The transition from student to professional is perhaps one of the most challenging shifts in my life. Yes, I am only 24 years old but still…
While we are students, we take certain things for granted.
There are definitely several perks of being a student but by far the biggest one is being able to do majority of the work at home, usually wearing the bare minimum.
My point is that students have control over the environment they work in. The place, the time and even the company. If a project requires working in groups, usually students can choose their partners. The only variable students don’t control are the professors but even they are temporary.
Once the student becomes the employee, this control over the environment disappears.
Now this might sound like a negative thing but it’s definitely not. A new environment, with new rules and expectations is the perfect environment for growth. It is challenging and tough. And that’s good!
The Adaptation Period
The first months of work are exactly like the first months in a relationship.
Everyone is in their best behavior.
You are exited to start this new part of your life. Motivation and expectations are through the roof! Everything is new. Everything is possible!
Who hired you sees all the potential in you and wants to make you feel welcomed. Everyone is available to make sure you have what you need.
Just like a relationship, this fire slowly fades away. Expectations are replaced by reality. Day to day activities start exposing real behaviors, unconditioned by the trill and excitement of a new environment.
And here is where long term relationship can flourish. Or perish.
The adaptation period is like a trial. A natural mechanism that filters everyone who doesn’t match the DNA of the job.
My advice to newly graduates is the following: In the beginning, the job and people might feel overwhelming but, try to endure this period. As you get better at the job and people get to know you better, things will start falling into place.
Results, results, results
At the begging of each semester, professors establish all the evaluation periods where students need to deliver a project or write an exam. These testing periods are usually at the end of the semester, meaning that students don’t need to show their work for a long time.
Now that I have some perspective, I see how this system can be incompatible with the real world.
Imagine only delivering a report every six months to your boss. What would he or she think of you? Are you sleeping on the job?!
You want to show progress. Regularly update everyone about the work you did both to justify your salary and to receive feedback.
The school system teaches students to deliver work at specific dates that meet specific requirements but it don’t teach students to show their work on a regular basis. Some professors (curiously the ones who have a solid professional experience) create evaluation systems that praise weekly reports and although more demanding, I now can see the reason why they did it.
If your work doesn’t have daily or weekly reports, make sure you create the habit of constantly communicating your work. And this leads us to the next BIG lesson.
I will be honest. All the headaches I had so far in my new job can be traced back to poor communication. Either by not transmitting properly an opinion or by misunderstanding a piece of information.
When dealing with other people this will always be an issue. We tend to assume so much that we forget to ask questions and get the information from the source. That is why over communicating is so important.
By asking a lot of questions and communicating your opinions without judgement we are making it easier for others to connect with us and in return ease the flux of information. This can be a big challenge, specially if others don’t act the same way. But don’t fall into the blaming game.
Let me explain.
Communication always happens both ways and just like a feedback loop, it can correct itself or start oscillating out of control. If your communication skills are not the best, others can interpret your action and words the wrong way and perpetuate the cycle.
The only way to break that cycle is to take responsibility, swallow from frogs and strive to do a better job next time.
Now that I think about it… I learn this during my time as a basketball player. My coach would tell us:
If someone passes you the ball and you don’t catch it, it is ALWAYS your fault.
This might sound ridiculous right? If someone simply sucks at passing the ball, why should the receiver be in fault? Because this mindset is proactive, and therefore productive.
Next time you will try harder to catch the ball and over time you will improve.
In conclusion, a full time job allowed me to understand how important communication is. Regularly showing my work and communicating effectively any ideas or opinions. Understanding that everyone needs to improve their communicating skills but also taking responsibility to proactively improve my own way of interacting with others.