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Tips to Move From College Life to Full-Time Employment

By: Zana Van Der Smissen

You just graduated from your program in the spring and now you are a full-time employee with bills to pay, meetings to attend and a lot of “adulting” responsibilities. Where do you go from here?

How to Navigate the Big Jump From College Life to Being a Full-Time Employee

Firstly, acknowledging that this is a real feeling is important. Whether you are feeling overwhelmed at your job or feeling lost as to how to go about this new kind of life, it is important to normalize that you are not alone in feeling this way. In fact, this is a phenomenon that has been researched since the 1960s where the adjustment process has been difficult for students (Tyler, 2014). Another point that should be addressed is the idea of compounding stress from the transition. Going from a college dorm to work life means leaving behind close friends, moving away or moving back home, a change in schedule, a change in the work/life balance and a change of expectations and duties put on you. All these transitions will bring its own type of stress and they all are happening simultaneously which can contribute to that feeling of being overwhelmed and lost with what to attend to first. So how can you be successful despite having these emotions? 

According to Rachel Larson, Ph.D, the students who are successful in that transition period from student to employee have a higher level of “psychological capital”. Larson breaks down what psychological capital is with 4 components that are contributing to a “positive psychological state” (Tyler, 2014). The four components include hope, resiliency, optimism and self-efficacy. By having the ability to keep driving forward (hope), get up after you have fallen (resiliency), reframe negatives into positives (optimism), and having confidence in yourself (self-efficacy), you will have an easier time with this transition and also future transitions when changing workplace (Tyler, 2014). However, this is not the only component that can make students successful. Larson points out that setting expectations surrounding the position is equally as important. Expectations should be realistic on what your position is in the company as well as how different the environment might be for making friends and connections. Larson’s research found that creating goals for yourself and finding opportunities to socialize can make or break that transitional period! (Tyler, 2014)

You might be asking yourself, “that’s all great for work but what about all the other things I need to do in this transition time?” and that is a valid question. When juggling multiple tasks, try to slow yourself down. Take a deep breath or go for a walk and take a minute to reset from the stress and anxiety you are feeling. Once you feel ready to return to your “tasks”, try to break it down into different lists. One could be for social connection, one for personal growth, one for financial stability; all these lists should be written with a goal or plan in mind. By having one task in multiple categories, you will be striving for a work/life balance rather than only focusing on one area of your life. This might not be helpful for everyone so find what works best for you! That being said, this is easier said than done. Give yourself some grace if you are having a hard time doing these things or even thinking about them. Transitions take time and everyone’s on their own timeline whether they want to be or not! So take it one baby step at a time and if you continue to struggle, reach out to a counselor for some additional help when it comes to this change in your life. 

Tyler, K. (2014, May 1). Helping College Grads Transition to Work. SHRM. https://shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/Pages/0514-larson-graduates.aspx

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