Late nights studying, weekends poured into projects and homework, hours spent in class, and now you’ve made it: its graduation day.  The end of one chapter and the beginning of another in the story of you.  And although this College Excerpt ends with you on top of the world, the next chapter starts you back at square one.  It’s time to take what you’ve learned and apply it to real world problems in the workforce. If earning your degree taught you anything, it should have taught you that hard work and dedication are the two most important things for success.  And while this still holds true in the real world, there will undoubtedly be some bumps in the road as you go from the class room to the work place. So let this be a quick guide to the recently graduated and the anticipating first-dayers who will soon be making the transition to fulltime engineers.

One huge thing I learned, both in college and in the real world, is that if you don’t know what to do, or how to do something, or where that file is, or how that program works, etc., etc., etc., then ASK SOMEONE. Having a question in the class room is just like having a question in the real world, except now you’re asking your supervisor instead of your teacher.  You’re new; you shouldn’t know how to do everything or probably even half of everything.  So when you encounter something that you are unsure on (and trust me, you will) ask questions.It’s as simple as that.

Now even though you may have questions on the ins and outs of your company, you still graduated with an engineering degree, and that means you have some knowledge.  Don’t be afraid to share it. In school, your demonstration of knowledge was shown through exams and homework. In the real world, you are rarely given a piece of paper and asked to show what you know.  These “exam” questions instead arise in meetings and in real-time problem solving situations.  Just because you are young does not mean you cannot contribute. If you have an idea or possible solution, share it with your colleagues.  You may end up being the one to solve the problem!

Some people may have some trouble with this next one but it’s extremely important.  You have to learn how to accept a mistake as your own and move forward. It’s going to happen. Despite asking a million questions and carefully quadruple checking everything you do, mistakes will happen. The only difference is that now instead of getting a “C+” on your exam, the real world mistake could cost your company.  Don’t try to push blame, don’t try to make an excuse.  The best thing you can do is move forward and fix it.  In college that meant asking your professor how to better study for the next exam and reviewing the questions you answered incorrectly. In the real world, it is much the same.   You accept the blame, you talk to your supervisor about what went wrong, and you work to find a solution.

My last bit of advice for a smooth transition is to be courteous.  From the janitor to the CEO to your college professor, everyone has a job to do. They have certain tasks that must be accomplished each and every day in order to allow their institution to function, from changing garbage cans, to signing contracts, to teaching class material. Just because the tasks each individual performs are expected, doesn’t mean they should go unrecognized. If you stayed after class to ask you teacher a question, you thanked him/her for their time and help. Once again, situations in the real world are the same. Thank your supervisor for showing you how to fill out that form. Thank your secretary for giving you a set of new pens.  Thank your manager for showing you how to find that file.  It shows that you appreciate them taking the time to help you and that their assistance is important to you.

With this quick guide and the knowledge and experience you’ve gained through your college career, you are now ready to tackle the engineering student-to-workforce transition head on. Work hard, ask questions, speak up, accept blame, be courteous, and above all, have fun!