When you’re transitioning from college to the workplace, it can be both an really exciting and overwhelming experience. Although there are some similarities between the full-time workforce and school, there are still plenty of college habits you should avoid in the workplace — because some things you could get away with as a student won’t fly in the professional world. Everyone makes mistakes, and adjusting to a new environment takes some time; as such, if you some habits lingering from college as you transition into full-fledged working adult status, don’t beat yourself up over it. Still, though — it never hurts to arm yourself with some useful knowledge in advance.
Being a student can feel like a lifestyle in and of itself, especially if you lived on campus or didn’t have a lot of jobs separate from your college experience. It’s normal to get into certain habits or become comfortable in certain environments, and we don’t always have an “off” or “on” switch for them when you’re transitioning into a new role.
The fact of the matter is, however, when you transition into the workplace, you are being paid to fill a role. Whether you’re an intern, entry-level employee, or someone’s boss, your employer and the people around you have certain expectations for you, and it’s important you fulfill them. It’s good, too, to remember that not only do you need to fulfill your basic job requirements, but you generally need to abide by certain company standards and policies, too; even things that can feel a little more unofficial, like company culture, are worth getting accustomed to following.
Some of this you will learn through trial and error, but to make it a little easier from the get-go, let’s break down some of the most common college habits to leave out of the workplace below:
1. Talking About Your Personal Life
When you’re in college, it’s easy to get used to talking about sensitive subjects that may not be considered OK to discuss in the workplace. Whether that’s your political leanings, your recent date, or something hilarious that your roommate did this morning, be very, very cautious about how appropriate your message is for the work.
As Chelsea Fagan shares at The Financial Diet, “Personally speaking, I’ve definitely spoken about topics that should be off-limits at work (things like politics and religion come to mind), because I naively thought that’s just what educated people did. I didn’t realize how much keeping a neutral environment was important at work, and how awkward it would be to talk about personal stuff.” Even if it feels a little boring or superficial, it’s important to remember that you’re there as an employee, not to make friends or share your life story.
2. Being Consistently Late
As a college student, it’s possible your professors never took attendance, or you were in classes large enough that no one noticed whether or not you were there. In the workplace, however, this mindset can be really damaging. While different companies have different cultures regarding attendance and tardiness, it’s so important to prioritize being on time for your job. Even if you think no one will notice, the chances are that someone will.
Being punctual sends the message that you’re serious about your job, reliable, and responsible. Assuming you can slump into work late on a regular basis and not be called out for it is a college mindset that is not likely to lend itself well to the workplace.
3. Not Dressing Professionally
This is another standard that varies based on your office’s specific culture, but it’s always good to dress as professionally as possible. What constitutes “professional dress” often depends on your field (and the sad truth is that women are often judged more harshly for their appearance in the workplace than men are, even though they definitely shouldn’t be) — but whereas rolling out of bed and heading straight to class, pajamas and all, was acceptable in college, it mostly isn’t once you’re part of the workforce.
If you’re unsure of how to dress, it’s a good idea to look at people who share your position and see what they do: Is it business attire? Lots of neutral colors and understated accessories? Does everyone honor the casual Fridays in your part of the office? Whatever it is, especially if you’re new, it’s a good rule of thumb to fit in when it comes to the dress code.
4. Treating Your Workplace Like A Dating Pool
Depending on your job, it’s entirely possible that dating coworkers, colleagues, or supervisors is actually against your company’s policy; it might not necessarily be, but it’ll be worth researching before you go head over heels for your cubicle neighbor. But although it’s tempting to see your workplace as a place to “meet new people,” especially because your coworkers are likely the folks you’ll see the most, dating at work can be tricky.
Over at QuickBase, Alison Green of Ask A Manager details a few things you may not realize you’ll have to consider if you date a coworker; for example, not only will your boss likely worry about how your status as a couple is affecting the overall workplace, but moreover, your SO’s problems at work will become your problems, too — even if they shouldn’t be. And of course, navigating a breakup is even more difficult when you’re seeing each other at work every day.
This isn’t to say that dating at work can’t be done; however, you’ll definitely want to think about it carefully before you do it.
5. Posting About Your Job On Social Media
Just don’t do it. While complaining about the 400 pages of reading you have to do for class probably won’t have any repercussions at school, complaining about your workplace could cost you your job. So just… don’t.