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How to Transition to Your First Full-Time Job

By Kat Boogaard

Before landing my first full-time job out of college, I was stuck in every young adult’s nightmare as an unemployed college grad living in her childhood bedroom at her parents’ house. But, as much as I hate to admit it, it really wasn’t that terrible.

I got to sleep in. I didn’t have to worry about grocery shopping. And, my entire day belonged to me. Needless to say, when I did finally land a full-time gig, the transition was a little tough. I was definitely grateful for the opportunity, but it reminded me slightly of being a teenager and having summer break rudely ripped away right after Labor Day.

There’s no doubt about it, a full-time job can be a bit of a rude awakening, particularly if you’ve grown used to a flexible schedule, loose rules, and a lot of downtime. But, there’s no need to panic yet! Here are six tips for a successful transition into that full-time hustle.

1. Prepare

As with anything, preparation is key for a successful transition. After all, starting a new job is stressful enough without needing to rush around on the morning of your first day trying to find a clean pair of socks or your car keys. So, to make your transition easier, ensure that you’re prepped and ready for your big first day well ahead of time.

What’s one of the most challenging things to get used to? Well, waking up early again can be a real struggle. To avoid sleeping through your alarm, start getting yourself accustomed to your new schedule as early as possible. If you know your new job starts in a week, begin getting yourself up at the necessary time to give your body adequate time to adjust.

And, don’t forget to set out a clean and ironed outfit, load up your work bag, and pack your lunch the night before your first day on the job so you aren’t running around like a crazy person in the morning. Because, Murphy’s Law, you’ll also hit bad traffic.

2. Be Realistic

Hey, you’ve landed your first full-time job, and that’s definitely something you should be excited about! But, you don’t want to be so blinded by your enthusiasm that you trick yourself into thinking this gig will be your dream job.

Sure, maybe some people waltz off their college graduation stage and straight into their ideal position. But, for most of us, that’s not the way things work out. While you want to maintain the passion and motivation a first job usually inspires, you don’t want to be naive and unrealistic.

Entry-level jobs are usually pretty thankless, and they typically involve some tasks that are likely not on your list of dream job duties. So, even though it can be tempting to be immediately frustrated, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re gaining great experience and learning new skills that will be beneficial when that job of your dreams eventually rolls around.

3. Stay Smart with Your Finances

If you’ve been unemployed or working odd jobs here and there, getting your hands on your first steady paycheck is nearly intoxicating. But, resist the temptation to head out on a wild and reckless shopping spree.

Sit down and determine your monthly income and expenses in order to map out a budget for yourself. And, don’t just assume that once you’ve paid your bills, all the rest of your cash should be blown on frivolous items. Set a contribution goal for your savings account, and make sure that you enroll in a 401(k) in order to start saving for retirement.

It’s totally OK to treat yourself—after all, you did just get your first full-time job! But, you want to make sure that you have a plan in place to be responsible with your newly increased income.

4. Be Confident

Starting any new job is nerve-wracking. You don’t know anybody’s name. You don’t know how to work the copy machine. Heck, you don’t even know where to find the bathroom. But, walking into your very first full-time job? Well, that can be extra anxiety-inducing.

As scary as it may be, it’s important that you demonstrate to both your boss and your co-workers that you deserve to be there. And, while you don’t want to come off as a know-it-all (after all, you really don’t know much—it’s only your first day!), there’s no shame in being self-assured. So, take a deep breath and walk into the office as the friendly, outgoing, and confident person you are, and your colleagues will recognize your value in no time!

5. Make Friends

On the same token, you should start conversing and connecting with your co-workers right off the bat. First impressions say a lot. So, if you start your new job as the employee who hid and ate lunch in the bathroom, it can be tough to bounce back. You want to set the tone that you’re a friendly and sociable colleague that’s really excited about joining the team. Plus, since you’ll be spending a huge chunk of time with these people, having great working relationships can go a long way in making work that much more enjoyable!

So, ask to eat lunch with a group of your co-workers on your very first day. Or, ask the person in the cubicle next to you to show you how to set up your voicemail greeting. Forming some connections right from the get go will not only set the stage for some valuable work friendships, but also help you to feel a lot more comfortable at your new job!

6. Schedule Personal Time

While you definitely want to stay away from conducting any of your personal business when you’re “on the clock”, it’s important to remember that you still need to maintain a life outside the confines of your office.

When you’re transitioning into your first full-time job, those long hours can seem all-consuming. Work, sleep, repeat seems to fill up your entire weekly routine. So, it can be easy to let other areas of your life slide to the backburner. Yes, work is important. But, that doesn’t mean it’s your entire life.

What can you do to maintain balance? Make an effort to schedule in your personal downtime. Whether it’s a weekly exercise class, dinner with friends, or even some time to relax with a great book, ensuring that you’re leaving enough time to unwind and recharge your batteries is crucial for maintaining your focus, productivity, and positive attitude in the office!

There’s no doubt about it—transitioning into your first full-time job can be both exciting and overwhelming. And, while the transition can be tough, it’s far from impossible. Use these tips to make the process as seamless as possible. Oh, and you might as well just swallow your pride and ask where the bathroom is.

Kat Boogaard

Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

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