Making The Shift From Student to Employee

This article looks at the difficulties there can be in making the shift from student to employee. It offers support and key tips to help you adjust during this challenging time.

by KateBlackford 4 years ago

Whilst starting your career and that first full time job out of university can be exciting, it can also be a daunting prospect. Gone are the safety nets of fellow students and shared experiences, and a flexible schedule to do your work at a time that suits you and in come more standard working hours, new colleagues and the desire to establish yourself and your career. 

It can sometimes feel as though you are thrown in at the deep end as you try to figure out the scope of the business you join, the key players, the ways things are done and how you fit into all of this.  In addition is the shock to the system as your body works to acclimatise to different times and ways of working, your brain is trying to take in all of the new information and experiences you are being exposed to and all of this can be quite exhausting.  

In my early thirties I left full time employment to go back to university and get my Ph.D.  Even though I had worked hard (and often long hours) while I was studying, also doing consultancy work and a few shifts in a local pub to make ends meet, it still took a long while to get used to full time working when I resumed my career.  I remember feeling so tired I could hardly bear to get out of bed in the morning, with the weeks feeling interminably long as I waited for that prized weekend lie-in.  My concentration span was short and I felt overwhelmed at trying to get my head around all the complexity of the business and who I needed to engage with for what.  

I felt a huge weight of responsibility to prove myself in my new role and show that I was managing and this added to my exhaustion.  I felt quite alone and as if I was the only person in the business struggling with this and that there surely must be something wrong with me. The thought of surviving the rest of my career in this state of exhaustion only made me feel worse and I resented the early starts, late finishes and constant barrage of emails.

So here are a few tips on acclimatising to your new job:

1. Boundaries

In an increasing technological age it is vital to have boundaries that allow you to switch off from work.  It is all too easy to sit of an evening and check your work email.  Get into the practice of switching off your mobile data at least two hours before bed and appreciating your off time.  The same goes for weekends (assuming you work Monday – Friday, but if not, whenever your off days are).  Getting this psychological break from work is essential in allowing our body to relax and repair, manage stress and enhance well-being.

2. Keep active

Joining the world of full-time work can often mean more time sat at a desk and sedentary.  Whilst you may feel like exercise is the last thing you want to do, it is important to keep it up as it will improve your energy levels, sense of well-being and concentration.  With spring having arrived walking is a great way to relax and get some exercise.  Is there a way you can walk to work, or even a part of the way?  Can you get out for a walk at lunch-time?  Even if you can only fit in 15 minutes in the morning that will help immensely.  Many businesses now offer reduced rate gym memberships to staff which can help, but getting outside is the ultimate especially if you can find a walking or running route through a park or green space, so try to build this in too.

3. Keep up hobbies 

When you are feeling tired often hobbies are the first thing to go.  Try to keep them up so you maintain interests and social connection outside of work.  Engaging in active or creative activities is a great way to give your brain a break from work and engage the creative pleasure centres of the brain.

4. Talk to someone

Often we can feel like we should instantly know everything (especially if we are trying to prove ourselves in the early stages of our career) and so we avoid asking questions for fear of looking like we don’t know what we are doing. This can lead to lots of anxiety as we try to ‘muddle through’.  Find colleagues who are willing to support you in your new role, talk to them, ask their opinions and advice and you will soon be feeling a lot more comfortable and producing good work.

5. Get good sleep

Getting good quality sleep is vital in staying healthy and well in body and mind. (See article on fatigue)

Establishing a bedtime routine, having regular sleep hours where possible and creating a cool, comfortable, tech and TV-free sleep zone will all help.