5 Tips For Transitioning Into The Workforce After College

post grad life tips, tips for entering work force, tips for after graduation, career advice



In case you're new around here, you can submit any questions for the “here” series here! You might just see my response on the blow!

Reader Question:     Currently trudging through my senior year of college. Any tips for the workforce transition and how to find balance between work, school and finding your own passion outside of it all? 

By the end of college, I was itching to get to  the “real world.” I think it wanted to skip past the unknown and straight into stability. I wanted to “just know” what was going to happen post-college life.




So first of all, enjoy this time!!! Your life will never be the same after college. My fiance and I constantly talk about how easy life was back in school. There are many other perks to post-college life, but it's very different.



5 Tips for Finding Your Passion While Transitioning Into the Workforce / Real World

1. Internships.

If you haven't already, get an internship, like YESTERDAY! Seriously, I hated working for free, but because of my undergraduate internships, it led to me making some serious coin during my graduate degree (like double than what my classmates were making).

Always be strategic about your internships, though. I had two really defining internships: a law office and a mental health and substance abuse treatment center. Without having the two vastly different internships, I probably wouldn't have realize bigger passions of mine (like being an entrepreneur) as quickly as I did. I constantly am contacted by people who are older than me, still in the 9-5 grind, wishing they could quit and follow their passion. Wholeheartedly, I believe that internships are a major key of discovering your passion and boosting your earning potential.

Internship PRO tip: Make it clear from the start that you are seeking employment. This can go at the end of your elevator pitch when they ask you to tell them about yourself and sound something like:

“I discovered my passion for X while doing Y. I realized it was an innate gift of mine when teachers kept putting me in leadership positions surrounding this skill. Currently I am seeking an internship with (insert something specific/unique about the company) that will lead to employment opportunities at it's conclusion.”


2. Say “YES.”

Even if you have no idea what you're doing, say yes during this time in your life. Say yes to work, friends, whatever.

Two big points here: work and friends.

At work, say “yes” – for a lot of us, myself included, when we are afraid our knee-jerk reaction is to say “no” because we don't want to look dumb or mess something up. Get in the habit of saying yes and figuring it out later at work. You're young and expected to make mistakes at this point so learn with a vengeance and always fail forward!

With friends: People forget that your friends and acquaintances in college and post-college are going to be a big part of your career in ways that you could never guess.

Seriously this guy will probably come back around and help you network your way into that killer big city job!

… Okay maybe it won't be Zac Efron, but I'll leave that there…

Friends can use their network to help you get that promotion, refer you business, or even become a business partner! Relationships formed in college and during your first job(s) have a magical quality. A lot of these friendships will carry you through your third decade, if not further.

So next time you are tempted to say “no” because you have too much work to do or something, remember that balance and friendships are still investing in your future and should be prioritized and scheduled, just like revamping your resume and Linkedin.

3. Resume.

I am sure if you are reading this, you have a resume. However, I can't stress this enough, it probably sucks. Maybe it's because of poor grammar and spelling, or you lack work experience, who knows.  The reality is your resume is probably ish right now.

How do I know?   Two reasons:  1) Mine was crap when I was 20  and 2) I receive countless resumes from college students wanting internships, and I would say out of 10 only 1 is good. I have hired interns with crap resumes, but usually regretted it. So get with a career coach or start studying the craft of a resume and cold email.

4. Step up your e-mail etiquette.

One of the toughest things for most twenty-somethings to get right when transitioning into the workforce is e-mail etiquette. Check out this article for some helpful tips on email etiquette, and if you have a question, don't hesitate to ask.

5. Be prepared to be a little depressed.

After college, you are probably either going to be really excited or a little depressed. Whether it's because of change, leaving your friends behind, having to move back in with your parents, or you just experienced rejection for the first time from that job you had really high hopes for… most of us drop into a bit of a funk after college. Especially as the Instagram posts and Snaps start coming in from friends that seem to have magically mastered the transition.


Give yourself permission to work through those feelings. Then set a deadline for yourself to get back to life and things you enjoyed. For instance, think about what gets you really excited and energized now? Write those down. Don't forget those. The real world is going to want to rip those things away from you. Fog your head with what you “should” be doing. Stay true to your truth, not someone else's dream.

[RELATED] 8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Entering The Workforce


ALSO: My friend Kayla, also wrote a fantastic resource for transitioning twenty-somethings, called the Corporate Survival Guide for Your Twenties: A Guide to Help You Navigate the Business World* (Affiliate link, but I really love this book and can't sing it's praise enough!).

Before you go grab your FREE guide to perfecting the 30-second elevator pitch!

41 thoughts on “5 Tips For Transitioning Into The Workforce After College”

  1. ALL SO TRUE. I couldn’t agree more with this list, Rachel! And I particularly lovelovelove the last tip – get ready to be a little depressed. Because it’s true, and it would be naive to think otherwise! "The real world" has its ups and downs (duh!), so realistically bracing yo’self for the full package will make it a much easier transition


  2. Sarah Hartland

    I’m on the tail end of this transition myself and I can say for a fact that all of these tips are GREAT!

  3. This is awesome, Rachel! As someone who works with college students every day, this should be required reading! I’m always pushing the students I work with to put themselves out there. Wish I had read this post when I was their age!

  4. The after graduation slump was real. I’ve only been in the workforce for 2 years but discovered that the typical 9-5 is not for me so I’m excited to branch out on my own.

  5. ughhhhh the transition.

    I actually did a post grad because, graduating from university at 21, I WAS NOT ready. I also took a summer and moved to Scotland to work at a pub (awesome).

    at 27 now, I look back on one decision I made with regret which is I took the FIRST job offered to me, even though I knew it wasn’t the right fit. I wanted to be working full time and moving my career forward.

    Of course, this job turned out to suck my soul, offered no networking opportunities and little professional advancement. Clawing my way out of it became a personal struggle. My advice is, don’t be afraid to turn down the wrong job! The job market sucks, sure, but better you work a part time job (or two) to make money until you find the right job to springboard your career!

    1. Such an important point you just made Laura! I think that too often we don’t think of us as job seekers having the power, especially because we doubt ourselves right out of school a lot of the time – aside from not really considering if the job is a good fit for US, we don’t negotiate that first offer! — But your point about whether or not a job offers advancement opportunities is so crucial! I also got a master’s degree, and didn’t ever stop to think that the only real advancement with my degree was going into private practice for myself… I could only move up one position (one that I didn’t even want) if I was working for a company! Such good advice and insight you have there! I hope your career landscape is looking up!

  6. Email etiquette is crucial! I definitely recommend working on that in college so when you get to the work force it is a natural transition.


  7. Bella Bucchiotti

    Awesome post, I still have a couple years of school left but I am worried about after getting out. I will have to save this and use it! Thank you for sharing.

  8. I can’t agree more about internships. I went into college wholeheartedly believing I wanted to do one thing, had a few internships, then realized what my passions really are. I was luckily able to position myself at internships that were closer to my passions, even though the industries were different. There are just so many lessons internships can provide! Do colleges typically teach resume classes? I had to take one at my school, but thought it could have been done better.

    To your point about saying “yes” more—sometimes I say yes too often! I’m learning how to actually say no more at work and with friends.

    1. Yes! I had a similar experience with internships! – and sometimes you have a resume course, but its like a 1 credit course that you have to take freshman year or you get it through the career resource center. It’s usually VERY outdated information unfortunately! — and I totally agree with setting boundaries and saying “no” but I think that comes with being out of college a few years (which I am assuming you are based on your career?) – Saying “yes” more is really for the new graduate who is probably terrified (like I was) of the unknown! – I agree that after a couple of years, if you aren’t saying “no” then you’re probably on the road to burnout!

    2. That’s exactly what it was! I went to a co-op school, so you had to take this class before you could apply. I think I was on internship 3 at this point, so I just felt like it was so dated.

      100% agree with your rationale on saying “yes” more directly after post-grad. You honestly don’t know where yes will take you and what doors it will open. I know it’s definitely opened doors for me, and I hope others will understand that!

  9. So many great tips! I think that it is hard to think about life after college. It can be so overwhelming for a graduate!

  10. I definitely agree with the fact that people should enjoy their time & not rush the process! Being in college was such an incredible 4 year process, between meeting lifelong friends, as well as my husband (we went to the same college!). I never did internships, but I had to work for veryyyyy little in subbing & TA positions for 3 years before even getting interviews for NY school–insanely competitive here. It’s all about getting that experience! That’s what they really want to see.

  11. Omg my resume was the worst when I was 20 and I had some internship experience. I was lucky enough to get a job right out of college but a lot of people I knew took about a year!

  12. Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    This post is so true, especially about the depression. Even though it’s an exciting time, it’s the end of an era and a lot of unknowns are kicking jn

  13. Good call on putting in the “prepared to be a little depressed” part. I think, as graduates, we all think we are going to go out and change the world in our first job and that’s not necessarily the case. It takes work to master the transition!

  14. I agree about internships even after you graduate. They open so many doors and help you find your passion.

  15. Elizabeth Johnson

    These are so spot on! Most if not all universities help students find internships and it amazes me how many students don’t take advantage of the resources they have. Such a great post, you really hit the nail on the head!

  16. These are great tips, Rachel! I’m graduating in December so these concerns are definitely starting to kick in!

  17. This post is so spot on. I graduated this summer and all of this applies. I have gone through so many job interviews and I’m not even close to done. My wardrobe had to get a professional make-over – as well as my resume. I’m constantly exhausted and nervous about what the next week will look like. Post-grad life is insane.

  18. Getting an internship is definitely a key move, i just think it should be illegal to not get paid. It reminds me of slave labor LOL

  19. Hannah Palamara

    This is such good advice! I know for me internships were a huge. I ended up being hired my senior year through one!

  20. I think saying yes is such an important thing to do whenever you’re in a “limbo” stage of life as it can open you up to so many things! I have said no to so many things over my life – especially when I was still in high school – and most of them I regret now. You’ll always get something out of a new experience!

  21. These are some great tips! Internships are so important, I had 3 once I graduated and it gave me a huge head start when it came to full-time jobs. I got offers to the first two companies I applied for, within a few weeks after graduating. While some of my friends who hadn’t had internships didn’t get one for months! The transition was hard. Going from only having to be in class for 2-3 hours a day to sitting at a desk for 9 hours a day was tough. BUT once you leave work, you are done for the day, there is no homework and everything is left until you come in the next day. I found I actually had so much more time when I was working full time.

    xo CourtneyDrew

  22. Kayla Dene Slusher

    This is so great! I know a ton of college students have a difficult time with this!

  23. As someone 10 years away from being in that position I can say YES to saying YES! It gets so much harder as you get older.

  24. I think this is really important. I start college as a pre-veterinary medicine major. I did NOT graduate in that. A big part was my internship like Anna said. 🙂

  25. These are all excellent tips! If I could go back and redo college, I would try and get a more diverse internship experience – I only worked in PR and I didn’t realize my true passion lied in advocacy until after college.

  26. Great post! I think I was the least ill prepared for #5. I’m a typical overachiever, who had a perfect five year plan and of course everything fell apart, and everyone else seemed like they went on with their lives. Definitely something I wish someone would’ve prepared me for, but you live and you learn.

  27. That Zac Efron gif though… Now thats something I can say yes to 😉

    Stay inspired,

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