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From student to employee - yikes!


Making the big jump from student life to the working world. Pierre Battah has tips for first-timers on the job.

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We hear a lot about the difficulties for graduating students to secure full time work related to their studies, however a great many will join the ranks of full time employment for the very first time this spring. The move from student to employee can be fraught with challenges for graduates, employers and parents.

There are endless resources for how to find a job but markedly fewer resources coaching recent graduates on their entry in their first full time role and more specifically on drawing clear differences between their academic careers and their budding professional careers.

The jump from school to work can be a wide one and how recent grads will fare is in part dependent on their exposure employers, bosses and the working life prior to graduation through meaningful summer or coop work and internships. Studies have shown that a student's first career transition can be a time of high anxiety, loneliness, feeling of low self-worth and a time marked by great uncertainty even after having landed the job. These challenges are all the more significant because those first experiences greatly shape lasting outlooks on work and will influence how the freshman employee will perceive work, their workplace relationships and ultimately how they will lead if placed on positions of authority later in their careers.

Employers and their practices obviously have a huge impact as they find the balance between micro managing the new recruit and leaving them alone to figure it. Both strategies are recipes for disaster. Providing the right level of supervision, challenging work (boredom is a sure way to disengage newbies) and managing expectations need to be an employer's focus. It is in everyone's best interest to ensure the new recruit becomes productive doing real work (safely) as quickly as possible.

For the recent grad, inflated expectations have been found to be at the heart of early dissatisfaction and both the recent grad and the boss have a role to play. For the former student it is about understanding the very real differences between post-secondary schooling and the workplace. Recent grads will do well to remember:

  • Bosses and professors are different so clarify expectations early and often.

  • Your boss is your ally not your friend, make them look good.

  • Work is less forgiving and less tolerant of mistakes so dig into the work. Just getting by doesn't cut it.

  • Neatness matters; dress accordingly (no sweat pants) and keep a clean work area.

  • The workplace clock: show up early for everything and get work done early or at worst on time.

  • Separation of personal and work life are key to getting careers started on the right foot. Mind your cell phone.

A final word for parents and significant others. In some ways you are poorly positioned to offer your sage advice but you will be forgiven for trying. Just remember, the workplace may not be the same from when you made the jump from school to work but your insights are valuable none the less. You best tools maybe how you listen deeply, question sparingly and reassure by providing your valuable insight. Re-aligning expectations and assumptions and helping process their initial setbacks will likely be to your best bet in supporting the recent grads first career transition.

Pierre Battah appears on Information Morning Moncton every Monday morning after the 7:30 news and sports. You can follow his blog at

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