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From School-Work to Work-Work: Apply What You’ve Learned

Springtime brings an influx of people to the workforce after long nights of studying and early-morning exams. That’s right — it’s graduation time. Whether you’re earning a diploma for the first time, or you went back for additional certification, your accomplishment proves you’re no stranger to hard work. But even so, the transition from full-time student to full-time employee can be a challenging one.

We asked Aerotek recruiters for advice on how to manage the adjustment as you move from school-work to work-work.

You’ve got a lot going for you

Bringing positive traits to the table that are particularly helpful in a work setting often make up for a relative lack of experience. Traits like passion for work, a fresh attitude and new perspective stand out to clients regardless of background.

Whether you’ve noticed or not, spending your recent years in an academic environment has instilled in you a natural curiosity and a drive to find answers. Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Sam Yeomans adds, “It’s always great to hear things like, ‘The contractor has a fantastic attitude! They come to work and are engaged, are not afraid to ask questions and are catching on quickly.’”

Listen, it’s no secret. You and employers both know that you may have limited work experience. But you can turn that into a positive by bringing ambition, enthusiasm and an open mind.

While it may seem like you’re bogging down your new coworkers with silly questions, it’s good — both for you and for them — to ask why they do things the way they do. As long as you keep a positive attitude and respond well to feedback, people will generally enjoy having the opportunity to mentor a relative newcomer. Additionally, many smart organizations embrace new perspectives, using feedback from recent hires to reexamine their process and culture and evolve “the way we’ve always done it.”

Make adjustments

Graduating is an accomplishment that requires hard work, dedication and applied knowledge. The workforce demands those things, too, it just has a different way of asking for them. The adjustments you’ll need to make have less to do with your abilities and more to do with understanding how best to deliver on them.

Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Jackie Ross explains, “In school, your work is pretty much laid out for you. You’re given set expectations at the beginning of a course or class, and then you are evaluated on those. In the workplace, that might be the case, but not always.” It never hurts to check in with your manager to make sure you’re both on the same page about how your performance will be evaluated.

What else is different?

Matt Wiehe says, “For the most part, things are no longer one-and-done; you can’t just study for a test, pass it and move on. In the workplace, you’ll do many very repeatable things that often build upon each other to lead to success.”

And Sam Yeomans adds, “In the workplace, there are no do-overs, no asking for an extension. If the work isn’t done correctly, and if you and your coworkers can’t fix the problem, it could result in your company losing revenue and/or looking for a replacement.”

The important thing to keep in mind is that proving yourself reliable involves building a much deeper sense of trust in the workforce than it does in school, where the consequences of failure have much lower stakes. School is the place to take safe risks, to fall with a safety net. At work, concentrate on doing a great job with each task, asking the right questions to help you improve, and understanding the pressures your peers are under to deliver. Trust takes time. Have faith that your dedication will pay off.

Show up

Woody Allen once said that “80 percent of success is showing up.” Being on time and ready to work — every single day — is a baseline component of any job.

Unfortunately, you don’t get extra credit for it.

As Matt Wiehe notes, “It may sound easier than it looks, but the transition from an open college schedule with late nights and later mornings to a set daily schedule is something you need to master quickly. It can be a real eye-opener for some.”

It’s okay to ask for help

For many, this is the first major job search they’ve gone through in their chosen fields. This can involve new skills and knowledge that you might not have a lot of.

Sam Yeomans says, “New job seekers are not experts on who the key players are in their area and field of study. They don’t know how to have a successful interview. They don’t know what they should be asking for salary-wise. They may not even be sure what type of role they should be applying for.”

That’s okay. Help is available.

As Jackie Ross recommends, “Using a recruiter could be really beneficial.” Yeomans adds, “Working with a recruiter can make a difference for someone trying not to price themselves out of a job, leave money on the table or take a position with a company that isn’t a good fit in terms of culture, industry or their desired career path.”

Recruiters can help with interview skills, networking and understanding the job market you’re entering. For example, expert Aerotek recruiters like Sam Yeomans, Jackie Ross and Matt Wiehe have decades of experience helping job seekers just like you.

If you’re looking for a job in a new field, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. You can create a free career account today to customize your search.