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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

Real World Reality Bites

Entering the “real world” can be scary, exciting, and filled with expectations.  Perhaps, you are setting high expectations for yourself starting the first day on the job.  Having high expectations are great; however, realize that this is your first job and you will make a mistake or two.  And, it is okay.  Employers do not expect perfection.  Simply do your best and work hard.  Be confident in your Wake Forest preparation for life after college.  To ease some of the stress, the OPCD’s WFU alums share their “rookie mistakes” and advice for starting the new job after college.  

Here are their bites of reality:

Allison McWilliams Allison McWilliams (’95, English and Spanish), Ph.D., Director, Mentoring and Alumni Personal and Professional Development

I think the biggest “rookie mistake” I made was trying to live up to other people’s expectations (or what I perceived were their expectations) for what a “successful” career/life should look like. In doing so, I really wasted a lot of time and energy that I should have been putting towards my own dreams. The only successful life/career/path is the one that fulfills YOU, the one that makes YOU happy, the one that aligns with YOUR goals and values and interests. Don’t waste time trying to live someone else’s life. You only get one life, and you get to create it every single day.


 Patrick SullivanPatrick Sullivan (’93, Politics), Associate Director, Career Education and Coaching

Talk to people. When you start your first job, it’s easy to go to the extremes. Some people feel overwhelmed with all of their new responsibilities, while others quickly assume that they have the the job all figured out in the first few weeks. The reality is that neither situation is accurate. How can you manage your way out of these situations? Talk to the people around you about their experience. Ask your new colleagues how they overcame their first job jitters. If you see someone who is highly successful in your organization, ask them for advice on what made them so successful.


DeeDe Pinckney (’09, Communication), Assistant Director, Marketing and Communication

I wish I’d taken more advantage of being new! My advice is to play the new employee card and meet with everyone and anyone you’d like. Ask members of your organization that you will work with on a day-to-day and those you may not about their careers, company culture, and interests. It’s never too soon to start building solid relationships.


WFU Business Schools - Undergrads 8-29-11Caleigh McElwee (’02, Psychology) MS/EdS, NCC – Associate Director, Undergraduate Market Readiness & Employment

In college, I managed a listserv where I sent colorful emails to market group events. When I got to the workplace and was tasked to send team communications, I knew enough to lose the color and the pictures, but I used ALL CAPS and underline to emphasize an upcoming deadline. I thought I was being helpful; my aim was to make it pop amongst a sea of email communications. However, I received an earful from an older colleague who felt like I was SHOUTING at him. Be mindful that email and text lack tone and can be misinterpreted. Learn about generational differences in the workplace, and ask your colleagues for their communication preferences.


Wake Forest headshots Tuesday, August 5, 2014.  Wake Forest Fellow Zach Garbiso ('14).Zach Garbiso (’14, Psychology), Presidential Fellow in the OPCD

Find what works for you.  As the youngest person in the office, you’ll be given a lot of advice (sometimes conflicting) from a variety of individuals.  While this is a great thing, it can also be extremely overwhelming.  In instances where you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath, say “thank you,” and then think about whether that insight will work for you or not.


Jessica LongJessica Long (’05, Communication), Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

It’s okay not to know everything about your job on the first day. Nobody knows everything on the first day. Be patient with yourself as you figure out what your role is. Ask questions if there is something you don’t know or something you don’t understand. Talk to the people around you and build relationships with your coworkers. Also, remember that your first job out of college is probably not going to be your forever job. Think of it as a learning experience and a springboard for your future jobs. Make the most of it by learning and doing as much as you can. You’ll find this will serve you tremendously well as you move forward in your career.


APhippsAshley Graham Phipps (’08, Political Science; MAM ’09), Employer Relations Coordinator

Don’t be afraid to say no.  As a young professional, you often feel that you need to be accommodating to everyone and everything.  If you say yes to everything, you will stretch yourself thin and run yourself into the ground.   Say yes to a lot of things, but be confident in yourself to say no.







Category: Professional Development

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