Becoming a professional
Tips for making the transition from student to professional
The most important factor in making a smooth transition from student to employee is your mental attitude. The first 3 months are crucial as you adjust to the work culture, perform your responsibilities professionally and make the personal and psychological adjustments to your new lifestyle and identity.
This transition can be helped by 'thinking yourself into' this role before it happens and to 'try on' the coat of the professional. This way you become familiar with aspects of your new identity and begin to adapt.
Your career in today's working world will be very different from what your parents and grandparents experienced. The job for life, with its planned career structure, no longer exists.
Expect to have a career made up of multiple jobs and develop confidence in transferring your skills i.e. you are able to apply existing skills to new circumstances.
What to do whilst still a student
- Attend workshops
- Start to live a slightly more organised life. If you are not already an organised person start using time management strategies like scheduling your time, using a diary and timetable i.e. all the strategies suggested for a uni student, but often not used! These skills are also essential in the workplace.
- Explore your options. Use planning, organisational and research skills to know who the potential employers are for your field. Look not only at the graduate section of the employer's website, but also other aspects of the business. Also find out general things like location, the type of employee required, how big the organisation is etc.
- Note other graduate or employer experiences at the events during Careers Month
- If your course has placements or an internship be sure to do well if you get one of these and make a good impression. This experience can lead to vital networks and skill development for the next step. If you have already experienced a placement/internship this can be expressed well as part of the application for graduate recruitment in your final year.
- Prepare yourself for the application process. Attend careers events, speak to employers and include in your questions things like the role of new graduates in the organisation.
- Get your resume up to date, checked and keep it current. Construct a professional document using Deakin's Resume Builder or another reputable model.
- Network, Network! Talk to people you know like your network of family, friends and acquaintances, or people they know who have recently joined the work force. Ask them about their experiences; how they got the job, what helped them, what they wouldn't do again.
- Ask the same people about job opportunities or other job related 'leads', especially if they work in the field you want to or are about to enter.
- Find out about and look at your professional association or industry group or join as a student member
Manage your finances
- Start to manage finances now. Seek financial advice if you want or need to. Banks and credit unions can offer free advice however be mindful. It's best not to walk out with an extensive loan to repay.
- Start saving some money to pay for a new set of clothes as old uni clothes will no longer do. Try 'op' shopping or second hand clothes shops to co-ordinate outfits if you are want to stay within a budget.
What to do when you start your professional life
- Congratulations on being successful at interview. Be proud and congratulate yourself. Celebrate getting the job, but not the night before you start or every night thereafter!
- Manage your work life balance. Take care of your health. Make sure you get plenty of rest and exercise to keep you in good health and alert to meet the many challenges work and life will present.
- Know the location of where you are going and how to get there and how long it will take before the first day and allow a little extra time for an unexpected situation e.g. traffic flow, train lateness. Have the phone number of the employer with you so you can let them know if there is an unexpected delay.
- Dress the part - first impressions matter. You may need to find out the sort of "dress code" by asking around and observing people in that environment. The interview will give you some clues as to how people dress. If you don't know, dress up rather than down.
- Note any induction/mentor programs in which case you'll be guided with the basics of getting started. If you know anyone in the organisation or there is a mentor or 'buddy' system, talk to that person and other people in the organisation.
- Ask questions about how the place works. If it also helps you, take notes and it is fine to ask questions about the role and expectations. It's better to get things clear than make assumptions and get it wrong. No one minds, when you are new, being asked these questions and it shows you are respectful of people and practises.
- Note lunch room "etiquette" - do people have their own cup, how does it get cleaned, what about coffee, milk and so on.
- If you misunderstand something or make a mistake, admit it and learn from it. Apologise.
- Act assertively and respectfully. Check out your understanding of what the other person is saying before you challenge or disagree.
- Become a good observer , take your time and notice what is going on around you, who does what. Learn about the organisational structure.
- Identify opportunities for learning and for professional and personal development to help you fit in and adapt to your role successfully. You will need to engage in ongoing learning throughout your life.
- Join in where possible on projects that seem in your area, volunteer for tasks that seem within your capability. This shows commitment and ability to take initiative which is part of professional behaviour. However, don't be over enthusiastic and sign up for everything.
- Starting as a professional is another big stage in your life. Don't blow it out of perspective and get yourself worked up and anxious to the point you can't do the job or have to struggle to keep up.
- Have fun at your new job in a way that shows professionalism and energy and demonstrates your team skills.
- Talk with family and friends about your early experiences at work. Share your enthusiasm and worries.
Good luck and enjoy the journey. Chances are there will be many new experiences and many new organisations in the years ahead.
- Learn from professional people you admire.
- Start with paying attention to how you manage your day and the way you relate to those around you.
- Know what the basics of behaving professionally are such as trustworthiness and reliability, and incorporate these in your daily life and relationships.
- Be well informed and prepared.
- Know your strengths and communicate them; take time to build on your weaknesses rather than use them as excuses.
Taking it further