Monday, April 11, 2011

Transitioning from the Classroom to the Office

Nearly five years ago, I traded in my cap and gown for pumps and pearls.  Of course they weren’t real pearls, but you get the picture.  Transitioning from a college student to a working professional was a transformation I eagerly welcomed, though in retrospect am not sure anyone can be properly prepared for.

Looking back on my college experience, I remember most of my classmates were extremely intimidated by the public relations professionals who would guest lecture our classes and come speak at our Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) meetings.  Some of these professionals were only a couple years older than we were, though they were held at a much higher levels of respect and stature.  

Now that I’m one of those PR professionals who guest lectures college classes and speaks at student meetings, I have a different perspective on the intimidation factor.  I often have thought to myself, “That was just me a few years ago.  What’s changed since then?”   I’ve grouped my key learnings into the following five categories.

·        Career path –Ready to transition from a college student to a young professional?  Well, you are if you stop thinking in terms of jobs and start thinking in terms of your career path. If the Land of Oz represents retirement and the yellow brick road represents career path, the concept of jobs is like being stuck in Kansas.  Get out of short-term ruts and focus on the bigger (long-term) picture.

·        Professionalism – Most undergraduate college students tend not to worry about sounding “professional” simply because they’re focused on their top priority – graduating.  Surrounding yourself with highly respected professionals can help increase your understanding of “professionalism” in its truest sense.  (This also can help minimize any sort of intimidation factor.)  

·        Appearance – What messages do your clothes send?  This is likely the most visible aspect of the transition.  Do your clothes read “broke college student” or “savvy working professional”?   What about your hairstyle, piercings, tattoos, etc.? Dress how you want to be perceived.  

·        Demographics – You can choose your friends, not necessarily your co-workers.  In college, you are surrounded by your peers.  In the work environment, you may now have to spend time with people you normally wouldn’t surround yourself with.  Learning to love and appreciate diversity is one of the keys to a successful transition.

·        Work/life balance – Learning this juggle can be a struggle.  It may take some time.  Set your priorities and stick to them.  Flexibility is often a promotable behavior.  Know what is important to you and what you are and are not willing to sacrifice.

Now that I’m headed down the yellow brick road, I look forward to once again becoming a student prior to arriving in the Land of Oz.  Hopefully that transition will be just as smooth.  

This blog post was written by Meredith Avakian. Meredith Z. Avakian is a public affairs specialist at DuPont Co., where she's specialized in employee and leadership communications.  Avakian also serves as PPRA's vice president of communications and the chair of the Armenian General Benevolent Union Young Professionals of Philadelphia.  In addition, she is the 2009 recipient of the PPRA President's Fast Track Award and the 2006 recipient of PPRA's Brodey Student Achievement Award.  Avakian earned a bachelor's degree in public relations from Temple University, where she served as the chapter president of the Public Relations Student Society of America.  

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