Transition from College to Real Life

For the past 18 or 19 years of your life, you’ve been either told what to do or knew what you needed to do. Now, you’re on your own. The options are open and your Alpha Phi sisters will still be there for you, but the safety net of school won’t be (unless, of course, you choose graduate school!). You might feel worried, scared, excited, ambivalent or all of the above at various times. And that’s totally valid. To help you with your transition as you graduate, we have some advice:

1. Don’t freak out.
It is normal to feel uneasy about graduation, but don’t let that anxiety get the best of you. For one thing, you’re not alone. Talk to your sisters about your fears and excitement. You’re in this together and they all want to see you succeed, just like you want them to succeed. On a professional note, try not to let your anxiety about what to do next push you into a job you’re not sure you want. It’s better to wait for the right job than to take one and feel miserable about it. Of course, you might not immediately achieve your dream job, so weigh the pros and cons, but be patient.

2. Be humble. You’ve worked hard and earned your degree, but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to land a job or impress an employer or earn a lot of money. In the real world, you’re essentially starting from scratch. You’ll need to prove yourself just as you did in school. The world doesn’t owe you anything just because you got a high GPA. You do, however, owe it to yourself to make deliberate decisions, not rash decisions based on fear.

3. Visit your university’s career center. Floundering a little when it comes to job-hunting? Most campuses have helpful career centers with a wide variety of resources, including an online portal with job opportunities and alumni contacts. Take advantage of these resources. This can also be a good place to get a second glance at your resume and cover letter. Bring in a completed draft for feedback—you may need to make an appointment for this, so check beforehand.

4. Interviews are opportunities. Remember, an interview is a two way street—you’re learning about the job and putting your best foot forward, and in turn the employer is presenting the job in a positive way and learning about you. Make sure to come with questions—both job related and personal. People always enjoy talking about themselves, but stay away from getting too casual and chummy with an interviewer, as you do want to showcase your professionalism. Also, be prepared for the big questions, like, “What do you want to do with your life?” It’s a daunting one because you may not really have an answer, but have something in mind and something better than, “Work for your company!” Be honest; if you’re not sure what you want to do with your life, that’s OK; just consider your strengths and emphasize your passions. An employer would rather see who you are than hear an answer that they have encountered many times before. Honesty makes you stand out, and standing out is a good thing.

5. Network. One of the best ways to get information about a company and its open positions is to use personal connections to your advantage. Sometimes it can feel like you’re submitting your cover letter into a cyberspace black-hole, but making contacts at specific companies gives you a leg up—and a name to put down as a reference. It also makes you feel more in control, something that recent graduates often lack. Alpha Phi is a great foundation for networking with women in your field of interest, and with email and cell phones, it’s easier than ever to get in touch. Recommend a meeting over coffee and bring your resume. In that meeting, chances are, the alumna will give you the names and emails of three or four other contacts. If not, feel free to ask. Not sure where to start the networking process? Join the official Alpha Phi International LinkedIn site.

6. Learn time management. At school, you could plan classes so you didn’t need to roll out of bed until one in the afternoon. In real life, you’ll likely have a job that requires you be, not only awake, but dressed and raring to go by 9 am. So, mentally prepare for that and factor in an earlier bedtime. On the flip side, you shouldn’t need to pull all-nighters for your job!

7. Carry Alpha Phi with you. Never let anyone tell you that Alpha Phi is “just a college thing.” The life lessons gained during your time as an Alpha Phi helped you become better friends, sisters and even employees. Alpha Phi supports you even when your sisters are spread far and wide.