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Transitioning From Full-Time Student to Full-Time Employee

May 11, 2020 | Tips

This guest post was written by Macey Warren, a 2019 Lamb School graduate with a degree in Public Relations and Advertising.

Post-graduation is definitely a time of change. That’s obvious. While it’s nice to kick back your feet and not worry about speed walking to class anymore or getting spam emails from Cisco Quarantine, there are a lot of new learning opportunities that will attribute to your professional and personal growth. Sure, the classroom keeps your brain sharp, but now it’s time to start thinking about what’s to come outside of the classroom while still keeping that sharp, curious mindset. Purdue is filled with makers, doers and thinkers. We’re Boilermakers – iron sharpens iron. We push boundaries and ask “why?” This is what separates us from the crowd. 

This is a unique time for college students. I feel for all of you. This transition has certainly been taxing on your mental health; transitioning into a career after graduating is certainly an uphill battle all on its own. You are no longer a door away from your friends. You are no longer logging into Blackboard to submit your assignments. You are no longer allowed to sleep in until your 10:30 a.m. lecture. Life is different. You’re now in the job routine. You’re not checking in with your professors to see how your grades are doing – you’re getting performance reviews. You’re not getting texts from your classmates asking what you wrote about for the research paper – you’re held accountable to meet project deadlines for a client. You’re not being called on in class to get participation points – you’re raising your hand to prove your worth to your teammates and the company.

It’s not going to be easy at first. While movies make a job in the big city out to be pretty glamorous (*me thinking about Kate Hudson in How To Lose a Guy In Ten Days*), it’s not always full of pizzazz. My first few months of my post-graduation internship at Weber Shandwick in St. Louis were tough. I got up, drove to work, sat at my desk for eight hours, drove home, ate dinner and went to bed. Sounds fun, right? I wasn’t ready for that routine. I wished someone had told me that it’s okay to be emotional in the start. And I’m still considering a year after graduating my start. I wasn’t prepared to get emotional in the workplace. Sometimes you feel like your creativity is drained. Sometimes you feel like you just aren’t getting it. Sometimes you feel like your coworkers are worrying about your performance behind closed doors. I felt all these things. So, my golden nugget to the question, “What is something that you know now that you wish you did in college,” can be found in this quote: “Speak up! No one can ‘hear’ what you’re thinking without you willingly standing up for it. Mind-reading is something most people can’t do.” 

No one can read your mind. You have to speak up for yourself and be your own advocate. This is a hard lesson I learned within the first three months of moving to St. Louis and starting my internship. I wanted to be super independent and exceed every expectation; that’s not realistic. I learned that super quick. I was nervous to ask too many questions if I didn’t understand the assignment. I was scared to walk over to someone’s desk to ask if they could explain how I can be better next time. But if you don’t speak up and advocate for yourself, no one else will. It’s okay to tell your manager, “I’m feeling overwhelmed. I need a little extra time.” It takes courage, and it’s not always easy to admit that you need help. But you’re also human – you’re not a superhuman who understands everything and can take on oodles of projects at once. The sooner you are honest with yourself, the happier you’ll be – in and outside of the workplace. 

I’ll close with this: embrace the suck. My friend Fillipo spoke these words at my graduation ceremony at Purdue, Brené Brown preaches and lives by them and now I’m just a messenger reminding you to eagerly accept this change with open arms. I had phone calls with my parents, choking back tears saying, “This just sucks.” Post-graduation life is not an easy transition. There are weeks of sunshine and weeks of storms. The important thing is that you’re a Boilermaker – and Boilermakers are resilient and always persevere. 

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