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5 Reasons Your College to Work Transition is Rough.

By Jessie Vee

This article helps to remind us why we are so passionate about the Workplace Preparation Program. Students and Employers are asking for help to make this transition less “rough”. This article identifies some of the issues and how to start the process of “how to move forward” but the program that we have created goes much further.

In the Workplace Prep Program, it is our goal to help you identify what the most successful you looks like and this will help you find the success that you dream of. We want you to understand what your personal expectations are and the steps that you need to meet them.

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By Jessie Vee

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5 Reasons Why Your College to Work Transition is Rough

And how to move forward

As I caught up with a younger friend over our Thanksgiving holiday weekend, she made a jarring statement as a recent grad.

“I don’t know anyone happy in their job.”

Out of all the friends she went to college with or her coworkers, she couldn’t confidently name one person happily satisfied in their career.

Granted, most of her friends are experiencing their first full-time job and haven't ventured out further, but her experience represents the post-grad struggle in a nutshell.

Our first full-time job hits us like a disappointing storm. We aren’t happy. This isn’t what we expected or signed up for.

The obvious answers point to being underpaid, having a terrible manager, or working long hours with no social life.

But when we dig deeper, why is the transition from school to work so difficult?

1. You’re comparing yourself to more “successful” people

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Teddy Roosevelt

Comparing yourself to other people deprives you of your own happiness. When you obsess about comparing yourself to others, you focus on what is lacking in your life.

As a recent graduate, it’s typical to compare yourself to others joining the working world.

You see your peers taking classes alongside making six figures starting in their first job, and a weird feeling settles in. It’s like a pit in your stomach forms as you’re struggling to get an interview or even an internship/full-time job. It’s hard.

As I’m approaching my late 20s, part of me wonders if I should have pursued law school and continued my higher education. Working with attorneys at work now, I sometimes feel the regretful thought of “that could be me.”

Pursuing law appealed to me, not because of the title or prestige. Following a career in law presented another challenge: an intellectually stimulating experience equipped with rigorous material to test me further than my undergrad did.

But I have to be honest with myself. I love working, but I also love work-life balance. I don’t like my employer forcing me to work long hours. I want to choose to work to get the job done.

In the end, one person’s definition of success doesn’t match with another.

How to move forward:

Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to a better version of yourself in the future. Determine what YOUR definition of success is.

Focus on what makes you happy on your journey. You may switch careers and make more money, but will you feel fulfilled?

2. Not meeting your own expectations

Graduating from college and joining the workforce full-time remains a difficult transition because you don’t meet your own expectations of the working life.

When people don’t meet their expectations, they label it as a “failure.” But setting expectations is a positive start on creating your own future. You have a purpose. Life is just working its magic to throw you in for a loop.

Let’s face it. An individual’s first job rarely is or evolves into their dream job. Why?

You’re not working in the field you studied.

You’re not receiving the pay you expected.

You realize receiving a base salary instead of an hourly wage means you’re working 12-hour days depending on your manager or client’s needs.

You’ve been told “we moved forward with someone more experienced” more times than you can count.

All the expectations and goals you set for yourself come crashing down. It’s a delicate balance to meet your expectations without lowering your standards. The juggling act is complex to master.

How to move forward:

Analyze where you are now versus where you want to be. Then, set goals to meet your expectations.

If you want to increase your income, speak to your manager to discover the next steps to get to that number. If meeting your goals require more drastic actions like looking for a new job altogether or going back to school, start planning those steps out.

3. Your social circle dwindles

It’s hard to come to terms with your friend circle getting smaller. You start to wonder if it’s a magic show disappearing act.

Most students experience losing friends after high school or after college when they start losing touch with their closest friends. In high school, you’re going to the same classes every day. You’re meeting at your same lunch spot like clockwork. In college, you’re living in the same dorm and studying with each other every day.

And then the easy routines cementing your friendship start to fade away. As you grow older, more effort is needed to maintain friendships.

Researchers from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Oxford in England conducted a shocking study that concluded you start losing friends after 25. Why?

Because people explore the range of opportunities (both for friendships and significant others) available to them before finally settling down with those considered optimal or most valuable.

So there is a silver lining to this somber news. Your current friendships and relationships elevate to be the cream of the crop. You want someone that remembers your birthday without receiving a Facebook notification. You want someone that is excitedly awaiting to pick you up from the airport when you’re flying in town.

Distance creates a barrier. It’s a hard truth when you realize many “friends” exist out of convenience.

How to move forward:

Appreciate the life lesson that friends come and go. Some are there for a season, a lifetime, or somewhere in between.

Focus on strengthening your close friendships and interactions. You’ll soon realize this is a blessing in disguise. You truly wouldn’t want to stay friends with someone who only reaches out to you when it’s convenient for them.

4. Your schedule completely changes

In college, you, for the most part, created your own schedule.

Sure, there were a few mandatory classes with little wiggle room, but you had flexible hours, a few classes a day, and filled up the rest of your day however you pleased. This could consist of cramming for midterms and finals, hanging out with your friends, or napping at a whim’s notice.

And then your 9–5 approaches. And depending on your career or industry, the 40-hour workweek may become a 50, 60, or 70-hour workweek. Waking up at 8 am Monday-Friday was a sobering departure from sleeping in until noon.

You think to yourself — is this really what I signed up for? Is this what I want to be doing for the rest of your life?

How to move forward:

Adjusting to your new schedule takes some time. Prepare the night before to set you up for success. Sleeping early to feel well-rested for the next day, so you’re not surviving on 4 cups of coffee. Meal prep your lunch to prevent spending $15 on takeout for lunch. Investing the time the day before can set a positive start to your day.

Schedule time for yourself. Don’t let work take every single place on your calendar. Especially if you’re working remotely, when it’s the end of the day, walk out of your home office or log off your computer. It’s personal time.

5. Money problems

Congratulations on graduating! Student debt is now looming over your head and demanding payment. Toss in the other expenses on top of your student loans like rent, groceries, transportation, health insurance, and the never-ending list, and it’s overwhelming.

You may defer your student loans for a year, but they come knocking on your door (and paycheck). You struggle to budget on how you’re going to pay back these loans, was school even worth it for what this job is paying you?

You think to yourself, “when am I going to reach my goals, or will I just drown in debt?”

How to move forward:

Set up a payment plan and budget. You want to know where your money is going instead of waking up to a surprise.

Tackle your debt — student loans, credit cards, car loans, etc. Research which financial philosophy works best for you.

Take advantage of your company’s 401(k) match if provided. Remember to let compound interest work its magic.

Final Thoughts

The struggle is real. Life after graduation isn’t a walk in the park by any means.

Graduating into a recession or in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is another level of trickiness altogether. It’s difficult to predict what will happen when you’ve followed a structured education path for at least the past decade.

As recent grads, we flirt with the idea of starting our own business, moving across the country, or doing a complete 180 career pivot.

We’re all figuring things out as we go along. There’s no right answer, only one way to go. Forward.

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