Backpack to Briefcase: Transitioning into the Working World

Brainstorming at work
Brainstorming at work

It can be hard to navigate through life when you are a recent graduate. You just spent the last several years studying your brains out and now all of a sudden the stress of handing in essays, prepping for presentations, and studying for exams has just disappeared. Not knowing what the future may bring can make you feel lost and scared. But it’s also an exciting time. You have the whole world ahead of you and you get to decide how you want to make your mark.

Getting your first “real job” out of school is a feeling like no other. I remember feeling happy, grateful, and proud when I got the call. But I think as young adults, we sometimes are unprepared for the realities that may come with our new “grown up” jobs. When professors tell you that there is going to be a learning curve – believe them – there is going to be a learning curve.

And as a result of this, a young person could interpret their working environment as negative or toxic. Feeling uncomfortable, being less confident, experiencing more stress – these may be new emotions for a recent graduate who’s never felt like this at their part-time job, but now they feel like they’re drowning.

That’s why Professional Life Coach Joanne Shank, MEd strongly recommends that if a young person is feeling this way, they should seek advice or guidance from an impartial individual like a mentor or a coach. “It’s not black and white,” Shank says. “You can have a young person who’s having a hard time integrating into the workforce, the boss may have high expectations, and that’s feeling threatening to the individual and they are seeing it as toxic.” Shank says someone like a mentor or a coach can help you navigate your feelings and unpack where they are coming from. “Is it that they’re feeling unable to answer the bosses’ demands and that’s feeling threatening or is it a communication issue and the boss may be coming off as threatening, in which case you need to sit down and have a conversation with them.”

When seeking advice, Shank adds that it’s best not to go looking for help from someone within the company/organization. You may get an unbiased opinion depending on the co-worker’s relationship or experience within the workplace. She says it’s better to find “someone who knows about workplace culture, who knows about leadership, and who they themselves have strong communication skills.” This way you can make sure that you’re getting the advice you need to take the best possible steps to move forward.

In addition to discussing your concerns with a mentor or a coach, Shank suggest that when you go into a new working environment that you give yourself time to asses the culture. “Who are the people in your workplace that are problem focused and who are the people in your workplace that are solution focused.” Take the time to create relationships with those who are supportive and positive because those are the people that will help you bring a productive and healthy mindset to work everyday.

She says you can also aid in the situation by developing an internal locus of control rather than an outer. This means filling your mind with questions like, “what is it that I can do or change,” as opposed to being influenced by those around you. “Where do you find yourself? The more you identify the areas that you can control and what you can do to help yourself, the more empowered you’ll feel.” Shank says these skills are important for a young individual to learn and develop. Learning how to stay away from gossipy type conversations, learning how to become more assertive, and feel more confident at work will lead you down a positive path.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to disparage toxic work environments. If your boss, manager, or anyone in your workplace is being abusive in their language and their behaviour, if you’re experiencing harassment, if the expectations of the job are unreasonable, in addition to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, then measures need to be taken to bring awareness to the issue at work or perhaps create an exit strategy.

For additional resources to help you determine what your workplace environment looks like, you can check out some of the links below:

For more information about Joanne, you can click below: