1st to 1st: Alix’s Story

by Alix Montes, Account Executive, Ketchum

First day of undergrad to first day of entry-level…how I transitioned from college to the real-world.

The time between your 1st day of freshmen year and your 1st day of your entry level job is one of the most transformational periods of your life. By the time you start your first entry level position, you will have absorbed more knowledge than at any other point in your life to date. Between intellectual growth, learning about relationships, discovering yourself and challenging yourself in ways you never would have imagined. The end of college is an exhilarating time. It’s also an intimidating time. During this transition, you will learn a lot of things. Some of these lessons you might welcome, while others may come as surprise. I recently reflected on three of the important lessons I learned and how to act on them to set yourself up for success.

You Know More Than You Think
Life after college is full of humbling experiences, this is especially true of your first post-graduate position. In a few months of navigating a corporate setting and an independent life as an adult, you will realize there is a lot you don’t know. However, over time you will realize that you know more than you think.

No matter how hard you work or how knowledgeable you are about your field, you will make mistakes in your first position. You might also hear “no” a few times when you try to propose new ideas or take a project a little further than you should. There are times where you will make recommendations, state predictions or take positions that your more seasoned colleagues may disagree with. Don’t let these setbacks discourage you and more importantly, don’t lose sight of what you bring to the table. While college graduates may lack professional experience, they bring a fresh perspective that is valuable to brands and agencies alike. The diversity of thought is what keeps these organizations profitable and it helps them prepare for the future. As a young person, you have a lot of valuable insights and your future colleagues will rely on you to use them as you solve tomorrow’s marketing challenges.

Own Your Time
One of the earliest realizations of life after college is that you have a lot more free time than you did in college. You may have to work a few late hours or go into the office early, but you won’t need to pull any all-nighters. This is the most free time you will have at any point in your life, be sure to use it wisely or someone else will. It will be very easy to spend a lot of time partying on weekends or binge watching your favorite shows on Netflix. Don’t forget to take time to invest in yourself. Learn new skills. Find ways to travel. Finds books to read. Take time to explore your interests and skills that you have yet to tap into. And carve out time to reflect periodically. This will help you keep track your growth as a professional and it’s a great way to measure progress against your goals. You will probably not make as much money as you would like, but you will have a lot of time. Be sure to use it wisely.

Create a “Yes Me” Fund
A hard realization for many college graduates who are looking to enter the marketing field is that starting salaries pale in comparison to peers who enter other fields such as finance or management consulting. The important thing to keep in mind is that how you use your money is more important that how much money you make. Start setting aside money that you can use to take advantage of opportunities. You might use this money on conferences, trips or educational opportunities. This will require you to live below your means and learning how to budget. While it may be hard, you will start to see that over time your efforts pay off as your savings grow.

We’re never fully prepared for many of the challenges we embark on. But this is where we learn most, when we are forced out of our comfort zones. This can be a scary time, but it is also an exciting one. Hopefully, these tips can help you prepare for how to apply and respond to the many lessons you may learn as you transition into your career.

Other Articles by Alix:
Misconceptions About Life After College
How I (Finally) Got Hired