By: Nikki Mikolon
Photo created by Nikki Mikolon using Canva
As students, going to school has been our sole focus for many years. For 12 years now we have been in school, and then go four or more years to further our education in hopes of landing our dream job. A career is definitely the end goal, but many students are focused on school and need to be reminded that after school ends, the real world begins. Changing schools is easy. Starting a career can be intimidating. After all, this is what we have been preparing for our whole college career and practically our whole life.
Here are some tips from recent graduates working in the field about some habits to get into now to make the transition smoother after graduation:
Time and deadlines are serious business.
Natalie Burns, EMU ’16 graduate emphasizes the importance of staying on top of things.
“Deadlines are still VERY important. So getting in the habit of turning work in on time still applies even outside of school.”
Erica Tackett, MSU ’16 graduate also emphasizes deadlines, but wants to remind students to pay attention to time while working.
“Be aware of time spent on tasks. In the “real world” that everyone keeps hinting at, you’ll be responsible for billing time to clients in 15-minute increments, if you’re at an agency. Depending on the agency, some of these increments can cost around $25, totaling around $100 an hour. That’s not something you want to mess up.”
Last minute mornings won’t cut it.
Leah Rodriguez, EMU ’15 graduate says that being prepared the night before sets up the next day for success.
“I would say to start preparing for the next day the night before. Have your lunch packed and clothes ironed so you aren’t rushing in the morning. The hours leading up to you going into work are extremely important because it sets a precedent for the day. If you are disorganized and flustered before you go into work, chances are your day will reflect on that.”
Tackett seconds Rodriguez’ request on getting ready the night before while making sure your money doesn’t disappear before your eyes.
“Get on that packing-a-lunch grind. You will get hungry at work, and you will spend too much of your paycheck if you’re going out to eat every day. Get in the habit now.”
Rodriguez also advises students to get used to being on some sort of set schedule before graduating.
“Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day so your body is used to it. The first week of work for me was rough. I was used to waking up at 9 to get to class and going to bed at midnight or 1 a.m. Having to switch that to waking up at 6 and going to sleep at 9 or 10 is a lot more difficult than you think. Get a lot of rest because your brain needs it.”
When your professor said certain skills would help, they weren’t kidding.
Stephen Kurily, EMU ’16 graduate makes it a point to say how much he wishes he would have built his personal brand sooner than later.
“One thing I wish I did before graduating was using my social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) to follow and engage with reporters and outlets in the industries I wanted to work in. Starting to build those connections early will benefit you so greatly when you start your career. Using your social channels to share and retweet stories about trending topics shows potential employers that you are paying attention to what’s going on. This also gives you the chance to start building relationships with reporters, share their work, and tell them what you think about their story. This helps build your personal brand in a major way.”
Tackett reminds us that those skills we learned even before college are essential.
“Don’t stray away from math, especially if you want to work in digital. I spend 75 percent of my time in Excel, working with large data sets (imagine nearly 5,000 rows) and complicated formulas. We use Excel to calculate ad performance, organize and track media flow charts, monitor and calculate costs, and more. I use math every single day in my role to do quick equations on the side, or double-check something a formula is calculating.”
Find something to keep you sane.
Tackett makes another good point when getting used to life after school.
“Get a hobby that’s not your job, seriously. After I graduated and started at my new gig, I became very complacent with my after-work life. Without having homework, student organizations and part-time jobs to fill your schedule, you forget what to do with all the time on your hands. Having a hobby or something you enjoy and look forward to helps.”
We all knew one day graduation would come. For some of us, we will complete our undergraduate degrees and dive right into the workforce. Others may want to learn more before diving in. Whichever path you may choose, be sure to use this advice to prepare for the future.
Nikki Mikolon is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in marketing. As a Detroit native, she hopes to spend her beginning years working for the city and being a part of its renaissance. Connect with Nikki on Twitter @nikkimikolon.