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!