Are you heading into an internship or even starting your career this summer? A job can be so much more than where you spend 40 hours a week, just like college is so much more than where you take classes for four years. Yes, there are differences – you’re getting paid for your hard work now! But there are also so many similarities. Check out three of them below.
Clubs, Meet Employee Resource Groups
When I was in college, I was actively involved in a number of clubs. I was an orientation leader, campus tour guide and even led a team of students creating after-school programming and retreats for middle school and high school youth in my college town. Even though I didn’t continue some of my high school activities, I was able to find some great clubs to be part of and even continued my involvement with organizations like Habitat for Humanity or groups like French club. In grad school, I continued to find clubs/outlets that engaged in my community – both on and off campus. I was the vice president of our chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs, served on our business case team and even pulled from my event planning skills and was our campus social chair.
All that is to say, when I started at AT&T, I was so excited to learn about Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Our ERGs are recognized for connecting people of all backgrounds and giving them a chance to advance their professions and improve their lives. When I joined the AT&T team eight years ago, I quickly became involved with two of these ERGS:
- oxyGEN Young Professionals Inc., created to encourage understanding and acceptance of generational differences within AT&T while facilitating personal and professional growth of AT&T’s employees, and
- Women of AT&T, founded in 1972 to create a positive and empowering network of strong women to connect and share their goals for the future.
While on the national board of oxyGEN as the chief marketing officer, I actually ended up joining all 12 active ERGs to keep up with their communications and events, and I remain an active advocate. Just like my clubs in college that gave me a sense of place and a network of like-minded people, ERGs have created environments where I’ve met mentors, connected with my internal and external community and truly had opportunities to positively impact my community. In fact, I attribute a portion of my success in my current role within Corporate Social Responsibility to being an active ERG member, engaging in volunteer work and establishing meaningful connections with employees across AT&T departments.
I am so proud to work for a company that not only touts 12 ERGs, but also the longest standing LGBTQIA group in the country. Each ERG is meant to foster intentional dialogues, establish communities of allies and sponsors and cultivate community. There truly is something for everyone at AT&T.
When you start your internship or job, ask the HR representative or your boss if they have any active employee networks or clubs that you could join. If they don’t have any, you might impress them by offering to start one!
From Roommate or Lab Partner to Coworkers
How did you make friends in college? Classes, clubs, roommates? I went to a fairly small liberal arts college, so from freshman year the bond that started with the group of girls (and guys on the other wing) of my dorm room was pretty unshakeable. In addition, I shared a lot of my major classes with some of those same folks, forging deeper relationships, helping each other through stats projects, midterms and even winter snowstorms (they call them nor’easters up in New England -- and the Seattle rain has nothing on these things). These are the people that got me through the times when I was barely getting by in physiological psychology, down to those when I just really missed home, and then those dramatic moments in senior year when it really sunk in that there wasn’t a set plan for my next step. It wasn’t freshman, sophomore, junior, senior and then some mystery paint-by-numbers fifth bonus year -- I was the custom designer of what came next in the “real world.”
In the end, this “real world” after college hasn’t been so scary after all. You will, like me, probably spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week at work -- about the same amount of time you were in class or studying each week. And just like your fellow students and professors, your coworkers and bosses aren’t robots, they’re people -- and we are social creatures (yes, some more than others). The fact is that people need to interact with others, especially when you are working on a team paper in college or a product deliverable at work. I also know that work is so much more enjoyable when you know and like the people you’re around.
You may already have a pretty stellar social circle, or may prefer the more introverted life, but making an extra effort to get to know those around you helps solidify a foundation of trust that will prove valuable whether or not you end up making a bestie or just need someone to help rally on a deadline. So don’t hesitate to invite your coworker in the office next to you to eat lunch together or take a coffee break. Some of my favorite people from when I lived in Boston were my coworkers, two of which I shared teeny-tiny office spaces with, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. And don’t worry about something to talk about on that first lunch break, you already have at least one thing in common -- your J-O-B!
From Classroom Learning to Lifelong Learning
I love asking questions and learning about new people, places and things. Not sure if that’s the psychology major talking or my ill-fated high school acting career or what, but learning new things is my jam! So if you’re anything like me, being inquisitive isn’t some oddly conjugated reference to a historical event, it’s just how you roll. In school, did you have a thirst to always learn more? Did you want to take ALL the classes? In my four years, in addition to the psychology courses for my major, I took astronomy, philosophy, mysticism and political studies. That doesn’t mean I didn’t dread class sometimes – we’ve all been there. Even when class was hard or I didn’t want to study for a test, learning something new always felt exciting and empowering.
Just because you graduated doesn’t mean you’ll stop learning. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You will naturally learn from your colleagues and experiences, but you don’t have to stop there. A lot of companies offer training to employees on a variety of topics and platforms whether its public speaking, design thinking or Spanish. Some companies even allot money for professional development to employees. With this money, employees can attend conferences, work toward a certification and so much more. You can also save money to fund your own attendance to a conference. Tip: Conferences are often in exciting destinations, so use this as an opportunity to travel somewhere you’ve never been. My first visit to New Orleans was the result of a conference where I tacked on two extra days and took walking tours to learn all about the city’s amazing history. Oh, and ate ALL the oysters!
College and the workforce aren’t so different after all. If starting an internship or job seems overwhelming, keep in mind all the similarities and these tips to make the most of your job because, just like in college, the experience will be what you make of it!