No, I’m not an intern: Navigating the transition from college to career

Navigating the transition from being a full-time college student to working full-time in your career is an interesting time in life.


You’re young enough where you’ll probably be the youngest full-time staff person in your office, but you’ll also look like an intern.

So how do you go from fresh-faced college graduate, to be taken seriously in your career and office?

  • First to arrive, last to leave

This doesn’t mean that you have to work more than you’re supposed to, but coming in 10-15 minutes before your coworkers will give you a couple extra minutes to organize your thoughts for the day, make your coffee, and show your boss your great work ethic.

  • Go the extra mile

Volunteering to help with an extra project, visiting with an important client, staying late to help clean up after a work event, all of these will show that you’re committed to making yourself successful in your career

  • When in doubt, ASK

Your boss hired you. They know you may not have much experience in your new career, and that you may have a learning curve with your tasks. Not sure what to do? Ask your boss or direct supervisor. They will appreciate you clarifying rather than having to fix a mistake. Just be sure to remember it the next time the task comes around.


  • Get involved

In college, you likely had a myriad of clubs and extracurriculars to choose from. Just because you graduated doesn’t mean you can’t have the same options! Join a committee or club in your industry, and enjoy both networking outside of work and also getting advice from people who have been there and done that.

  • Have hobbies outside of work

Yes, work is important, and should be where you spend most of your time. BUT your free time off of work should be more than just watching Netflix at home. Like to workout? Join a new gym or go to group fitness classes to workout and hopefully meet some new friends in the process. Join adult education classes, or even a few college level classes if you live in your college town and aren’t sick of homework

  • Don’t want to be treated like an intern or college student? Don’t act like one

No one will be impressed that you were out till bar close on a Thursday at the bar. They will care that you showed up to work hungover and half-dead. Your coworkers will be more apt to treat you like an adult if you act like one. Making friends with coworkers is important, however if every story you share is about “that one time in college” they’ll quickly realize you’re still acting like you’re in college. Be professional at work, and remember that if you wouldn’t want to tell your grandma the story, your coworkers might not appreciate it either. Also, invest in office appropriate clothes. In an office, your college wardrobe will most likely not cut it. If you’re wondering what to wear, your new employee guide should give you an idea.


College is great, because you can essentially make your schedule. Hate mornings? Don’t sign up for the  8 am lectures and you’re golden. Surprise, your boss will expect you at 8 or maybe even earlier everyday bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Getting 5 hours of sleep a night will take a toll on your productivity and sanity. Just do yourself a favor and get to bed at a decent time.

  • Set up savings accounts and a 401K

While it can be tempting to spend your new adult income on fun things (New car anyone?) make sure to save at MINIMUM 10% of each paycheck. When you have an unexpected expense, or emergency you’ll appreciate the money in your account over the $500 cowboy boots you bought on a whim.

  • Health insurance is confusing, talk to your HR representative

I’m convinced that no one understands their insurance package or employee benefits when they start. Talking to your HR rep about what makes the most sense for you is one of the best conversations you’ll have. If possible, stay on your families plan as long as possible, it will save you money and likely be better coverage than you can afford on your own.

  • Stuck between two jobs? Pick the better boss

Which would you rather have:

  1. A boss who doesn’t tell you what they expect of you, one who will micromanage your tasks, and will openly criticize you without telling you how to improve.
  2. A boss who has open communication channels about their expectations for you, who gives you constructive criticism on improvements, and trusts you and your abilities to do your work independently.

I bet none of you want boss #1.

A first boss has the ability to make or break your career. One can teach you to be a self-starter, point you in the right direction when you needed, and also give you tips and trade tricks to help you in life. A good boss can prepare you for tough conversations, be an advocate for your hard work when it comes to be review time, and if you move on to another career, they can serve as a reference to your hard work invested in the company.

Coffee with KFGO

  • If you don’t like the career you chose, MOVE

Being fresh out of college can be terrifying. Job hunting can be ridiculous with options everywhere and you might have picked something you thought you’d like just to find out you didn’t. No harm no foul, sometimes having the wrong job can help you realize what the right job is. Go after it! Leaving a comfortable job after a few months or even years can be hard, but be open with your boss or supervisor about your decisions and chase your desired career.


I don’t think anyone at the ages of 22 or 23 actually knows what they’re doing for sure, we’re all just trying to be successful and make a difference in our careers.

Show up early, work hard, and do your best.

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