Q: I just recently graduated college, and was fortunate enough to find a job in my field very quickly. I was good at what I did in school, but finding I'm not quite up to par at my new job. I'm not bad by any means; I'm just having trouble adjusting. My question is this: is it normal to experience some difficulties when starting a job? This is my first "real" job, and I (perhaps unrealistically) expected to fully excel with no problems. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy what I do, just kind of feeling behind.
A: Congratulations on landing a job you enjoy quickly after graduating! The transition from life as a student to life as an employee is exciting yet frightening. It takes time to adjust to a new environment, schedule and demands. I bet you are waking up earlier than you did in college when you had some choice in your schedule!
I think it is normal to experience some difficulties when transitioning from the life as a college student to the life of an employee. If you remember back to when you graduated from high school and began attending college that was probably a time of great change for you, especially if you moved away from home.
You are likely learning how to work effectively with new expectations, a new environment and now a manager or supervisor (which you didn’t have in college). Adapting to change is harder than we think sometimes.
However, there are ways which can help you with this transition. First, find high-performing co-workers and colleagues. Ask them about work performance, what is important and what’s not important in your workplace. Observe their behaviors. Ask your supervisor about expectations and what’s most important in a successful employee at your level. Make sure that you understand what you do well and also what you need to improve upon. Although sometimes difficult to hear, feedback is a gift. Be open to feedback even if you may disagree with it.
Lastly, it is not unreasonable to ask your supervisor for a quick check-in meeting 30 or 90 days after you have started your new position. Performance-related feedback should not be “held” until the semi-annual review or annual review meeting. A competent supervisor should be sharing feedback regularly with employees.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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