When it comes to that period of time in every graduating student’s life between those last few finals and that first ‘real’ paycheck, it’s somewhat of a misleading term. Transition connotes a sense of smooth, structured change. Something seamless and easy. Something tangible and concrete. Something that you can really get your hands on and just do.
To me, transition is a word that better applies to the gear shifter in your car than the impending crisis of finding employment and (gasp!) a career facing university graduates today.
But, transition is a word that you will hear over and over again if you look for help in trading that backpack for a briefcase. Why? Perhaps it’s because there’s no other word that seems right. Perhaps it’s because we all want it to be an easier process than it unfortunately often is.
So, what’s the big deal with this whole transitioning thing anyway? There’s no job contract tucked away with that diploma you get when you walk across the stage at commencement, we all know that. But it would be an equally preposterous notion to think that your post secondary education, those four, five, six… even seven hard spent years of your life don’t relate to your career at all.
And another thing; most students these days have to hold down jobs during school just to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses. So why all the fuss about “transitioning” into the world of work, when most students are in it already?
Take me, for example. I worked all the way through University. Full time course load, part time work, part time social life, I know the life. Hey, as a graduate student, I’m still living it. But trust me when I say that grilling steaks at your local semi-casual restaurant and lounge, while in and of itself a very purposeful and even satisfying job experience, was not where I wanted to be a year after graduation.
Thus, my “transition.” I quit the restaurant a couple weeks after my last exams finished. I had already discovered a new, better-suited-to-my-field job through an information session that was held on campus. I was even selected for an interview and, ultimately, hired. Little did I know that, in my overzealousness to get out of the restaurant industry, I had overlooked the timeline for the new hire process at my new job. The result? No job for a few weeks, waiting for a VPD criminal records check to clear, very few shifts for the first month or so of work. All in all, a very light wallet, which lead to the question: did I really make the right choice there? This job feels right for me, but was that all worth it?
Of course, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Sure, it may have been possible to achieve the same result while doing a bit of research so that I could maintain a flow of income. But, setbacks are to be expected. And that is the bottom line: challenges will come up and your transition may not be as seamless as you hope it to be.
Most people look at me and when they see that I am pursuing a career that I am really passionate about at the graduate level while at the same time working part time at a job that is directly related to my field (mental health), they naturally assume that one thing led neatly to the next or that tough decisions nicely fell onto my lap and all I had to do was give the proverbial thumbs up. That’s just not true.
If you ask me, that smooth transition we all hope for actually takes a lot of behind the scenes “work” (pun intended). Look for the value in those part time jobs you have now. Even if they are just to pay the rent, there are a lot of skills you probably demonstrate every shift that are transferable to that dream job of yours. Acknowledge the hard work that you put into your degree! That alone says a lot about your character that potential employees may like to see. Go to the info sessions and the workshops that interest you before you graduate and the very worst that you can come out of them with is a stronger network.
These are the kinds of things that facilitate a successful transition into the working world.
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”- Isaac Asimov
Intern at SFU Career Services and recent university graduate