Life Transitions: From the Classroom to the Office

In Life Transitions, Susan Toth will focus on the natural and not-so natural stages of our lives.  Each issue will spotlight a particular transition, from graduating from college, getting married, having a baby, or helping your child get ready to leave the nest. Life Transitions will provide Identity readers with practical advice, tips and resources that she has learned over the years.


Since graduation and new-job season is upon us, I think it’s appropriate this month to talk about the school-to-work transition. It’s such an exciting time, but it can be very stressful, as well.

Since I didn’t attend college full-time right after high school, I made my school-to-work transition right after I graduated. I got a job as a secretary at a very large corporation. It was very exciting. The amount of money I was making seemed like a small fortune to 18-year-old me.

Really, at the beginning, it wasn’t all that different from going to school. I still had to get up early in the morning. The day was a little longer than a school day, but there was no homework. No summer vacation either, but most of my friends were working anyway, so that wasn’t such a big deal.

All of a sudden, though, the changes became more apparent. I couldn’t pick up the phone and call a friend anytime I felt like it. Personal phone calls were frowned upon. If I walked in late to class, teachers would usually cut me some slack. If I walked in late to work, that slack wasn’t there. Traffic wasn’t an excuse, and neither was snow.

In school, I was used to hanging around with people my own age most of the time, and the occasional adult in the form of a teacher or parent. Not at work. For the most part, everyone was older than me, and judging my every move.

I made some big mistakes at that first job, including the time I went to a retirement party and, well let’s just say I overdid the alcohol a little more than I should have. It made for a very sticky situation at the office the next day.

The school-to-work transition is often tricky to navigate. The two worlds are very different. What you do outside of work can definitely come back to haunt you, during the job hunt or the actual job. You need to be careful, be conscious of your behavior and make the best impression you know how to make. You need to remember that you’re in the big-kid world, and the usual “student” mentality won’t work. But most importantly, you need to enjoy what you do, and do it well.


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