to your team that you were definitely the right hire for the position. Come to a team meeting with some new ideas or approaches or deliver on a new project. This doesn’t mean to say that you go overboard and deliver on every aspect of your job description or objectives in the first month, but take a calculated decision and ask yourself, what is something new and innovate that I can deliver soon? This is about using all of your strengths to showcase to the organisation that that they made the right decision to hire you! 

5. Be professional

This is one of the most important (and basic) actions that new graduates transitioning from college to career can make. Entering the workforce means interacting with a range of people of different ages, demographics and backgrounds.

You obviously know not to turn up to work intoxicated or to swear excessively at colleagues (or computers!). But it's also the little things - try not to use too much slang in conversations (e.g. defo instead of definitely or using lol), be friendly but don't spend 30 minutes chatting at somebody's desk. 

Pitfalls to avoid

The above are some of positive actions you can take on very early on but there are also some pitfalls that you should avoid, that many new graduates make early on.

1. Don't ignore the culture

While it's important to be innovative, you have to be respectful to the customs and traditions of the company. Those that adapt early on to the company culture are more likely to be successful in the long run

2. Don't get involved in company politics

This is critical for new starters. Many employees who have been around for a while are likely to talk negatively about the company and colleagues. If someone, asks for your opinion on another colleague, politely disengage or change the topic, you don’t want people to think of you negatively.

3. Don't deliver too quickly!

While it's important to secure early wins, don't come with all your ideas straightaway. Not only will it make you appear to be a know-it-all, it could mean you get stuck further down the track when you've used up all your ideas. Take the first few weeks to understand the culture, absorb information, ask questions and most importantly listen to what people say.

Following these simple can help smooth the daunting experience of transitioning from student and graduate to full-time employee. For more information about your career options, contact our dedicated Careers and Employability team for personalised career advice and coaching.

Nadim Choudhury is the Head of Careers and Employability at ifs University College.