Finding Your New Life: From Student to Staff Member
The transition from student to professional can be a difficult one — going from flexible class schedules starting at 11am and no classes on Friday to working 5 days a week at least 40 hours a week with no vacation in sight. It’s the transition to adulthood and responsibility that can hit like a ton of bricks. How do you help yourself land softly rather than with a crash that gives you whiplash?
- Don’t start your search in September after your graduation. Your search for a job should begin the September before your graduation. While that may seem so far ahead, it’s not, especially for careers in accounting and finance, but even for other careers your search should still happen while you are in college. There is a saying in career coaching — ‘the best time to find a job is when you have a job’ — you want to think the same way about being in college. The summers are usually slow in terms of job search and not having a job after graduation suggests that you may not have been doing the preparation you needed to (i.e., internships, networking, on-campus recruiting) even though that may not be the case.
- Plan your wardrobe ahead of time. It’s expensive to build a full-time wardrobe. Start asking for gift certificates to your favorite professional attire store for birthdays, holidays and graduation. Look for sales (e.g., bogo and end of season sales). Think ahead. If you only have one suit, it gets worn out quickly. It takes time to build a working wardrobe so start early. Take care of those clothes by laundering them appropriately (e.g., dry cleaning, reading the care tags) so they last you through interviews and internships to your first job. Also, shoes can be an important part of that wardrobe so buy a few good pairs, polish them and get them repaired if they need it. Have the shoe repair shop add “taps” to your brand new shoes to get more life out of them. It’s inexpensive and can save you money over the long haul.
- Adjust your schedule. By the spring of your senior year, starting planning for the change. Get up early (e.g., 7am), develop a routine for yourself during the day even if you don’t have classes that time should be filled with job search related tasks. This will help you to get used to a 40 hr a week schedule and work on the adjustments that are necessary.
- Do some calculations and personal financial planning. You should know how much you will need to make to have the lifestyle that you are hoping for (i.e., do you want to live on your own? with a roommate? at home, with the parents?). Also, you need to make sure that you are also putting money away for emergencies and long-terms plans? Along with the emergencies of daily life, often 5-7 years from graduation, people experience a career crisis and if you have to go back to school, take a pay cut, or get laid off, you want to have the financial resources to do what you need to do to make the change that you want. Think ahead financially.
- Start thinking about yourself professionally.Get involved in professional organizations, go to networking events. Consider yourself a future accountant, financial analyst, journalist, marketer. Begin acting like one. Imagine your soon-to-be life. You will need to have a strong network around you to be successful so get in the habit of making new contacts and building with those already there.
- Enjoy your college years so that you are not trying to relive them for years afterward. Trying to recapture your college experience can hold you back from enjoying your early professional life. Take advantage of your college experience and then find a way to say goodbye and mourn the loss in the months before and after your graduation. It will help you make a healthy transition.
The transition from backpack to briefcase can be a dramatic one, but take the necessary steps to prepare for process. It can really be an enjoyable experience to be a new professional so embrace the new role that you have been preparing for your whole life.