How To Transition from College to Career

May 30, 2018

You've heard endless advice about how to land a job—but probably not much about what comes after that. Once you've aced your classes, nailed that interview, received your offer letter, and walked at graduation, how do you transition from being a full-time student to a full-time professional? Chad Shapard, one of UW AMA’s past presidents, dropped by to tell us just that. As a 2017 graduate currently in the Boeing Career Foundation Program (a leadership rotational business program), he was the perfect person to share his perspective of what that jump from college to career looks like.


 Photo via Unsplash


In the real world, as in college, there is no one right path. This post isn’t an exact roadmap to landing your dream job, or a laundry list of things to do to become successful. It’s still up to you to make that magic happen. But while you’re chasing your goals, these eleven life lessons Chad shared with us might just come in handy.



1. You have to make things happen on your own

In school, things are very structured. Recruiters come to you, teachers are there to help you, you have academic advisors, and there’s so many resources here at UW or any university to support you. Out in the “real world,” there’s a lot more you have to do for yourself. Don’t be intimidated! If it all seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller tasks and take baby steps.


2. Prioritize time for work and life

It’s so important to have a balance between your career and the rest of your life. Even if—especially if—you’re feeling a lot of pressure in the office. Make time for self-care; it’s not just ‘nice,’ but also necessary. You don’t want to burn out in the first few years of your career, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself, whether that means making time to hang out with friends, committing to a workout routine, or getting plenty of sleep each night.


3. Audit your circle

Not all friends are created equal—pay attention to which friends are good for you, push you, and make you grow. You’re a combination of your 5 closest friends, and it’s important to be aware of that. Invest in those really meaningful relationships. Especially once you’re working 50 or 60 hours a week, your time becomes really valuable, so be mindful of who you spend it with.


4. Never stop learning outside learning

If there’s an area your company or business is looking to expand into, learn about it. Even if you’re just interested in a certain business area, learn about it. Stay relevant with what’s going on in the world, whether that’s mastering a new hot software or becoming an expert about blockchain technology. Look into online certificates, online courses, or head to a library for some good old-fashioned reading.


5. Fight complacency

In high school, you work hard to get into college, in college, you work hard to get a good job, and then once you graduate and had that job, it’s like…now what? Make sure you’re always thinking about your next move to grow, push yourself, and succeed. Set goals for yourself, achieve them, then set new goals. Comfort kills!


6. Look at every mistake as an opportunity

When you come into a company, they expect that you won’t do everything perfectly right away, and probably make a few mistakes in the process. Don’t make the same mistake twice, but don’t let a fear of messing up stop you from trying to grow and push yourself. I try to speak at every meeting I go to. Even if I sound dumb or it’s not a great idea, at least I pushed myself and tried, and you’ll learn faster that way.


7. Don’t forget about the rest of the world

Even if you’re happy in your current job, it’s great to keep an eye on what your peers are doing and where you stand in the industry. Know how you position yourself in the market, if you were to go get a new job. What do people know you for? How would you compare to other candidates? This can help with the complacency, making sure you stay relevant and always improving.  


8. Never burn a bridge

The world is so small, and it’s surprising how a bad impression can spread far. 


9. Networking matters

It’s important to develop relationships not only inside your company, but also within the whole company you’re interested in. Ask current co-workers or bosses if they know anyone they think you should talk to, or even turn to LinkedIn and send a few cold messages over InMail. There’s a ton you can learn from their insights & experiences, and you never know if down the line they might be able to make a referral to help you nab your dream job.


10. Bet on your strengths

A lot of the time, we focus on bettering our weaknesses, and spend so much time working hard to become average in those areas. What if you put all your eggs in the basket of what you’re good at or what excites you?




While he was here, Chad was also kind enough to take some our most burning questions about succeeding in the workplace, the next steps of networking, and how to handle being the new kid in the office.


How should you maintain a networking relationship past the initial interaction?

If you wrap up an internship, it’s great to stay in touch with your old bosses, even if it’s just an occasional email about what you’ve been up to. Yes, it can be hard to know how to keep a conversation going, so something I used to do look at people’s LinkedIn pages whose current jobs I was interested in and trace their career back. Then those steps were things I could bring up and discuss with my mentors or ask for their perspective on.


How can I distinguish myself in the office & to my boss?

Get ready to grow. Be okay not knowing what people are talking about—you learn the most in uncomfortable positions because you have to think on your feet. There’s no secret sauce, just get out there and do it.


What’s your advice for being new & establishing credibility with my coworkers?

Build relationships. Take your coworkers or manager out to coffee, lunch, or dinner—once you’re outside the office, it’s easier to find those things you have in common, like being huge Seahawks fans or loving to run the trails in Greenlake.


A lot of companies now offer rotational programs as their entry-level jobs. As someone who’s in a rotational program right now (with Boeing), what's it like?

Every few months, you get to start over for a clean slate, but that also means you start over trying to make a good impression right away, especially since you have so little time to prove yourself. You get a wide range of experiences and really get to try everything. I’d say it’s best for people who know they’re interested in an industry, but don’t know exactly what they want to do; because you’re exposed to everything, it’s a great way to figure out where you belong and thrive.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

One of my mentors once told me that “success = performance x relationships” and that your attitude influences both. He provided me the advice below.


Performance: Take on the assignments no one wants to do. Lead from every chair. There will always be a place in the world for anyone who says, “I’ll take care of it” and then does it. Commit to something and do what you say you will do—or don’t commit, you’ll only let someone down.


Attitude: Ultimately, you decide what adjectives get attached to your name; strive to leave a positive impression with everyone. And, remember that your day usually goes the way the corners of your mouth go - gratitude should be a continuous attitude. in everything, practice humility


Relationships: The single characteristic shared by all the successful people I know is the ability to create and nurture a network. Try never to be the smartest person in the room, and if you are, invite smarter people or find a different room. You don’t have to know everything as long as you know the people who do. Once you build a network, you will have a bridge to where you want to go, but never forget that authenticity in your relationships is key—no one likes being used.



Thank you so much, Chad! Learn more about Boeing’s rotational programs here.


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