Woman going from college to the workforce

From Campus to Cubicle: Embracing Freedom in Your Professional Journey

Katie Elizabeth
April 19, 2024
April 18, 2024

Transitioning from the freedom of college life to the structured environment of the professional world can be challenging for recent graduates. You know you have to work, but it feels like all the fun and excitement gets sucked out of life and the 9-5 slog has begun. 

When I started my first “big kid job” as a video editor, after a few months, I was bored and felt trapped in the monotony of sitting and editing the same thing every. single. day. My brain felt like it was turning to mush. 

I opened up to my manager about this issue and expressed interest in other opportunities that would bring more excitement to the day. Instead of only editing all day, I wanted to get moving and be more on set. We worked together to find ways for me to help the production and marketing team. These opportunities made work more fun. Additionally, I started eagerly volunteering to help with any tasks. I learned pretty fast to be patient and take even the smallest of opportunities. As people saw my willingness to help, they started reaching out with more opportunities. In less than a year, I was working on animations, on set once a week, and meeting with the company CEO to expand our department and offerings.

It’s a tough transition, and I feel for you having to go through it now. It will take time to become your new normal. Everyone’s experience is different, but below are several ways you can incorporate a sense of freedom into your new professional life:

  1. Embrace Autonomy within Your Role:
    • While professional environments may have more structure than college, there's still room for freedom and innovation. Take ownership of your projects and tasks, and look for opportunities to exercise creativity and innovation. Discuss with your manager ways you can contribute ideas and solutions that align with your interests and strengths.
  1. Seek Flexible Work Arrangements:
    • Telecommuting options, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks are all ways to break up the 9-5, 5-day-a-week corporate world. Explore if your employer provides these options and discuss with your manager how you can leverage them.
  1. Set Personal Goals and Priorities:
    • Define your personal and professional goals, and prioritize activities that align with them. I wanted to be more than an editor, so I sought ways to develop my skills elsewhere. Take ownership of your career development by identifying areas for growth and seeking out opportunities to enhance your skills and expertise.
  1. Establish Boundaries and Manage Time Effectively:
    • Now that you have a set work schedule, it’s imperative to establish boundaries between work and personal life. That time in the evenings can go quickly! So, set specific work hours and designate time for relaxation, hobbies, and social activities outside work. Embrace saying “no” to anything that goes past your boundaries. It could be work-related or personal life plans that would leave you drained and take your precious time. It’s important to realize your time requirements have changed and you can’t fit everything in. 
  1. Embrace Lifelong Learning and Exploration:
    • Just because you've graduated from college doesn't mean your learning journey has to stop. Embrace a mindset of lifelong learning and curiosity by seeking out new experiences, skills, and knowledge both within and outside your field of work. Attend workshops, conferences, or online courses relevant to your interests and career aspirations. It can also be fun to try something completely new. By stretching yourself and challenging your tastes, you’ll see the fun doesn’t end after college.
  1. Take Breaks and Refresh Yourself:
    • Recognize the importance of taking regular breaks throughout the workday to recharge and refresh your mind. You need to feel like you are still in control of some element of your life and making decisions, so step away from your desk, go for a walk, or engage in activities that help you relax and alleviate stress. 
  1. Build a Supportive Network:
    • Surround yourself with supportive colleagues, mentors, and friends who understand the challenges of transitioning from college to the professional world. Cultivate relationships with people who share your values, interests, and aspirations, and lean on them for advice, encouragement, and perspective.
  1. Pursue Passion Projects Outside of Work:
    • Use your free time outside work to pursue things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Engaging in activities outside of work can help you maintain a sense of autonomy and personal fulfillment. I frequently google “fun hobbies” to see what’s out there. 

Just because things have changed doesn’t mean “the best days of your life” have passed. By incorporating these strategies into your new professional life, you recent graduates can mitigate the feeling of losing the sense of freedom you enjoyed in college and create a fulfilling and balanced career journey. 

Remember that while the professional world may be more structured, there are still opportunities to cultivate a sense of autonomy, purpose, and freedom in your work life.

Katie Elizabeth
Katie Elizabeth
A Michigan native now living in the desert of California, Katie strives every day to focus more on personal well-being and health and encourages those around her to do the same. She believes in transparency, candor, and exclamation points! Through her own stories, she hopes to help others know they are doing great in life and to love themselves.