My Transition from College to Corporate

Having never had a “real” job before (I’m not counting my part-time research position or my tutoring gig when I asked a 2nd grader to add 121 + 30), working an office job after graduating from college was quite an adjustment for me. Luckily for me, I was able to get a job only a few months after graduation, but that also meant getting acquainted to adulthood much sooner.

I was suddenly plucked from a world of my peers and thrust into a world of CEO’s, senior managers, investors, etc. It was a fish-out-of-water experience for me. I was one of the youngest in my company (2nd youngest to be exact), and everyone else had years of industry experience under their belts and were pretty well-established. What I hated the most at first was small-talk. The awkward encounters in front a water cooler are NOT just something you see in TV. It happens in real life too. We have a small break room, so I feel an obligation to say something, just anything besides a “hi”. And it was hard for me to think of something to talk to them about besides the regular…the weather. They all had families and did who-know-what for fun.

Another thing that annoyed me was my own inexperience. It’s frustrating when you’re in a meeting and everyone is talking about something and you have no idea what they’re talking about. I know this is kind of expected, though. No one comes into a new job knowing everything; even if they always held the same position or done the same kind of work, there are always new things to learn working for a new company. However, I had absolutely no prior experience in the industry and had to start from square one. The thing that helped me get by was my ability to learn quickly and think critically, combined with my attention to detail that I all honed in college (see you DO learn skills in college).

Then you have co-workers. At school you might have lab partners, or be stuck with a certain group of people for a project and be forced to work with them. Sometimes it can be great and everyone in your group is cooperative and contributes equally. Hey, you might even make some long-term friends. Sometimes it’s not so great and you might not get along with one or two, or all of the members. But at least when the quarter is over, you can say “Sayonara!” and move on with your life. At work, you’re stuck with who you work with, whether you like them or not. And maybe not just for one project, but the next project as well, or every other project from now on. I’ve seen personalities clash and people getting frustrated with each other (raised voices, eyes widened, red-faced). It’s just a part of people trying to get their voices heard and getting their point across. I’ve learned to accept it as part of the “work culture”. It’s not personal. You can’t take it personal. There’s no point in holding a grudge with someone you have to work closely with- it will just make it an unpleasant experience for both of you. I feel the best way to handle it is to be nice to everyone, even those who aren’t so nice to you.

Lucky for me, people at the work, for the most part, have been pleasant. Even when I have forgotten something or made an error, I’ve never been crucified for it. I think work is challenging me to be a more confident and assertive person, and I am constantly seeking self-progression so that I can be better at my job. Whereas in college, all the information I needed to know was laid out in front of me and I knew exactly when the tests were coming, starting this job in corporate was like being thrown into the abyss. It’s a new environment, a new culture, a new set of people, a new lifestyle and a new mindset that I had to adapt to. But it is a refreshing experience nonetheless. It helped me see what else is out there BESIDES school and medicine, and that is an experience that I think many medical students don’t get.

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