Navigating the transition from college to career

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I’m attending my 10-year college reunion this weekend in Providence, RI, where I’m excited to reconnect with old classmates and host a #BossedUpBook Tour stop with my college bestie, Vanessa.

If you or anyone you know is in the area, please feel free to join me on Saturday, May 25 at 11 am here.


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As I see so many happy graduates proudly posing with diplomas this time of year, I’m reminded of all the things I’ve learned over the past decade about making that transition. It’s a big shift. All our lives up until graduation day we’ve been mastering the art of performing, perfecting, and pleasing others. Life after graduation requires a few big mindset shifts that I wish I’d known about earlier. I share a lot of those lessons learned in my new book, Bossed Up, but here are the top take-aways I want every new grad to keep in mind.

Make Your Own Syllabus

The days of figuring out what the professor wants from you and then going home to put your nose to the grindstone and deliver it are officially behind you. The workforce rewards a more proactive approach: the kind of person who sees a need and fills it; who steps up to make things better, even if that means trying something new or different; who speaks up assertively. Don’t wait to be handed a rubric for success, because more often than not, it’s not coming.

Everything is Negotiable

As students, we’re conditioned to follow the rules. But outside the confines of academic life, things are often more negotiable than they might seem. Got a job offer that you like but don’t love? Ask for more! Have a work schedule that makes getting to the dentist or doctor near-impossible? Ask for the flexibility you need.

My sister, Isabel – who’s 11 years younger than me – recently landed an internship here in Colorado for the summer. The office she’s working in initially offered her only 2 days of work a week, but when she learned that her college would only provide a summer stipend if she worked more than that, she was feeling stuck. I encouraged her to ask for what she needed to make it all work and what do ya know – they were happy to alter their initial plans.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you don’t, no one will for you.

Build in Your Own Breaks

Part of the reason I found myself burning out before the age of 25 is because I was waiting for the end of a semester that was never going to arrive! Life after college doesn’t come with the built-in breaks that students become accustomed to. If you’re waiting for permission to take a break, you’re going to be waiting for a long time. Look at each week, month, and quarter in life after college and build in time for breaks.

Find people and activities that leave you feeling refreshed and make them a priority. Take a vacation – even a mini one or a staycation – every three to six months. Schedule reminders for dentist appointments and annual check-ups. Learn to set a budget and spend time learning how to make the best financial choices you can. Part of #adulting means learning to take care of yourself, and the reality is: that takes time. Only you are going to make the time, so be proactive about building in breaks.

Seek Out the Support You Need

You know how most colleges have career centers and high schools have guidance counselors? Well, in life after school, you’re on your own, kid.

I’m only partially kidding. Here’s the scoop: some of your peers are going to have the privilege of coming from families with connections and friends in high places who can open doors for them. If that’s the position you’re in – use it. If you’re like me – having family connections was never really my experience – you can still take the initiative to land meetings with important people who can influence your career trajectory. It takes time, effort, and some skill to learn how to connect with people, but it is important.

It’s not enough to be good at your job. To really cultivate the career you want, you’re going to have to build your network, grow your power and influence, and not be shy about seeking out support.

Want more guidance on navigating the college to career transition?

Pick up your copy of my new book, Bossed Up, and then register to join me for my upcoming webinar for recent grads on how to transition from college to career coming up on Thursday, June 13.

This article first appeared on Bossed Up. 


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