Let me start off by saying that I’m 24 years old. Not long out of college myself, and not completely removed from the student mentality. So I don’t say “college kids” to be demeaning. I say it to describe a very particular brand of student that seems to struggle to make the transition from collegiate life to a professional environment.
This summer, I had the opportunity to supervise groups of individuals who were either still in college or had graduated only a month before. Here’s my advice for anyone in that position:
1. Showing up to work late is not the same as showing up to class late.
Most of the time, the work you’re doing will have an impact on more than just you as an individual. Not only does being late make you look unprofessional, but it can also set back other people’s schedules and timelines. On the occasions you must be late, notice matters. Being late is sometimes unavoidable, but here in the digital age, it’s just disrespectful to not give people a head’s up. I once had an employee miss a meeting entirely, only to receive a text message (rather than an email) 30 minutes after she was supposed to be sitting in front of me. No, it was not an emergency, and it was not a good look.
2. You do not need to be friends with your coworkers.
I spent an annoying amount of time this summer dealing with the interpersonal struggles of two young women who had started off as friends, but ended up being less compatible than they originally hoped. I fully understand that summer jobs often make it easy to form friendships with coworkers. But do not assume this will be the case in every work environment.
It’s also important to understand that not being friends with your coworkers does not make your workplace “toxic.” HR does not exist to make your coworkers be friendly to you. Generally speaking, if no one is harassing you, making your environment uncomfortable or hostile, or interfering with your ability to do your work, you need to suck it up and accept that a lot of workplace relationships are strictly professional.
3. Behave as though records are being kept (because they probably are).
During her evaluation meeting, one of the students was very surprised to find that I had made a note of all the days she arrived late, as well as instances when she left early. (And I don’t mean ten minutes here and there — more like an hour, sometimes more.) Never allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking that no one is noticing your behavior. In our case, every hour she wasn’t there was an hour of very crucial work that was not being accomplished.
If you’re up to something sketchy, chances are someone somewhere has receipts. More to that point, never lie on your timesheet. This goes well beyond professionalism; it can have very serious ramifications beyond just losing your job.
4. Do not wait for someone to ask you for something that you know is your responsibility.
When you are given a task to complete, you should alert the person who assigned it to you the moment you complete it. No one wants to continually ask for things to be done, only to walk up to someone the third time around and learn that they completed the assignment earlier that week. You’re expected to be proactive and turn things in as you complete them — not wait until somebody asks for them again.
5. If something is preventing you from doing your job, say something IMMEDIATELY.
If you wait until someone asks you why the job isn’t done, anything you tell them is going to sound like an excuse. The moment something begins impeding your productivity, you need to inform your supervisor. That way, they know that you are really not at fault for any incomplete assignments. I know it can be tempting to just kick back and chill whenever a technical (or personnel) issue arises. But never forget that there is an overall objective to the work you’re doing. If it’s not being completed, you are not the only one to suffer.
Transitioning to the professional world is tough — but not impossible.
Growing pains are to be expected when making the transition from school to work. I’m sure many of the students I supervised this summer will outgrow a lot of these behaviors very quickly once they begin working in their full-time careers. But hopefully for someone out there, these tips can expedite the growing process just a bit.
Casira is an avid traveler who is always saving up for her next trip. When she’s not writing, she’s working on her goal of becoming a polyglot. Follow her on Instagram @cejayce.
Image via Unsplash