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Transitioning to the world of work: here’s how

Thanks to Jillian Bain, Careers Consultant, who recently reviewed Chapter 8 “Ready to Get on Board? Facilitating Role Transition of New Graduates” by Jenny Chen in the SAGE Handbook of Graduate Employability published in January 2023 (University of Edinburgh login required). Jillian shares key messages from Chen who discusses developing your professional identity.

How do you positively transition from being a student, to a graduate within a professional setting?

Seeking out, and taking advantage of work-based learning opportunities and experiences should help you feel more confident as you enter the professional world of work.

Chen suggests that there are a number of key things that students should be thinking about when preparing to enter a professional workplace:

  • Time management: As students, you have lectures and learning activities that you may be taking part in. You also have reading weeks, long breaks and self-directed learning time allocated too. Time management is a skill you need to master to be able to meet your university deadlines. In professional work environments, you will have far fewer breaks, shorter holidays and possibly time bound or inter-related tasks that must be completed in far shorter timeframes than you are used to. There are also likely to be administrative, repetitive tasks where there won’t be much learning taking place.
  • Problem solving: As a graduate, you may be expected to generate ideas and solve problems without fellow students or university staff to brainstorm with, so how do you approach that now? What techniques do you use that you can adapt in the future?
  • Building professional relationships: At university, you will form friendship groups with like-minded individuals, and build relationships with your tutors and lecturers. In a professional workplace though there will likely be a hierarchy that you need to adapt to – of worker and manager – and you will need to work with a more diverse range of colleagues and clients, including some people that you simply don’t like or have nothing in common with.  You will need to find a way to manage those relationships at work to be able to deliver the end results.
  • Performance delivery: As a student, you are thinking about your next course, assignment or exam – short term, task based goals. Whether you do well, is entirely down to you and how much effort you put in. But, in the workplace, you are more likely to be engaged in continuous learning where some projects are developed over months or years, and your performance will impact the overall team performance and delivery. Unlike tutors or lecturers, managers are less likely to tolerate errors and mistakes.

What steps can you take to prepare for this transition into the world of work?

There are a number of things that you can do:

  • Take advantage of any work-based or work-related learning opportunities as part of your course curriculum.
  • Look for opportunities to secure an internship, work experience or work shadowing in your preferred sector/occupation.
  • Use Platform One to link in with University of Edinburgh alumni who can help you prepare for the type of workplace environment you will be entering, including the professional terminology used and workplace etiquette that you will need to adopt. They can also help you understand the dress codes, culture, values and beliefs within different workplaces which will all help you to be ready to make that transition.

You can also use the Careers Service Become Professional Toolkit. It is split into five bite size sections focusing on expectations of your role; developing commercial awareness; remote working; professional identity; and tools for the workplace. You don’t have to do all the sections at once: this is a resource that you can dip in and out of.

Thanks Jillian.

(Image credit: Adobe Express)








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