Becoming a Young Professional
While you may think you’re prepared enough for the transition from college to the life of a young professional, there are some things you should know about not only what will be expected of you at your new job, but how new demands on your time could change your view of the “real world.” Yes, it’s an exciting time of making money and meeting new people. But it can also be a lot to handle if you don’t know what to expect. We’ve come up with the information below to help you navigate the world of a young professional, including tips on how to help you blend in with your co-workers and others in the same boat and figuring out how to manage your time well with all of those new responsibilities.
It may feel a little overwhelming to think about more than the tasks your employer puts in front of you when you’re just starting out at your new job. That won’t be all that you’re responsible for though, and most jobs will require that you be forward-thinking. Don’t assume that you’ll remember every deadline and every project you’re assigned without writing it down somewhere or coming up with a timeline that will help you finish assignments on time. You may have procrastinated in college with some success, but procrastinating in the real world may cost you your job. Even if you’re at a job you know will be temporary, put the hard work in that could lead to a glowing reference of your time there when you’re reading to move on. You don’t want to burn bridges, especially when you’re just starting out and in need of employers to vouch for you.
Part of being a young professional is juggling multiple responsibilities. You may have a new apartment to furnish in addition to a new job, and friendships to cultivate with new co-workers and neighbors. You may be taking some professional development classes that will help you either become a better employee or serve you well in the job market once you’re ready to move on from an entry-level position. Time management and organization become even more important when you have all of these additional obligations. (Yes, we consider friends an obligation. You shouldn’t be working so hard that you become a hermit, after all.) Get organized so that this new chapter in your life isn’t as stressful as the path you took to get here.
Stick to a Schedule
Your body may be accustomed to all-nighters and afternoon naps, but that kind of schedule won’t fly when you’re at a new job. Six in the morning may be your new wake-up time, not the time you went to bed. It’s important then to stick to a reasonable schedule, at least during the week. (While all-nighters probably aren’t all that wise on your weekends, either, we’re not going to tell you how to spend your Saturday and Sunday nights.) Try going to bed well before the sun comes up so that you’re able to focus on your work come morning and impress your new employer with how much energy you have. You may also find it difficult to fit in everything you want to do in that window of time in between work and your revised bedtime so plan your time out accordingly. You may need to make the time to do your laundry, hit the gym, call your mom or hold on to some semblance of a social life. You’ll find that free time is precious once you’re out in the real world, and it’ll be up to you to prioritize your options and determine what you’d like to do with it.
Expand Your Network
While it’s important to balance work and your social life and to keep the two separate at times, it’s also a good idea to dedicate some time to expanding your network. Even if you love your job and don’t see yourself leaving the company you’re at for a while, building a network of others who work in the industry may help you down the line regardless. The person in the entry-level job now that you recently met at a happy hour could be a hiring agent in the future, giving you access to a position you may not have even known about otherwise. Find a mentor at work, too. As important as it is to work hard and meet expectations at your job, it can be just as important to build relationships and be generally well-liked by your co-workers. Unfortunately, in many industries, it’s still often all about who you know and what they think of you that matters when it comes time to promotions.
Look outside the office as well. Most average-sized cities have groups set up for young professionals and organize meet-ups and events to allow recent graduates the opportunity to mingle and network with others in their demographic. People are much more forthcoming in social situations once they’re out of the office, so such events may be good places to pick up tips on hiring processes at other companies or potential job openings. Remain professional, though, as you never know who may know someone who knows someone who works with your boss! You don’t want to be the basis for gossip around the water-cooler the next morning.
Just because you’re out of college doesn’t mean you’re done learning new things. A good way to remain competitive in the job market is to continue expanding your skill set. What can you improve in to make yourself stand out more as a job candidate? If you’re in a position you enjoy, adding to your knowledge may make you a better candidate for a promotion or bonuses when the time comes around. Consider the kinds of skills your co-workers report first to bring yourself up to speed. Then think about the kinds of things you could learn that would make your job easier and make you a more useful employee. Picking up new skills related to technology and new media becoming particularly important across industries. You don’t need to be your company’s new IT guy or girl, but most jobs will now require you to boast some level of technological proficiency. If you decide you’d like to continue your education with a master’s or professional degree, talk to your employer. Many companies offer some tuition reimbursement to employees looking to advance in their fields and return to those places of employment once they’re done with that additional schooling.