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3 Tips to Help the College-to-Workplace Transition


Finding the transition from that easy-going college lifestyle to the strict, daily grind of the working world jarring? You aren’t alone.

More than 1 million students at the bachelor's degree level will graduate as the college Class of 2014, and The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) predicts employers are expected to hire nearly 8 percent more recent college graduates in 2014 than they did in 2013. Yes, young people are flooding into the workforce today in massive numbers, with eager attitudes and freshly-printed degrees-- myself included. I recently graduated from the University of Mary Washington, and began working at GuideStar a mere two months after graduation, as communications coordinator in the organization’s busy marketing and communications department.

As recent college graduates, how ready are we to undergo the rarely-discussed lifestyle change that so frequently accompanies our new employment? Here are three tips that helped make my recent transition from student to employee go more smoothly:

1) Absorb, absorb, absorb

In many ways, entering a new office environment is the same as being that “new kid” who arrives in the middle of the school year. You want to do well in your new position. At the same time, you want everyone in the office to like you. However, now is not the time to convince everyone how likeable and “cool” you are. While positive workplace relationships are great, they cannot be forced. Instead of focusing on making friends, focus your energy into absorbing your new office culture. Eat lunch with the gang to learn inside jokes. Go to that happy hour. Take all opportunities to attend conferences, seminars, or web events. Put effort into matching faces to those names that show up in your inbox. By immersing yourself into this new office environment, you’ll show fellow employees that you care about what’s important to them, and aren’t just here to “do your job and leave.” As you focus on learning the ins-and-outs of this new environment, personal relationships will naturally result.

Two weeks into my job, I attended an All Staff team building business trip. After making the acquaintance and sharing my new employee status with a GuideStar program coordinator at a happy hour one night, the coordinator (so kindly) then decided to choose me as one of four leaders in a blindfolding trust-building exercise. For the next thirty minutes, the other leaders and I had to corral a herd of seventy blindfolded GuideStar employees to form some semblance of an alphabetized line, using only our voices as their guide. As initially embarrassing it was for me to direct and keep the attention of so many new-to-me coworkers, it was also a great opportunity. Through this experience, employees immediately learned my name and face, and got a funny new memory of me to use as a future reference. Hey, whatever it takes!

2) Learn those computer programs (however annoying)

As a young person, employees may automatically assume you’re up-to-date on all of the latest computer programs, and may sometimes turn to you for technological assistance. If you’re like me and managed to skate by college without learning Microsoft Excel, however, bad news: these programs aren’t going anywhere. In order to successfully do your job, you need to have a solid understanding of any major tools and programs your workplace uses daily, such as Outlook, Excel, Vocus, Cvent, or Hootsuite. Take those ten minutes before work every day to play around with any program with which you’re unfamiliar. Sign up for instructional webinars. Don’t be afraid to Google-search ridiculously basic questions. When necessary, turn to colleagues for assistance. Yes, learning several new programs can be overwhelmingly annoying and frustrating, but take advantage of your “green” status by learning these now, while you’re still new and more easily forgiven. You will thank yourself later.

3) Get some real hobbies

After a long day at work, getting cozy with your laptop and a movie may sound like the ideal way to turn off your brain for the night. But don’t be that person who can’t live without the Internet! Save your eyes (and prevent carpel-tunnel wrists) by making a daily effort to find pleasure away from the screen. So schedule that girls-only weekend road trip already. Re-discover your local public library, sign up for those Bikram Yoga classes, or finally bake that great dessert you found on Pinterest. The more fulfilling your life is outside of work, the better your ability to return to work with positive energy and a fresh perspective. Hopefully these three tips will ease the transitional phase for those fresh out of college and new in the workforce. While only three months out of college myself, I’m positive there is plenty more for me to learn. I’ll do my best to keep you updated along the way.

What did you learn as you transitioned from full-time student to full-time employee? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at

Courtney ChericoCourtney Cherico is the Communications Coordinator at GuideStar where she manages GuideStar’s many social media channels, including this blog. Courtney is a graduate from the University of Mary Washington, where she majored in English with a Creative Writing Concentration. In her spare time, she’s on the constant search for great new food, books, and music. You can reach Courtney at

Topics: Just Because