I’ve recently finished my second year at university and will soon start my paid summer internship at a bank. Transitioning from studying to working full-time like this (now and then after I graduate) inevitably makes me nervous and worried. I’ve tried to think it through and after some time, finally come up with this list of things that I need to be mindful of in transition from studying to working full-time (and also kind of ranting.) I hope it would help you be more well-prepared and make better decisions if you’re in the same situation like me.
1. Upgrade your wardrobe and manner
Moving from lecture halls to the office means changing from jeans and t-shirt to suits and ties. It also means changing your languages, manners and behaviours. All the cute mini-skirts that flatter your legs will have to wait till weekends now as your weekdays will be spent trying to convince people you’re capable and professional, not fun and sexy (Hey, you still totally are!)
I’ve got advices such as: research the firm’s dress code before you start, go for your smartest/most appropriate look to make an impression that you take your job seriously on the first day, then from there, see how people dress at your office and copy them. Make sure everything fits you well and shirts are always ironed. Also, this upgrade takes time and is not cheap, so go for basics first and try to utilize what you already have.
2. Manage your money
Managing money is an essential skill for all stages of life and you should already learn this as soon as you move out from your parents’ house and live on your own at university. However, when you work full-time, it’s even more crucial since you have to cover more types of expenses and think about saving for your future, not to mention paying back your student loans.
If you don’t have a budget and plan carefully where to best invest your cash in, it’s very easy to overspend and get deeper in debt. And if this goes on over a long period of time, it’s an one way ticket straight into hobo land and depression. No kidding. So, do keep records of your spending and open a saving account asap.
3. Make new friends
Making friends are easy when you’re a student. You can meet new people any time you want, such as at lecture halls, societies, events, parties, etc. Chances are that you and that person sitting next to you in library actually have a bunch of mutual friends and a simple “hey” is enough for a new friendship to begin.
Though, when you work full-time as adults, the story is different. People have their professional side on and tend to be more up-guard and cynical. Meeting new people is treated as networking instead of making friends. And even if you successfully make friends at work, these people will be classified as work friends until proving they are worthy of being upgraded to friend friends.
Warning: it’s not going to be easy. That’s why you should be extra grateful and appreciative if you manage to make real friends at this stage. Just don’t forget to be genuine, open and make effort.
4. Keep in touch with friends
If making new friends is difficult, keeping in touch with old friends is another level of hard work. You and your friends no longer live 2 doors away from each other and friendships can’t be conveniently strengthened after a few rounds of shots and a few slides of late night pizza any more.
You actually need to make effort to meet up with each other and planning often takes place weeks before the gathering since both parties now have your own busy schedules. And If you don’t actively keep each other’s updated and maintain the friendship, you might be kept in the file “we used to be close but not any more”. It’s time you prioritize people in your life.
5. Take care of your online presence
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram will no longer have any evidence of you drinking, saying random, stupid sh*t (even if they’re funny as f*ck and just so you.) Your social media accounts will all be PG-rated and absolutely employers-friendly.
And now, every time you post something, you will have to think 10 times about “What would my colleagues think if they see this?”, “Will I get fired?”, or “How do I trick my boss into thinking I’m 10 times more hard-working and smart than I actually am?”. Also you might want to google your name and make sure the result is clean before it’s too late.
6. Change sleeping pattern
When you’re in university, you proudly call yourself nocturnal and even have a team of nocturnal friends who (you suspect are actually vampires) are always there for you when you can’t sleep or suddenly want pizza and beer. Now as you work full-time and have to show up all fresh and professional at 9 o’clock, you just can’t afford the vampire lifestyle any more.
Though, changing sleeping pattern is not that easy. If you always function 5 hours ahead of the country you’re in like myself, sleeping before 11 and waking up before 7 just does’t feel right. It’s like, becoming a whole new different person. You would need at least a week before your first day to adjust and ensure you have a good 8 hour sleep every night to deliver your best.
7. Direct your own course
From kindergarten to high school and university then maybe post-grad school – each stage has its fixed duration. The only thing you need to decide is which school to go to, which course to take, not how long you are going to stay in it (presumably you are good enough to pass.) You already know what each course has to offer and how the qualification will benefit you.
When you work, you don’t have such clear guides. You will have to make your own judgements whether this job is for you, how long you should commit to it, when and how to advance your career. How much you learn also depends entirely on you. If you don’t take action, you can get stuck at one place until the next lay off. Be aware, assertive and decisive.
8. Have fun
You would probably still remember that classic advice of any senior telling you to make the most of your student life because you will never have that much free time and flexibility again until you have grey beard. What they mean is this: by the time you get off work, you will already be too exhausted to do anything except for dinner, shower, maybe some TV and then it’s time to sleep. When weekends roll around, all you do is catch up with sleep then *sigh* prepare for next week.
It’s important to find time for having fun and keeping up with your hobbies. Working full-time and becoming an adult doesn’t mean you have to stop being a kid at heart. Though, I don’t deny this could be quite tricky. You will probably need to plan things out and work extra hard to meet the demand of your job while consciously marking “fun and hobby” as one of the priorities.
Hey, work hard, play hard, remember?
9. Stay true to yourself
Your life will change more or less when you change your environment. You will then be surrounded by new people, develop new kinds of relationships. You will see yourself and be challenged in different situations, be exposed to different influences. And you will definitely have more responsibilities and less time for yourself.
It’s easy to lose yourself into your job and follow the stream mindlessly if you neglect other aspects of your life and forget to keep doing the things that make you you. What are your values? What are your priorities? What drives you? Why are you doing what you do? You should keep in mind these questions even if you don’t have the answers to all of them yet as they will nevertheless help guide you and remind you of who you are.