How Those Right out of College Can Be Better Prepared for the Work World


When you’re in college, you can’t wait to get to work. You dream of your own desk, paychecks, and social status among your peers. But then you get to work and realize that you have a tiny cubicle, less-than-expected dollar amounts in your paychecks, and no one cares about your job or company.

Ah, so is life. The grass is always greener.

In college, no one really prepares you for the next stage of life. Sure, you majored in a particular area you thought you would enjoy, read all the theories about that subject, and wrote papers about it. You assume the real world must be similar.

Eh, no.

So, what can you do to make the experience of entering adulthood — or the “real world” — a little less daunting?

Actually Work

This means get a job or internship that allows you to be in an office for a full work day.  This helps by:

  • Gaining Experience (for life and for your resume)
  • Seeing how things are done outside of school
  • Learning office dynamics and politics between co-workers
  • Developing the soft skills you need to succeed (communication, negotiation, collaboration, organization)

By being in an office for a full day, you can watch how people operate and get used to how to schedule your time throughout an 8 or 9 hour day (if you’re lucky). You learn how to prioritize work and how to actually accomplish work when there are five meetings during the day. Going to work isn’t as simple as being given a task, doing that task, and leaving. There are often plenty of interruptions that leave you at your desk at 5 pm realizing you haven’t accomplished anything all day.

Be Open-Minded

Just because you studied something in school doesn’t mean that there is an exact job description matching that major.  Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. Be open to the idea of different jobs and different companies. Get creative with your job search.

For example, if you are a marketing major, you have many different options.  You can do in-house marketing for a big company, be part of a creative agency, do all of the marketing for a small business or start-up, or choose different facets of marketing like advertising, social media, public relations, sales, etc. The options are endless. Don’t think that you only can go in one direction.

Know What You’re Worth

Do you know what the salary is for the job you are applying for? What is the industry standard? What is the company standard? Do you negotiate your salary when they offer you the job?

No one in college really talks to you about this. If your professors work, ask them how to navigate the negotiation of your salary.  If you are freelance, ask what your hourly or daily rate should be.

After being salaried for several years, I was asked what my freelance hourly rate was when being offered a job and I had no idea. I had to ask a former boss of mine what I should be charging.

Learn about Management and Leadership skills

At your first job out of college, you will quickly realize that people have very different management styles. Some you will like, some you won’t. Some will make you more productive, some won’t.

It helps to know how to deal with managers. It can be extremely frustrating when no one listens to or cares about what you have to say. Or when you get stuck doing busy work because your manager doesn’t want to do it. Take the time to read some of the fundamentals of what a good manager does and what a good leader should be. You will be in that position one day and you will learn what you respond to when you start interacting with your own management team.

Commit to Work/Life Balance

Some jobs have very clear-cut 8 hour days. Some do not. You may find yourself in a position where you are working 12 hours a day with only time to eat and sleep when you get home. That’s no way to live.

Before you enter the work world, find out what kind of hours are expected of employees in the industry you are pursuing. It is important to work somewhere that is compatible with your ideals and beliefs of your work schedule.

In summary, be prepared for the real world by actually working; being open-minded; knowing what you’re worth; learning about managing; and committing to a balanced life. It will make a huge difference in your attitude and give you the confidence to make the work world better.

DianaDiana Antholis is the Founder of Enter: Adulthood, an online guide for young adults that shares advice and tips on career, relationship, and life choices to transition into the “real world.” Diana helps 20-somethings transition to a new career based on their wants and goals to ultimately make them happy and healthy individuals. She is the author to the Conquer Your Career e-Guide, a four part series on starting, changing, or boosting your career with 100 actionable strategies to start immediately. Connect with Diana on Twitter @DianaAntholis and Facebook.

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