16 years of expertise writing resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and providing interview career coaching to help clients land the perfect position.
transition from college to career

How to Navigate the Transition from College to a Career

So, you are finished. You’ve completed all your college credits and have your diploma in hand.  Now you have to get ready to search for—or start—your first job.  This can be a chaotic and stressful time. You have to deal with the demands of job-hunting, interviewing, and starting a new career.  Do you know how to navigate the transition from college to a career?

While it helps to have an idea of your career path after graduation, don’t worry if your first job does not perfectly fit your plan.  Many recent college grads change jobs after their first year; sometimes it takes that long (or longer!) to determine what you want to do in life.  Also, your major does not identify the types of jobs you can work.  While there are specialized fields, such as engineering, where you need to have a degree in this area, the majority of position just require a college degree.  So, focus your job search on the types of jobs you want.

What You’ll Need

To find a job, you must first create a terrific resume and cover letter.  Each job opening may draw hundreds of applicant resumes.  Some services can help you create a powerful and extremely useful resume.  Your resume and cover letter should focus on how you can contribute to the company that you want to work for.  Send your resume to potential employers, employment agencies, and your personal network.  Spend time daily looking for job opportunities.

These jobs often require long hours, low pay, and hard work.  Don’t refuse a job that you think is below you; be realistic.  You may have to start at a low level and move up.  That is not to say you should take just any job offer; you should research your career path to find out at which level most new hires start.

You’ve Landed Your First Job

Soon, you will interview and land your first job—congratulations!  You are ready to transition into a career, what an exciting time it is for you!  This is a big step.  Appropriate social behavior is much different in the working world than in college.  It is much more formal and requires professional speech and behavior.  Your behavior will be judged in job interviews and during your job search.  You must prove that you are intelligent, articulate, motivated, and professional.  In addition, in the workplace, acting unprofessionally can get you fired.  Never drink at work or even during a casual lunch with colleagues.  Act responsibly at all times.  Do not gossip.

What to Expect

Most jobs require that employees arrive to work, take lunch and breaks, and leave work at very specific times.  This can be very frustrating because you have been used to a more flexible schedule as a college student.  Learn to take only short breaks to use the restroom or get a cup of coffee or some water.  Always arrive on time.  Expect to work some overtime.  Be ready to work at least eight hours per day and take only two weeks of vacation per year.  It won’t be easy!  Work will now be (and should be) your primary focus in life until you have a family.

Professional attire (a suit, clean clothes, neat hair, and appropriate makeup) is important on the job.  Others will make judgments about you based on your attire.  Always maintain good hygiene; never forget to shower, brush your teeth and hair, wear deodorant, etc. in the morning before leaving for work.

Your ability to collaborate and get along well with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds, to cooperate with other employees, and to be a team player will all be vital in doing well on your first job.  Stay organized and manage your time carefully.  Learn from your mistakes and do not hesitate to ask for advice and assistance.

Things to Remember

The transition from college to a career can be challenging.  Stay in touch with your college friends.  Initiate conversations with your new co-workers.  These are the people that will encourage, motivate, and help you.  Strive to get the best job offers from the best employers, but remember to be realistic about what you can expect.

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