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Preparing for the world of work

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Watch our event from earlier in the year: The ins and out of being a professional: what I didn't know about interviews, professional life and the workplace until I got there.

Going into your first graduate job can be scary. You might be worried about what to wear, what to say to your new coworkers or if you have the skills to do well in your new job. Remember, it’s normal to worry about these things and it’s normal to be nervous before your first day.

On this page, we’ve compiled some resources to help you prepare for your new job and the transition from university to the world of work.

What to expect in the workplace

Getting the basics right

Starting a new job can be stressful, especially if it’s your first graduate job. Follow these tips for starting a new job from Milkround to help you feel more prepared.

Starting a new job from home

Starting your first graduate job in 2021 might mean working from home, either temporarily or permanently.

That can bring challenges but it can have positives too. Read this report from the BBC on what it’s like starting a job remotely to get an idea of what you can do to make it easier and what employers have been trying. Remember, it’s unlikely that you’ll be the first employee to start their job working from home, so your new workplace should have processes in place to make it as easy as possible for you.

Here are a few more things you might want to do if you’re starting from home:

  • Book in some coffee breaks with colleagues. It's a chance to introduce yourself and find out about what they do. They are the kind of conversations that would be happening naturally in an office but don’t happen when everyone is at home.
  • Use team communication channels to introduce yourself. Many workplaces will use something like Microsoft Teams or Slack, so make an effort to post on them in your first few days. Most workplaces will have channels for non-work discussion, so get involved.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s completely normal to feel a bit lost when you start a job and being at home can make it worse. Don’t sit at home not knowing what you are doing. Make sure you have regular time booked in with your manager to ask questions. If you feel like you are bothering someone by asking, try building up your questions and asking them in one chat at the end of the day.

Workplace skills

Your degree and your personal development during university will have made you well equipped for the workplace, however nervous you feel about it.

Nevertheless there are some things that it’s hard to learn before you start your job. According to a 2021 student development survey from the Institute of Student Employers, here are the top 5 skills that employers say graduates don’t have:

  1. Career management 
  2. Managing up 
  3. Negotiation/influencing skills
  4. Leadership
  5. Dealing with conflict

Importantly, the report also found that most employers won't expect you to be good at these things when you first start, but you’ll be expected to learn them quickly.

So what can you do to make things easier for yourself? Start by reflecting on your skills and experiences (you will already have experience reflecting if you've completed York Strengths and York Award) and if you think you might struggle to demonstrate one of the skills listed above, spend some time preparing before you start your job. For example, you could take a free online course (there are many on websites like Futurelearn and EdX). You could also reflect on what you have learned about these things at university - for example, what have you learned about good and bad leadership from the group work you've been involved in, and how can you apply that to the world of work?

If you have particular concerns, remember that you can talk to us. Read more about employability skills.

Leaving university - dealing with change

Leaving university and going into the world of work can be a shock for some people. You might not be used to the routine of full-time hours, you might be in a new place away from your friends and family or you might be shocked with the independence that comes with many graduate roles - you might be expected to prioritise your work and set deadlines with little input from a manager, something that can feel very different to university where you have clear deadlines and clear assignments.

Remember that it’s common for recent grads to feel like this. Watch this video about graduate mental wellbeing from Student Minds.