By Emma Hackett, Staff Writer

Many millennials know exactly how this feels: you’ve spent most of your high school/college life picking up odd jobs during breaks, most of which are more for giving you some pocket money, not helping you with your future career. Then suddenly you face the prospect of finding a real job, with a salary and benefits, that will signal the beginning of your career journey and independent adult life.

This transition is jarring and difficult for most; even very career-focused students admit that entering the working world after college can be a harsh reality check, with a lot of unanticipated hardships and obstacles. Here are some quick tips that will smooth out the transition to your first “real” job, and help you to start strong on your career journey.

1. Be Smart with Your Paychecks

Financial planner Michael Solari says,“I think it’s a big transition - especially coming from college, not making any money, to coming home with a paycheck. People’s heads spin about what they should do.” Now that you have a regular paycheck, you have to opportunity to start building a smart and solid financial future. Some things to keep in mind:

·        Take stock of your student loans situation. If you’ve graduated with debt, then you’ll have to be very proactive in building habits that will get it paid off as quickly and efficiently as possible. Example: starting payments immediately after graduation can actually save you money in the long run.

·        Start planning for long-term financial goals. If you want to buy a house next year, then you’ll need to start preparing right away. And always keep those long-term goals in mind whenever you’re faced with any financial decision.

·        Start thinking about retirement early. Young people who are new to the workforce are actually in the best position to save for retirement; become familiar with your company’s retirement plans, and investigate which option is best for you. Then, put a little cash into your retirement fund every month. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Start Early & Stay Late

This old adage is still one of the most powerful ways to make a really great impression at work, because it shows your employer that you are dedicated and hardworking. Start by following the lead of your coworkers. If the position is a typical 9-5, but you notice most people staying until 6, you should by all means stay until 6 too - at least in the beginning. That way, you’ll solidify yourself in the mind of your employer as a dedicated team player, who’s not afraid of hard work.

3. Have a Positive Attitude

College to career is definitely a daunting transition - with a whole new host of adult responsibilities, it might be really hard to be excited and enthusiastic some days. But staying optimistic is actually one of the most important factors when it comes to making a great impression at work. Solidifying yourself as an upbeat and helpful member of the team will help you to stand out (in a good way).

4. Be Proactive About Planning Your Days

The feeling of time slipping through your fingers is definitely a familiar one to most - if not all - college students, so it’s important to start setting up daily routines that will break the habit of wasted time on day one of your new job. Get familiar with your surroundings, the office setup, etc. as soon as possible.

Consider a 30/60/90 day plan, which will be very helpful when it comes to keeping your big picture goals in mind, and can help you stay grounded in terms of effective time management. And, for everyday organization, have a look at this super-helpful chart, which can basically be an adaptable step-by-step through your first day on the job (and through the early days of your career as well). 

The transition to a first job will always be shocking and difficult, but with the right attitude and planning, you'll be ready to enjoy living on your own in the "real world" in no time.

AuthorEmma Hackett