Into the real world: What it really takes to transition successfully from job seeker to success
Written by Motshidisi Mokoena. This article forms part of our #gradtogreat series run by our youth for our youth. These are candid and insightful conversations between our young talent are directed at younger unemployed graduates on their journeys from landing a job to excelling in the workplace or as an entrepreneur. You can view the videos on our IG page, take a look and let us know what you think : firstname.lastname@example.org
To transition means to change from one thing to another, like when a caterpillar transitions
into a butterfly, and in our case we are talking about transitioning from a student, or graduate and diving straight into the world of work. Just like any process of growth, transitioning may be uncomfortable and uneasy, however, the key is adaptation and being open to learning.
Going into the world of work is a very big shift from being a student, it’s a shift from a lot of theory and long deadlines to a lot more pressure. In all this, your perspective of the ‘real world’ and your vision of your career may change, it may either be a positive or negative change, however you should always stay true to your values and principles, and most of all making it through this transition is all about making yourself valuable.
Go into the workspace with eagerness to learn, humility, and respect, these will take you a long way, not only in that first job but in your entire career. In addition here are a few tips for the new graduate transitioning from a student going into the real world...
1. Get your foot in the door
There are opportunities that will come your way, make sure to grab them as they
come, and grab them with both hands. Once you get into the workspace be sure to
always take every opportunity to learn, be versatile and flexible. And if the
opportunity does not exist, try and create it, innovation and proactivity will take you
2. Become the "go-to" person for a specific skill (no matter how small you think it is)
There are skills that you acquired while studying and that you have innately, use them. You may not know everything or much for that matter when it comes to the ‘real world’ but you know enough, so continue to do your best and show up without fail.
Becoming the go to person in something can be something as small as writing really professional and efficient emails. The way you get noticed for your skills is by action or offering assistance when someone needs it.
So for example, Thandi says to the team, "I get frustrated getting rude emails from clients, that I type a reply instantly and then get a bad customer service rating!" This is an opportunity for you to help and get noticed for your skill, so you could say something like, "Hey Thandi, I know how you feel! I started pausing a bit and having a colleague read through my mail before sending it out and have done so much better in getting my message across, if you would like, next time you get one, before you hit reply, give me a shout and I can try to help."
Done! The team notices you like helping others and are not keeping your talent to yourself, Thandi feels supported and assisted, everyone knows you are good at sending professional emails. This is part of building your brand based on your natural talent, knowledge and skills.
3. Learn to unlearn
You are going into a completely different playground, with new rules, new people, a
new environment, so as you learn to unlearn some things as you go. Your vision of
the workplace may be completely different from what you envisioned it to be, so start
with that. Start with unlearning those concepts, beliefs and ideas that no longer serve you, and in this way you make space for learning what that world is, as you see and
For instance, as a someone new to the workplace you may have
learnt about the hierarchy and the top down management which may intimidate you
and discourage you to come forth with ideas and make suggestions, however this
may not be the case, there will be opportunities that present themselves to you and
you should not be afraid to take them because you feel you are no position to speak,
your voice matters, use it.
4. Don't take things personally, instead grow on them
In line with number 3 above, sometimes your ideas or voice may not be heard or used... do not get discourage and do not take it personally. Set goals and standards, but remember to not be too hard on yourself. Take each day, each task and each challenge as they come, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, it is is not about you and this is your opportunity learn and work with this new environment. Always do what you can, what you
can not do, always ask for help when you need it, if none of that works, google it!
5. Start that circle of people
You don’t have to make friends, well maybe at least one friend, but most importantly,
connect with people. Create a network and keep growing it, and remember that a network works both ways.
Research shows that you are viewed more positively by others if you are perceived to be of value to others more than just taking. Real opportunities happen with real human connection with others.
Know your strengths and share them, share what kind of opportunities you are looking for. For example, do you want to learn more about another department of the business? Go ahead and approach someone in that department - provide contact of what you are looking for and ask to be connected with someone who can assist you informally. Once you have been connected, it is important to serve this relationship by also understanding what that person needs, what are their biggest pain points and ask how can you offer assistance? Do not only connect when you need something, as this becomes transactional and not valuable. Hear of a pottery class that this Sarah is really into? Share it with her. It is in these small acts of service to one another that we truly collaborate and grow our opportunities.
As you put these tips to use, remember to also take it easy on yourself, you are growing so allow the discomfort of your transition to help you grow, to nurture your talents, skills and
open yourself up to new things.
Motshidisi Mokoena | Sivuka Social Media Manager
This talented young woman is an Honors graduate from the University of Johannesburg. Tshidi is an aspiring strategist and copywriter and at 22, she already holds a host of accolades to her name at this young age. She is a prism award winner, new generation awards finalist and Loeries top 50 student 2019 in the Front Row, an initiative by the IAB.