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Navigating the Transition from College to the Office

Haeli Harris
May 8, 2024
May 10, 2024

Entering the workforce after college can be an exciting yet daunting experience for many recent graduates. While every college experience is different, transitioning from being around other students and doing coursework and homework to coworkers and a professional setting requires adapting to new norms, expectations, and responsibilities. 

In this blog, we'll explore a few essential tips for recent college grads as they embark on their journey into the professional world.


One of the biggest adjustments when transitioning from student to working professional is going from the chaotic schedule of college life to a routine 9-5 setting.

While we don’t recommend being late to class, there are typically fewer consequences if you are. You have a changing schedule with varying class durations and in different locations. You may work a few hours, then go to class, then back to work. Or have class on certain days of the week, leaving free time on the other days to do homework, work, travel, or see friends. 

When transitioning to work life, it’s important to remember that you are expected to work set hours and are accountable for your performance and meeting expectations set by managers and employers. Some work situations are flexible, while others are fixed. Have an open conversation with your manager to determine what is expected of you. 

The Do’s of Timeliness in a Professional Setting

  • Plan your commute in advance and add buffer time to account for any delays.
  • Arrive at work on time or even a few minutes early. Punctuality demonstrates reliability and respect. 
  • Arrive early or on time for meetings. Nobody wants to wait for you to show up or log in for a meeting to start. 

Teamwork & Leadership

In college, teamwork often means collaborating on group projects or participating in student organizations. Work and tests are mostly completed on an individual basis, and classes typically change every semester, allowing for a new dynamic and group of people. In contrast, when entering the workforce, recent graduates encounter a significant shift in teamwork and leadership practices. Teams are typically more structured with varied expertise, backgrounds, and personalities, and recent graduates must adapt to working closely and frequently with individuals from different departments, levels of experience, and organizational cultures. 

How to get along with team members as a recent grad:

  • Lead by example: exhibit professionalism, respect, integrity, and a strong work ethic. Show dedication to your work, meet deadlines, and maintain a positive attitude even in challenging situations.
  • Be Civil: you don’t have to be friends with everyone or even like the people you work with, but you do need to show respect and be polite. 
  • Develop Empathy: seek to understand your teammates’ perspectives and experiences. This helps strengthen relationships and build trust. 
  • Embrace Small Talk: small talk gets a bad rap. However, it can be useful when establishing rapport and making connections on a team. 


Losing the sense of freedom college gives you can be challenging. Whether it’s feeling less in control of your schedule, the work you’re doing, or your time, the transition to professional life can feel overwhelming. 

To help, find ways to put freedom and decisions back in your hands throughout the day by: 

  1. Consider incorporating small breaks and lunch plans throughout the day. These breaks give you the opportunity to step away, do something you enjoy, and make a decision. Take a walk or eat something you enjoy if you’re particularly struggling with the new schedule. Read more about the top benefits of taking breaks at work
  1. Be open with your coworkers and leadership about your feelings and work together to determine a project or idea you could work on. Having an opportunity to work on something you’re interested in can help you feel more in control of your day and time. Understand that specific work tasks still need to get done, so work with those around you to figure out what is required and when you can work on your project. 
  1. Be protective of your time outside of work. Working takes up a large part of your day, leaving limited availability in the day, so it’s crucial to hone in on what you enjoy doing and how you want to spend your time outside of work. If you’re unhappy and don’t have enough time, identify where your time is being spent and see if you can drop anything or rearrange your schedule. If many people are demanding your time, start setting boundaries and being specific in what you can and can’t do. Use phrases such as:some text
    1. “Yes, but I only have [insert timeframe] to help and then will need to leave.”
    2. "I'm unable to commit to that right now."
    3. "I need some alone time right now to recharge."
    4. “I can’t right now; however, are you free [insert specific day and time]?” 

Altogether, successfully navigating the transition from a recent college graduate to a working professional requires a willingness to embrace change and a proactive approach to managing responsibilities. From mastering punctuality and professionalism in the workplace to fostering strong relationships with colleagues, recent graduates must navigate the nuances of office culture with grace and adaptability.

Haeli Harris
Haeli Harris
Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Director of Clinical Operations at Nivati. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.