Mastering Your First Year: What Every New Grad Needs to Know


Mastering Your First Year: What Every New Grad Needs to KnowMarjorie Silverman, Chair/Associate Professor of Internship Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Congratulations, recent grad. With diploma in hand, it’s your first day at your first full-time job.  Nervous? Anxious? Terrified? Not surprising! How many times have you been told that the transition from full-time student to full-time professional is the most difficult of all?  As the noted Ghostbuster Ray Stantz once said, “You’ve never been out of college. You don’t know what it’s like out there. I worked in the private sector. They expect results.”

And that is true – they do expect results. Before you get apoplectic, relax.  It’s a pretty good bet the results they expect are quite different from those of your imagination. Let’s manage those expectations with three examples.

Fresh off a M.Sc., the research chemist starting at a biotech firm is not expected to make a radical discovery in one week. Or one month or one year. More likely, the new grad will be staying up nights to watch Petri dishes do whatever thing they are supposed to do.

Nearly all freshly minted law school grads cannot practice law, as they have not been admitted to a bar. While they prepare for the exam, they will log long hours of case law research for other members of the firm. In other words, they are not expecting you to be O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian. Or for that matter, any other Kardashian.

And if you take your MBA into the business world, you will spend your first year learning critical survival skills such as: when entertaining clients, never order anything that requires a lobster bib; and understanding the difference between a colleague and a friend.

Think SpongeBob Square Pants

Most businesses operate on a yearly calendar. It really takes a full year of deadlines, deals, earnings, conferences, presentations and reports to have a full grasp of what your employer is really doing.

You have one primary job during your first year. Be a sponge. Soak up everything humanly possible. Focus on the culture as well as the job. It is your job as the graduate to absorb and understand the culture. It is not their job to teach it to you. Open your mind to the “real world,” which will require new ideas, new skills and new values.

Take advantage of the one-year cycle and learn from it. Many successful people keep a journal to track everything that happens in that first twelve months. They note what worked, what could have been improved and the impact of their contributions.

So enjoy your first year. Pay attention to everything and most of all – study harder than you ever studied in your academic career. When the opportunity comes to make a contribution, blow them away. Take a deep breath your first day, and remember they want you to succeed!


About the Author: Marjorie Silverman is Chair/Associate Professor of Internship Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology -State University of New York (SUNY). Ms. Silverman holds an M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.  Her areas of concentration include working with students to successfully transition from school to work and increasing career opportunities for non-traditional age students. 


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