Life After College: 3 Ways to Find Your Professional Persona

Business.com / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Prep yourself for the transition from college student or intern to full-time professional employee with the help of these career tips.

From grammar school through high school, much of our day-to-day lives are structured by what the education system dictates. Then, upon entering college, these constraints are suddenly lifted.

Classes are no longer a straight block, but rather spread throughout the week and at different times. Unlike the teachers of past, your professors put the onus squarely on you to attend class and complete assignments and projects.

For many of us, this transition curve is huge, but after four years you finally develop a knack for it, and then you graduate.

Cue the next transition.

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After graduation, my father told me, “Get ready for the real world, kid.” I remember thinking to myself that I was already in the “real world,” yet I quickly found that I was wrong.

The truth is that laying your college persona to rest in an effort to morph into a working professional can take a monumental effort. Yes, there are always outliers who seem to segue from one stage of life to the next with the grace of a German-engineered transmission.

For the rest of us, taking on a more mature lifestyle, from attitude to attire, can be difficult.

If you’re struggling to shift into that next gear, here are some tried and true methods to help you find your professional persona.

1. Get To Sleep

I know, this sounds absurd, we’re talking about becoming more of a “grown-up,” and now you’re being told that one of the keys is adhering to a bedtime.

What I’m talking about here is a really a consistent sleep routine. All too often during our college years, we eat, go to class, eat some more, study and then hit the hay for a couple of hours before doing it all again.

Throw in a part-time job and the rhythm becomes even more chaotic. The National Sleep Foundation notes that our bodies crave consistency.

Related Article: Why It's Okay to Skip Grad School and Start Your Own Business

Unlike the staggered schedule you once held, most employers are expecting you to stick to something akin to an eight-to-five.

This can be a tough habit to break, but after several days you’ll begin to feel your body and mind align to the new schedule.

Don’t just take my word for it, give it a whirl.

2. Leave the Science Kit Behind

To varying degrees, your time in college is a playground for experimentation, this is the quintessential rite of passage all too many college comedies allude to.

Getting wild in school may result in a few laughs or, in the worst of scenarios, a lowered grade. In the workplace, acting unprofessionally can result in termination.

Plead as much as you want, but a missed deadline in the office is not usually negotiable. Yes, you should still be “you,” but remember that you’re now part of a larger team.

3. Dress Appropriately

So here’s the deal: It’s 2016 and the days when a suit and tie were mandatory in the workplace have long passed.

That said, every man should own at least one nice suit. Ladies, the same goes for you. Even if you only wear these to the interview and at the occasional client meeting, these are business staples that won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

Beyond this, do some homework. The term “business casual” means a lot of different things. If you are unsure and your network isn’t able to provide any guidance, simply ask.

Once you find out what the dress code is, consider dressing “up” ever so slightly. That may sound like a trite idea, but it has been noted that this does show an additional degree of dedication.

Again, don’t overdress, if everyone else is in jeans and polos, it’s probably best to leave the tie at home, but consider a dress shirt and nice shoes to correspond with your jeans.

Related Article: Why An MBA Degree Isn't As Prestigious As It Once Was

The sun and moon make change look easy, heck, they swap places every night without missing a beat.

Yet for most people, even minor wrinkles in schedules create major amounts of stress. Don’t let the metamorphosis from college student to professional weigh you down.

Taking the few steps I’ve laid out here can help ease you into your professional persona.

To quote Asimov, “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.”

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