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Transitioning from college to work

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Few classes in college prepare seniors on how to transition from college to the workforce. Given the stark contrasts between these two environments, we believe it is highly appropriate to have a guide on how to conduct yourself and interact with engineering professionals.

This article focuses on some issues that I am well aware of through personal experiences and those shared with me by my former classmates. Understanding and being aware of these points and being prepared for them should help you make a smoother transition into the engineering workforce.

Time-Management

Unlike college, you are now being paid for your time. For this reason, your employer will require you to dedicate 100% of yourself to the company during the time you are scheduled to work. You should also realize that some jobs will require you to work more hours that the regular 40-hour-weeks, usually without any sort of compensation.

One of the first things you should look into when you start with a new company is to figure out how you will manage the work-life balance and make your employer aware of which comprises you are willing to make and which ones you are not.
Another time-related harsh reality is free time and vacation time. In college, you get used to taking long weekends away from campus — on top of extremely long winter and summer breaks. Most colleges also have mid-semester breaks. Unfortunately, most employers are not that generous with time off. You may be lucky to get two weeks of vacation in your first job – but even with those two weeks, because you are one of the newest employees, you may not have much choice as to when you can take your vacation.

Professionalism

Everyone knows that a certain amount of college is a rite of passage, a time to try different things, be a little crazy or irresponsible. In college, acting unprofessional might result in a bad grade or a lecture from an administrator or professor; in the workplace, acting unprofessionally can get you fired.

Deadlines

Deadlines are critical, much more so than in college. Whereas you might have been able to convince your professor into giving you an extension, you’ll find in most fast-paced business environments, missing deadlines is unacceptable.

Teamwork

It is almost certain that you will be working as part of team in your first years of employment. With so many personality styles, communication modalities and dysfunctions, you will have to learn how to be an effective team player especially if you are in a subordinate role. As a new engineer it will be a good idea to take the time to listen and ask questions. Never assume.

Age groups

Unlike college, you will be among people from different age groups. Although you may share an excellent rapport with most of them, it is important that you are always polite and cordial to everyone. Good interpersonal relationships at workplace are crucial for creating a stress-free work environment.

Stress Management

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines. Every time you feel as if you are stressed step back and ask yourself the following question.

  • What is causing me the stress?
  • How can I do this differently?
  • Can I outsource that stressful task to someone more experience?

Dealing With a Difficult Boss

Dealing with a difficult boss can be very intimidating, as your relationship with them may make or break your career. If your boss is not too happy with your work, make a sincere attempt to evaluate your work performance. However, if you feel that you are doing your best, then it may be time to reassess your suitability for your current position, or to move on and find a new job.

Dealing With your Engineering Colleagues

Unlike college, you will be among people from different age groups. Although you may share an excellent rapport with all of them, it is important that you are always polite and cordial to everyone. Good interpersonal relationships at workplace are crucial for creating a stress-free work environment.

Some other issues, while not related directly to work might influence how effective you are as an employee. These include,

  • Balancing work demands with family/friends/personal life
  • Personal finance issues and budgeting
  • Buying your first home

It is prudent that you talk the the appropriate steps to educate yourself on these topics to make your transition to the workforce easier.

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Posted by on May 4th, 2009 and filed under Career, Education. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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