How great students become awesome workers anywhere in the world
Taking the leap from study to the workforce can feel overwhelming – but there are steps you can take to make that change more comfortable.
Graduating is an exciting process – it’s time to celebrate the years you’ve spent working hard towards getting your degree! But then it’s time to become a fully-fledged grown-up contributing your part to society.
Everyone has something to offer
When you’re studying most of your time is spent with people on courses similar to yours who are generally of a similar age and experience. In the workplace you will most likely come into contact with a much wider group of people. Some may not have qualifications but have been in the industry for many years and know everything about the business from the inside out. Others may have extensive professional and academic experience but have never worked in the industry.
Take the time to observe and see how people in the workplace interact with each other. You may find that those older than you work in a different way than you. And if you work for a large company there may be geographical differences between you and your colleagues which can require changes to how you interact and get the most valuable information from them. Everyone in an organisation tends to have something to offer, it just may require taking a step backwards and the time to get to know someone in a different way.
9 to 5
The first couple of months can be hard as you adjust to a full day of working. No longer can you pick and choose what you do throughout your day, you are now being paid to work from 9–5 (or longer). You need to make sure that you get what needs to be done sorted out when it is due. There’s no begging your lecturer for an extension in the business world! A good mantra to have is ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ because if you can tell someone you will do a task by the end of the week, but you get it through to them by midweek, you will be in a good place, whereas the other way round will cause some tension.
Having a regular routine can also help to adjusting to the 9 to 5 lifestyle, as you’ll have an action plan for each day. This can include scheduled walks to keep your brain fresh and dedicated times of the day to do administration tasks.
Focus on solutions
At university it can be enough to just get a job done and the same may be true of some companies. However, if you are able to be solutions-focused at work you will stand out. If there is a manual task that can be done in a more automated fashion, speak up! You’ll always stand out in a positive way if you can show you’ve got initiative – it’s a great trait to have when it’s time for a review or appraisal.
Being solutions-focused can also be helpful for stress. Looking at the causes and assessing what you can do about them (and sometimes seeing what is out of your control) can make your problems seem more manageable. This attitude can also be useful in a team environment where you have to be able to look at things from someone else’s perspective.
Self-awareness and self-belief
When you enter the workforce, you will no longer have someone telling you what to do. Now is the time to take charge of your own life and embrace your failings as much as your successes.
When you enrol, you pick a course based upon what you’re good at, what your parents want you to do or simply to get a degree to show that you have achieved some level of higher education. On the other hand, when you enter the workforce it’s important to understand who you are and what you value in order to get a job that will satisfy you and challenge you at the same time.
Keep challenging yourself
Depending on the organisation you’re working for you may or may not find yourself challenged enough. If not, it’s worth looking for opportunities to challenge yourself further
not only because it will keep your mind active but also because it can demonstrate what a good worker you are.
Build bridges, don’t burn them
When you’re in the working world you need think continuously about your next step. Networking is a valuable skill and it’s important to keep on good terms with your employers, clients and colleagues as you never know who may be able to help you later on in your working life.
In smaller countries like New Zealand, people can be very well connected. So taking the time to get to know the people around you can be very valuable. Something as simple as remembering someone’s name after you have met them can have a lasting impression which might lead to a future job.
Ask for help
If you don’t usually ask for help then this is the time to start! Asking questions or admitting that you don’t know how to do something can work in your favour as opposed to just pretending you know what to do or what is being talked about. There is a time and a place for ‘faking it until you make it’ and that tends to be when you have a bit of spare time to go and research a solution. Asking for help does not make you a failure. Often people will feel valued that you asked them and will respect you more for being honest.
Learn how to budget
Not everyone is in the same boat as you and it may be hard to budget when you first start earning but it is well worth it in the future. When you’re a student almost everyone is on a budget and it’s a lot easier to manage your money when you aren’t being put into situations where extreme spending is expected. However, when you start working it can be very easy to get caught in a situation where you are buying lunch with your colleagues every day and then find yourself low on funds at the weekend when there is something you really want to do.
Invest in your relationships
At university you are surrounded by young people who are all in the same situation. It’s a great environment for making friends who will last a lifetime. But when you move into the workforce maintaining these relationships can be a lot harder as everyone goes off in different directions. It may be a little more challenging but it is worth investing time in those relationships that are most important. It can be as simple as catching up for coffee with a friend once a month.
Learn your triggers
Learn what stresses you out, what makes you happy and what motivates you. Taking a bit of time for yourself each month can really help identify these concepts. Once you know what motivates you and what you value, you are better able to help your manager manage you and you are better able to understand what kind of company you need to be in and people you need to be around in order to get the most out of life.
Similarly, if you know what triggers your stress then you can work on managing your stress levels and come up with ways to deal with it so that it doesn’t impact on your performance in the workplace.
Upgrade your insurance
After your studies are completed, you will no longer be eligible for the Studentsafe policy. If you decide to stay in New Zealand to work on a work visa, you will be eligible to apply for the Workersafe policy. Moreover, when you start working you earn more money, which means you’ll probably invest in some more expensive items. Other aspects of your life will change too, so it’s worth looking at your insurance policies to see what they cover.
The future is unpredictable and it can be hard to know what to do and what is expected of you. When you are transitioning from study to work the most important thing to do could be to take a bit of time to get to know yourself in order to head out in a direction that suits you best.