The Hardest Things About Transitioning from College to Work

Going from the excitement of college to working a full-time job can be a difficult transition. College is one of the most fun times in our lives when we are surrounded by people our age, eat most of our meals out and live with our best friends. Then, basically, overnight, we switch to spending Monday through Friday working from 9-5 or more. While I am extremely grateful to have a job and enjoy it, there were some bumps in the transition.

The transition from college to a full-time job can be difficult. (Twenty20 @DimaBerlin)

10 hardest parts of transitioning from college to working

1. Our schedule changes 

One of the biggest changes from college to working life is the huge shift in schedule. In college, we could make our own schedule, for the most part, deciding what times and days we wanted to take classes. I would usually take my classes on only Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it felt like I had a four-day weekend.

I would meet up with friends in between classes, study at a coffee shop or the library, and spend a lot of my free time at the beach. Now, I work 9-5 and by the end of the workday, I am usually too tired to do anything. It feels like I don’t have free time anymore. 

2. Our social circle shrinks

After graduating, it can be hard to stay in contact with friends from college. It’s sad that we no longer are close with the friends we had classes with or friends who lived nearby. In some cases, we may totally lose touch with them.

So, we go from being surrounded by people our age and having unlimited options for friends to working with people of all ages. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because we have a lot to learn from experienced employees and they can mentor us, but at the same time, it will never be a close relationship where we would hang out outside of our job. 

3. Finances become a major stressor

During my college years, I would work during the summers and spend the money I earned throughout the school year on groceries, eating at restaurants, clothes, and activities without worrying about costs. Once I started working a full-time job, I realized that I needed to start saving up as much as possible if I want to be financially independent.

4. Few holiday breaks

Many companies do not give a winter break or only give a few days off, and you won’t be getting a spring or summer break. 

5. Life becomes repetitive 

While I am so grateful to have a job I enjoy, I loved life while at college. I was constantly doing fun things with my friends and felt excited about each day. Now, I only have time to do things on the weekends. Weekdays can feel a little like I’m living the same day over and over. However, on the plus side, I can now afford weekend trips and other activities with my friends!

6. Making friends can be more challenging

In college, people were typically very open to meeting people and making new friends. Plus, there were numerous options for clubs, Greek life, or sports, so there was something for every type of person.

Making work friends is a bit more difficult because we may not have as much in common with our co-workers. My co-workers are all fabulous and very welcoming but it’s not the same as a college friend. I’ve looked to other avenues to make friends, such as joining the local alumni group of my sorority and joining a gym.

7. There are a multitude of things to work on at once

In college, there usually was a neatly designed syllabus that laid out all of the assignments for the semester with due dates. At work, there might be many competing priorities and successfully multi-tasking is essential.

My job can be stressful because there are so many expectations and deadlines that need to be met. Work stress will have me waking up in the middle of the night thinking about what I need to do the next day — something I never experienced in college. 

8. Not knowing who to ask for help 

Another challenging part of corporate life is that it can sometimes be confusing to know how to get your questions answered. In college, there was a professor and teaching assistant (TA), so whenever I had a question, I knew who to ask. There were even office hours which was a designated time to go and ask questions.

However, in my corporate job, there are many people who are responsible for different things. I’ve learned that if I need something, I have to research different people’s roles to figure out the right person to ask. 

9. Realizing the importance of networking

I knew that it was important to get to know my professors and TAs, but I’m finding that networking is even more important as I launch my career. Getting to know coworkers is crucial for being successful in the corporate world. 

10. Success is rated differently 

In college, grades are based on a rubric, so generally, I knew what success would look like. In the workplace, success can be measured in many different ways, so it can be confusing to know exactly what our boss wants. Sometimes success is measured by how quickly I complete something; other times it is measured by the quality of the project. From this experience, I’ve learned to ask my manager if it is more important to get it done quickly or if I should spend more time to ensure high quality.

Overall, transitioning from college to working life can be a challenging and confusing process. Of course, starting a career after graduation was the whole goal of going to college, so I am very happy to have achieved that goal. However, the first few months of working life have been very stressful and overwhelming, and many other recent graduates experience this as well.

As the weeks have gone by though, I’ve settled in and feel more comfortable. I know I am growing as a person as I take on these new responsibilities in my first corporate job. 

More Great Reading:

13 Things Nobody Tells New College Grads About Finding a Full-Time Joib

About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. After graduating, she worked in marketing for a cybersecurity company for a year and a half. For the past year, she has been traveling the world while volunteering in hostels. Starting this fall, she will be teaching English in Spain. To learn more, here are her social media accounts: TikTok and Instagram. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

Read more posts by Madeleine

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