By Polly Allen
Ask anyone about moving from studying to full-time work and it’s likely you’ll hear some interesting stories about messed up body clocks (making the switch to 9-5s from night owl essay writing can be painful) and social awkwardness at the first round of Friday night work drinks.
Not every aspect of the working world is this difficult to navigate though. In fact, in many ways, working full-time has plenty of similarities to your time at uni.
The work kitchen sometimes looks like a bomb site
It’s practically a student rite of passage to walk into your house’s kitchen and discover a mouldy loaf of bread on the table, no clean mugs anywhere and that all the forks have mysteriously disappeared.
You might think getting a job means you’re well rid of other people’s mess, but guess what? Nothing changes! In fact, a survey by Appliances Direct revealed 67% of office workers had fallen out with colleagues about kitchen cleanliness in the last 12 months.
Even in a large office, the sink will fill up with cups by mid-afternoon, someone will steal last of the milk, and there’ll be a suspicious left-over meal that nobody wants to touch. HR will put signs around the kitchen, explaining the dishwasher is there to be used, and that people shouldn’t be greedy with the teabags, and things will improve for a week or two but they’ll quickly slide back to normal.
Fortunately, depending upon where you work, you might have a big luxury: the office cleaner. If so, treat them with the respect they deserve. If there’s no cleaner, you’ll get into a cleaning rota with your colleagues…just like being back in your old house share.
It pays off to use your free time for “homework”
Obviously, your free time is your own, but if you want to rise rapidly in your chosen career then it’s important that your brain doesn’t clock off at 5pm. Maybe you watch an inspiring TED talk, follow some influencers on Twitter (Tech Bullion has useful examples of finance-related influencers), or read an interesting article in an industry journal that sparks an idea. Or maybe you check out the competition and see what rival companies are up to, so you can feed back to your manager.
Whatever you do, it’s not really any different to the work you do outside of the lecture theatre at university. In both cases, you’re doing it because you’re passionate about a subject and want to get better at it.
You build your social circle through out-of-work activities
At university, you’d let off steam by joining a society or sports team, depending on what suited your interests. As well as helping you meet new people, these hobbies gave you a sense of balance, and it’s exactly the same in your future day job.
Many workplaces have staff groups, from soccer teams to book clubs or running clubs, so you can hang out with colleagues in an informal environment whilst perfecting your skills. There are recognised employee benefits to joining clubs – for example, your wellbeing will be boosted.
If you can’t inspire your colleagues to get moving, you can meet like-minded other people in the area and get together for a group gym session or photography class.
You’re still being regularly assessed
Hate to tell you this, but once you escape the exam system, you probably won’t be free of tests for life. Most careers these days include assessments of some sort, whether that means regular appraisals, giving a low-key presentation to senior staff, or – gulp – public speaking.
It can be daunting at first, but you won’t be the only one feeling nervous. Most people hate public speaking, which explains why there are loads of adult education courses to help them improve. Even non-profit organisations, such as Toastmasters, have sprung up around the world. See how they helped workers in Ulster here.
So, if you can’t avoid being assessed, how can you make the best of it? Ask for help, just as you would in university, and consider setting up a study group. Big work-related exams might involve study leave arrangements, much like reading weeks in uni, because your employer will take your exams just as seriously as you.
If things do go wrong on the day, you’ll usually be allowed at least one retake, but you should still put in maximum effort on your first attempt.
Polly writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency helping people find their perfect internship and giving them the latest graduate careers advice. Check their graduate jobs listings for up-to-date roles.
Images: Dirty sink (Shira Gal: Flickr), TED talk (Wikimedia Commons)