Skip to main content
OLC logo

OLC Editor

SFU Staff
All Faculties
Co-operative Education

three people wearing professional attire standing side by side
There is definitely a big gap between school and work, but with the five tips provided in this article, you can better prepare for the work that is required or expected of you before you enter the work force!

Eager to move on with their lives, many undergrads look forward to graduation and entering the work force. Although it is an optimistic and a highly encouraged goal, school and work can be very different and this gap can be extremely difficult to adapt to.

Here are 5 differences between school and work that undergrads or recent grads should be expecting when entering the work force as well as some useful tips to help you make the transition more smoothly and successfully.

1. Arriving on Time

Unlike university where students have the option of being to classes a couple of minutes late, or not being there at all, work often does not tolerate lateness or unnoted absences. Although this may vary among different employers, I would say with confidence that arriving to work on time, if not five to ten minutes early, is fairly normal, if not fundamental, in demonstrating professionalism, commitment and enthusiasm. When I first started working, I had the tendency to wanting to arrive to work a couple of minutes late, but then I quickly realized that I was not in school anymore! I was a couple of minutes late for work one day and my employer asked me why I did not arrive work on time. After that incidence, I learned the importance employers place on employees’ commitment to arriving work on time.

2. Expecting a Learning Curve

Students are often used to out-of-class assistance such as tutorial classes and professors and TAs' office hours, which offer additional support that you may need. So, it is not uncommon for young graduates who have recently entered the work force to encounter a steep learning curve since there are a lot of new skills and knowledge to be learnt in a short amount of time, under minimal support. And even though universities do provide excellent knowledge, they often focus on the academic and theoretical aspects as oppose to the more practical and hands-on side. Consequently, new graduates may feel the discrepancies between theory and practice and come across a steep learning curve. To help you make a smoother transition, it is important to be gaining Co-op, internship or volunteer work experience while you are still in school!

3. Learning on Your Own

Work demands self-learning as employers do not necessarily provide sufficient training and assistance. Fortunately, I think most undergrads are excellent at self-learning as we are frequently expected to read on our own time and attempt to teach ourselves. Personally, I believe this is one of the greatest assets that undergrads possess coming out of university because I think self-teaching is a highly recognizable skill as it demonstrates taking initiative, dedication and efficiency. This skill will become extremely useful as employees tend to learn on their own because other colleagues may not have the time or knowledge to help solve your problems.

4. Committing to Your Work

School can be extremely time consuming when students are dealing with exams and projects, but school also allows students to make their own schedule based on their preferences. On the other hand, full-time work does not offer such flexibility, demanding 35-40 hours a week and expecting a certain amount of work to be done at the end of the day or week. For students who love to procrastinate and cram everything in the last minute, work will surely be a big surprise for you because, unlike school, there are always tasks to be completed on a daily basis! It is definitely a great idea for students to start studying daily or weekly so they learn the habit of doing work in a timely manner.

5. Maintaining a Close Circle of Friends

Just like school, work can sometimes be a pain in the butt. Thankfully, with a great group of friends and colleagues around you, work may not seem so tough or unbearable. Even though your friends may not choose the same career path as you, you most likely will encounter the same issues your friends do at work, such as work overload and problems with the manager. It is certainly helpful for you to have a diverse group of peers so you can provide and receive mutual support, mentorship and encouragement!

There is definitely a big gap between school and work, but with the five tips provided in this article, you can better prepare for the work that is required or expected of you before you enter the work force!


OLC logo

OLC Editor

SFU Staff
All Faculties
Co-operative Education

The OLC Lead Editor manages content submissions, provides feedback on content submissions and assists with the development of content with contributors.

visibility  101
Oct 1, 2012

You Might Like These... Prospective, Professional Development, Career Exploration

Co-op students jumping in the air
The Co-op Connection Helps Retention

In this blog post, Heather shares with us why co-op is an important experience for all students, whether it be to further career aspirations or to gain future employment opportunities. 

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

Working on campus
The 10 Minute Commute – Resources and Useful Information for Working on Campus

Have you ever thought about working in a place that you are familiar with?  Perhaps a Tim Horton’s close by? For many students the idea of working at SFU might be a great option, if you prefer a 10 minute jaunt to work after class or an opportunity to learn more about how a university operates.

You Might Like These... Interviews

a candidate smiling at her interviewer
Behavioural Interviews

This series will help you prepare for almost any type of interview format that you might come across. In this edition learn about one of the most popular interview types you'll come across: Behavioural interviews.

Image of the Author
3 Reasons Why There's No Rush to Finish Your Degree

Matthew enters his fourth year with a newfound perspective on graduation. His time working for SFU Career and Volunteer Services has taught him that when it comes to education, there should be no rush. Here, he shares his top 3 reasons why!

Angie Yu
Interview Tips: Embassy of Canada

SFU Beedie Business student Angie Yu is relocating to China this summer for an International Co-op position with the Embassy of Canada. She recently spoke with International Co-op Communications Assistant, Kiran Dhanoa and shared details about her interview and offered tips for others wishing to find work at an embassy or consulate.