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From College Student to Entry Level Employee —What I Learned

By Amanda Brooks, Leadership Development Consultant

Being a college student during a global pandemic offered many fresh challenges. However, the challenges of job hunting post-graduation are nothing new. The daunting task of knowing exactly what I wanted my life to look like weighed heavily on me during spring 2021. With the fall of my graduation cap signaling the celebration of a closing chapter came the pressure of the opening of another. Interview after interview came and went with no news that I’d be the newest employee at whatever company I had applied to. Finally, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel: my interview with Kappa Delta National  Headquarters. A phone call less than 24 hours later confirmed that I had done it—I had gotten the job! Although my time in college had ended, I soon found that a whole new season of education was in front of me.

1.  You don’t immediately have to have your dream job.

When I was job hunting, I was only applying to a certain type of job. One that fit with my degree, the city I wanted to live in, the dream life I thought would immediately follow college. It was only upon a moment of spontaneity and encouragement from a friend that I applied for the job I currently have. I felt like if I didn’t immediately go into the field that I had studied for four years to be in, I would consider myself a failure. Let me just alleviate some pressure from my past self and maybe, from you: that isn’t true. In fact, a “stepping-stone” type job might teach you more about how to communicate professionally, how to interact with others and what kind of job you want to have in the future.

2. Work/life balance is hard but necessary.

I grew up in a “give 100% in all that you do” type of setting. The all-nighters in the library, accepting every invitation extended my way and filling my schedule to the brim with extracurricular activities was easy for me in college. As an extrovert, it wasn’t difficult to blur the lines between work and life when studying was also social time. In fact, I liked doing just that. The overlap made schoolwork seem fun and made social settings seem more rewarding. What a surprise it was to me to discover this was not sustainable for life outside of my college campus. The transition from sitting in class and then immediately heading to the library to work on the next paper to shutting my laptop at 5:00 PM and having the rest of the evening to do what I wanted to do was a shock to the system. I wasn’t good at it and it’s still a learning process finding out how to turn my mind from work to spending time with friends, going to work out or turning on my favorite Netflix show. However, I do now understand the importance of separation. Yes, work is important and enjoyable but there is so much more to living. This work/life balance, that I am still trying to master, allows me to do my job better while also creating healthy and happy spaces to exist in outside of my desk.

3. Entry level doesn’t mean unimportant.

Most companies can’t function without their “entry level” employees. I’d like to argue that some of the most important jobs are held by fresh college graduates. I am reminded of my time spent in the Disney College Program. I always tell people that after 4:00 PM, Disney World is run by 20-year olds. In my nine months as an entry level employee, I’ve discovered something similar about 23-24 year olds holding down the fort of corporate America as well. On days when work feels tedious and unimportant, I remind myself that no matter how miniscule it may feel, it has a larger effect on how the company operates. Remembering this inspires me to work harder and gives me confidence in my work.

I’ve learned a great deal in the past nine months, probably more tangible knowledge than in my 4 years of college combined. Being in an entry level phase of life feels a lot like being a college freshman again. The excitement of a new adventure, a new group of people to see every day, and new work to do is extremely reminiscent of my feelings as a new college student. In this ever-changing season of life, there is something new to learn with each new day. With an almost one-year-old diploma hanging on my wall, I am glad to know that education truly never ends.