Real World 101

Real World 101

The transition from college to the 9-5 life comes with its pros and cons. Personally, I found the transition refreshing and enjoyable. It was so new and different. Working life is a huge difference from taking college classes and I loved getting a taste of it at TWC this semester. I learned a lot about the real world and how life works away from my safe college campus. The Washington Center gives young people the opportunity to experience being part of the work force while still under the comforting wing of professors and academic advisors. I learned so many lessons about the real world this semester and what it takes to have a comfortable transition.


Elise reflects on her transition from a college student to the 9-5 intern life.


Deadlines are for real.

Hello Real World! It's Monday morning and you just can't seem to get out of bed -- if it was class, you could skip it. Tell your professor you weren't feeling well and deal with turning in your journal a few days later, right? Wrong. When you have a job it doesn't matter if you're not feeling well because you're an integral part of the team and you need to be at work. Deadlines are for real and even if you don't feel well, you're often obligated to work remotely because the 9-5 life isn't going to pause for your head cold.


You owe your parents a thank you.

Going to work for 8 hours a day and needing to make dinner afterwards is a serious task. You owe your parents a big thanks for cooking you meals all those years after work. Every day after getting home from my internship I was exhausted and then I faced the doom of wondering, "Hmmm... how will I attempt to feed myself this evening?" Bravo, parents. My appreciation for you has grown even more.


Elevators take longer than you think.

It is true. You wouldn't believe how long elevators take sometimes. And let me just say, being 2 minutes late for class, and being 2 minutes late for a business meeting are completely different scenarios. Plan accordingly and always leave time for a good crisis. For example, the fact that there are absolutely NO taxi's on your street the day you're trying to make it to an interview across town. Entering the real world has taught me that those roll out of bed and grab a bagel kind of mornings only work in college. Prepare and plan, the elevators take a really long time when you're running late. I promise.


Everyone is busy.

The workplace is like finals week but all of the time. Everyone is busy, and everyone thinks that they have the most to do. I've had to become sensitive to this over time and understanding that people have a lot on their plates. Having common consideration and compassion for others workloads is seriously important. And if you want people to help you, you have to give back in turn sometimes. You can't always be a time taker without ever offering to lend some of your time back. Understanding this took me a while and I slowly figured out how and when to ask for favors or help.


Read the fine print.

The fine print is there for a reason. Even in fifty page employee handbooks the minute details can make a world of difference so pay attention. The real world isn't like your college textbooks where you can get by with skimming and looking for bold words and titles. You must read and understand everything that is given to you because it's there for a reason and you are expected to have a thorough understanding of the material given to you.


Invest in good working shoes.

Let me tell you, the phrase, "the dogs are barking," exists for a reason. Between walking a few blocks and back to the metro each day plus your usual scurrying around the workplace, shoes that give you blisters just aren't going to cut it. Always carry some band-aids just in case, but I strongly recommend spending money for good shoes that are practical, comfortable, and stylish. In college you can just throw on Ugg boots and sneakers but this is a different ball game. Your shoes should be professional -- no sky-high heels and keeping them polished is a must. Ladies, it's always a good idea to throw a pair of flats in your purse because you never know what kind of adventures or errands you may need to go on throughout the day.


Caffeine highs only work in college.

As college students we know what it's like pull an all-nighter and squeeze out a 10-page thesis just in time for our 9 a.m. class, but the real world doesn't run on caffeine highs. Coffee of course is the go-to drink of any workplace, but be cautious. It you're too hyped up on caffeine you may make mistakes and overlook things. The best way to have good energy in the work place is to get good rest which will keep you alert all day long.


Every day you get a grade.

In the real world there is none of that cramming for test or pulling out great end of the semester marks. In the real world you're evaluated everyday on your work and your contributions. You can't just rely on a few stellar days to reflect your performance like you can in college. It's important to keep in mind as an intern that everyday needs to be a good productive day if you want to stay on top.


Homework doesn't last forever.

Ahhh! Music to my ears. Yes, it's true folks -- homework does not last forever. Probably one of my favorite things about the 9-5 life is that as an intern, your days really do end at 5. Unlike classes that come along with 10 hours of studying and prep each week, getting to leave work, relax, and have some time to mentally recover in the evenings is much needed.


Money and Happiness Matters.

After doing an internship I have a greater understanding that you really have to love what you do. Of course, financial stability is important, but loving your job is a huge part of your overall happiness. Your work is such a large and integral part of your life that if you don't enjoy the work you're doing, I don't think any amount of money could compensate for your dissatisfaction. Fitting in well with a company's organizational culture is extremely important and having good relationships with co-workers is also a plus. Having a passion for what you do is a necessity and if you are happy with your job you will always be motivated to do your best work.


"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life" - Marc Anthony

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More