Structure and discipline. While these two items might seem fairly trivial at first glance, they are two of the more significant changes many will face when transitioning from college to a career. Of course the amount of change and adjustment required for these two areas will vary greatly depending on one’s previous full-time employment history.
The schedules and work required for a full-time position are different from those for an academic schedule. Most academic schedules are not eight or nine hours per day, nor are they continuous. One of the best things about the academic system is that people have some amount of free choice in their scheduling. You can register for later classes or earlier classes; you can try to schedule entire days off, and so on.
A typical full-time college student has somewhere between 15 and 25 hours of actual class time spread throughout the week coupled with varying amounts of homework, research, writing, and other activities. So the total amount of work in a college week might be the same number of hours as a regular job, but the schedules are different.
Just as the structure of your schedule will change when you move from an academic life to a work life, your concept of self-discipline will have to be adjusted. Discipline is what turns the chaos of transition into the organized routine of structure and there are several strategies to help with this transition.
Obviously it will take some getting used to, but it’s not impossible. If you’ve ever wondered how your parents can get up so early every day, it’s because after a while their bodies acclimate to the routine. Soon enough your body will get use to the normal work week too. With that in mind, its important to get the sleep you need to be productive during the work day.
In addition, many employers will offer a variety of work schedules. It’s important to work with your employer to find a schedule that fits you best. I used to be the college student with classes all scheduled late in the day or at night, but now I prefer to get to work fairly early. This allows me to keep some outside influence in my routine; work, gym, dinner, free time, sleep, and repeat. There are probably just as many people who would prefer to work from 9 to 5 rather than from 6 to 3.
While working a full day may seem daunting at first, I’d recommend that you take short breaks throughout the day. Going outside and enjoying some fresh air or taking a little walk to get some exercise may not seem like much, but the short break can do wonders. I would also recommend keeping a healthy diet. There will be many times throughout the day where you’ll feel hungry, and it’s important that you’re eating healthy foods to keep you going. For example whole-grain breads, whole fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, which provides a stable supply of energy throughout the day.
All these strategies are key, but for me the most important piece of advice I can give is to figure out a schedule that works best for you, allowing for both maximum productivity and the necessary free time to pursue your interests.
Editor’s Note: The author, Kevin Sheil is a former Workforce Recruitment Program intern who now works as a Wage Hour Investigator for the Wage and Hour Division. This is the third of a series of posts by Mr. Sheil highlighting the various skills, abilities, and knowledge that can be acquired through the WRP.