Achieving Success in the Transition from College Student to Young Professional

Graduation season is in full swing and of the many challenges recent college graduates experience, transitioning in to a new job might be the most overwhelming.  When entering the workforce, it can be frustrating to find a balance between wanting to hit the ground running and needing to figure out how to best make an impact within the organization.  In the five years since my own graduation, here are some thoughts and tips on rocking the transition from college student to young professional.

1. Say hello
The hallways and break rooms of your workplace can be the best places to strike up a conversation with new coworkers.  In those first few days and weeks on the job, putting a face and attaching a positive interaction to your name can help quickly establish you as the competent/motivated/interesting new coworker.  Not only might you gain some perspective on who the key people are throughout your organization, you could be opening the door to friendships, mentors, and future career opportunities.

2. Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your successes (but always give credit for your coworkers’ work)
Let’s face it, talking about yourself and your accomplishments can be tricky – coming off as boastful or too self-assured can incite a negative reaction from your coworkers, but deflecting or downplaying success can hurt you, too.  Presenting yourself as not only a team player but also an invaluable asset to your team can help elevate both your self-efficacy and your boss’ confidence in you.  Some common scenarios and helpful suggestions for achieving this balance are outlined here. In addition to speaking up, keeping a current CV will also be useful when preparing for a job interview, talking through a performance review, or asking for a raise.

3. Offer to edit your colleagues’ work (and do other jobs your coworkers might prefer to avoid)
I’m not referring to making the mid-afternoon office coffee run, but rather to the importance of identifying the processes that are critical to your organization’s operations and finding a way to learn them.  These tasks might be the “necessary evils” of your office that frustrate your coworkers but are also the catalyst for projects to move forward. In taking the initiative to learn these tasks, you can become well-versed in the critical processes of your organization, build up a reputation for knowing how to propel work forward, and gain an understanding of the bigger picture of your organization, including the key operational processes outside of your regular duties.

4. Find out how to get stuff done and then… get that stuff done!
Tips 1 – 3 culminate here. Figuring out how to contribute significantly within your specific workplace is a crucial skill that can take time to develop.  Being the smartest person in the room won’t necessarily help you advance a project from point A to B if you can’t navigate the intricate inner-workings of your organization.  Soaking up information early in your tenure and working to deepen your knowledge of the organization will strengthen your ability to create impact in your position.

As a recent graduate, settling into a position in which you feel challenged, impactful, and on some level, comfortable, can be difficult and time-intensive, but most of all, rewarding. Adopting a perceptive and proactive approach can make all the difference when working to achieve success in your new job as a young professional.