College Student to Full-Time Professional in 5 Steps


‘Twas the night before Day One and all through the apartment,
Not a roommate was stirring – not Billy, not Trent!
The alarm clock was set and double checked with care –
To rely on just your phone alarm you did not dare.
You turned off Netflix and crawled into bed,
While visions of zeros at the end of your bank account danced in your head.

Hopefully the night before you start your first full-time job will look something like this. Aside from a healthy bedtime routine (no screen time after 9 PM – right?), there are some additional steps you can take to help ease the transition from student to new full-time professional.

Step One: Remember: You’re Still Learning

Remember how it felt when you were entering college? Everything was exciting and confusing, and you had to learn a whole new way of life. “What in the world is a FAFSA?” “When is the best time to get to Bolton to avoid lines?” “What is the last possible minute I can leave Russell Hall to arrive at my 8 AM on time?” Upon entering the workforce, you will find yourself in largely the same situation: you’re in a whole new world. The difference is that now you’re in charge of your own curriculum. Even in jobs with training programs, you will be held accountable for taking initiative and learning the things you need to be effective in your role so you can become a valuable contributor to your company. 

Take notes. Ask great questions. Be curious and proactive. Find mentors and “company historians.” You may have just finished up seventeen years in the classroom, but your learning process is just beginning.

Step Two: Communicate with Your Supervisor

Establishing a clear and open line of communication with your supervisor is key. Your supervisor will serve as your primary source of information about team, departmental, and organizational expectations and priorities. This knowledge will guide your goal-setting and give you a basis for decision-making. Ensuring your supervisor is kept in the loop and your priorities are in alignment will make for smooth sailing as you navigate this time of transition.

Seek regular feedback. Avoid presenting problems without ideas for potential solutions. Support initiatives and work to solve challenges that are important to your supervisor.

Step Three: Avoid Negative Neds and Debbie Downers

Flu season in the office is rough, but there’s nothing more contagious than workplace negativity. While you should learn how to establish working relationships with everyone in your organization, be aware of the attitudes of those with whom you surround yourself and how those attitudes may impact your perspective. Remember, too, if someone is willing to speak negatively about others to you, they’d probably also speak negatively about you to others. Avoid venting to coworkers and engaging in office gossip.

Step Four: Give it Time

Many recent graduates find themselves in positions that are not exactly what they expected. Give yourself some time before you make any hasty decisions – the first year at any job requires adjustment, even for a seasoned professional. And don’t discount the value of the experience, even if it’s not your dream job. No matter what, your first professional job is an opportunity to learn more about your career interests and values, and establish excellent workplace habits. Keep in mind that your performance in this position will impact your ability to successfully move into another position in the future, so focus on your current role, do your best work, make meaningful professional connections, and find the lessons you can take with you.

Step Five: Take Care of Yourself

Starting your first full-time post-graduate job can be draining. Add to that a new city and new adult responsibilities, and it can all seem downright overwhelming. While it can be tempting to pour all of your energy into your work, it is essential that you also establish habits to take care of yourself during this stressful time. Take time to unwind periodically throughout the work day – get to know coworkers, take a few minutes to step outside and walk around the building periodically, and take a break for lunch! Outside of work, establish a routine that includes exercise, plenty of sleep, and eating well. Maintain good financial health through setting and sticking to a realistic budget. Unplug, unwind, and utilize your support system. 

With these five easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to rocking that shiny new post-graduate job! And in the meantime, the UGA Career Center is here to help support you as you prepare for this transition. Utilize the After Athens: Life After UGA guide and attend one of the final Arch Ready workshops of the semester, Backpack to Briefcase, on November 16th for more detailed information about the topics discussed in this blog post!

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