From Student Life to a 9-5

From Student Life to a 9-5

 3 Mar 2022

Writing this as I near the end of my first full week in the workplace, I am utterly and completely exhausted. This is not a reflection on Red as an organisation, I feel the need to quickly add! My new colleagues couldn’t have been more helpful, welcoming, and friendly this past week: with constant reassurance that if things seem initially confusing, they will soon begin to make more sense, regular coffees being delivered to my desk and plenty yummy office treats of the chocolate variety! Embarrassingly, this first week exhaustion is simply a reflection on my own character and the ‘student lifestyle’ that I’ve become more than accustomed to over the past four years…
Before writing this post I did a quick google search to see if I was the only one feeling this way or (pray) there’s others out there too who’ve experienced a similar sense of being thrown in the deep end with the move from lecture halls to the office environment. Reassuringly, at the top of the google search was a BMC Psychology paper on ‘The Transition from University to Work: What Happens to Mental Health?’ which confirmed that ‘the experience of the transition between education and work may connote a feeling of professional uncertainty and lack of coping, both of which are important factors related to young professionals’ mental health’ and that ‘The gap between the two areas of knowledge is frequently described as ‘practice shock’. Hallelujah – I’m not alone! I decided to look further into why this is, what habits do we have as students that set us apart from the rest of society and make such a transition tricky, even when surrounded by such lovely, supportive new office colleagues? And what can we do to make the move easier on ourselves? After a good long think, I’ve compiled a short list of my own key tips that I’ve found to be a great help in adjusting so far!
Firstly, the need to Establish a Routine is essential. As students we really didn’t realise just how easy we had it! For me personally, the flexibility of my university timetable meant that I had plentiful free time outside of studying. From a spontaneous 1pm trip to the gym because lectures had finished for the day, to coffee and cake with the girls on a Tuesday afternoon, jumping away from this and into a structured 40 hour a week job can require a LOT of adjustment. I’d say one of the first steps to take is to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep then you’re as alert and engaged as possible the following day – this may sound simple, but I know as students we don’t often have the best sleep patterns!
On top of this, having a healthy diet is key (yes it’s almost like there’s this added pressure to ‘adult’ now that we have an adult job). Before, I wouldn’t have thought twice about buying a ready meal because it had been a hard day (3 hours…) at uni. Now, I return home after actually working a full 8 hours and fight against my every instinct to purchase said ready meal, instead cooking from scratch and actually bulk cooking, so that there’s enough left over to take to the office for lunch tomorrow too, because what was the point in getting up at 6.30am to go to the gym before work and queue for ages for the shower in the changing room, if I was then going to just defeat the purpose of exercising by buying a salty ready meal later on for my lunch? And I know for a fact that my brain will thank me for this extra dose of nutrition when I’m learning new systems all day at work – fizzy drinks and ready meals don’t always make for a healthy brain I’ve now learned (even if I breezed through uni pretending that they did).
Next: time keeping. In the office environment, the importance of timing should not be underappreciated. If you were like me and would often be the one rushing in five minutes after the lecture started only to be greeted by disapproving looks from the lecturer, this needs to change! In addition to leaving earlier in order to actually arrive at work on time, I would recommend logging anything and everything in a planner. Once you feel more comfortable in the job, this will only really be necessary for key things like meetings/presentations etc, but for now my planner is my bible and a great way of setting myself quick reminders throughout the day!
My second biggest takeaway is the realisation that Learning Never Stops. You might have thought the learning had stopped after sitting your last uni exam, but in reality, it only continues when progressing into a job role. I’m in a unique position being a complete novice to the world of recruitment as I really am learning everything from scratch. But what I’ve now realised is that the learning won’t stop in six months’ time when I’m ‘fully trained’. In reality, the importance of keeping up with relevant industry developments should not be understated, with such awareness offering great insight when brainstorming for future projects…keep updated on industry developments and you’re guaranteed to keep those creative juices flowing!
Thirdly, the approach to working is very different, with the biggest difference I’d say being how you work. Much of university is spent focusing on self-study and personal development, whereas in an office environment there’s a much heavier focus on working as part of a team, with collaboration being key. I’d say this is actually one of my favourite things about working at Red – how team orientated the office environment is, there’s always someone there to offer a helping hand when needed, or to answer a question no matter how silly it may seem in your head. When compared to university where there’s roughly one lecturer to every couple of hundred students, it’s really nice to get that one-to-one feedback and attention and means that I actually feel like I’m progressing a lot faster, as I’m not having to wait all day for the answer to a quick question. I can’t thank the team at Red enough for how patient they’ve been with me the past week!
So, reflecting on these key transition tips – what advice would I give to myself a week ago, about to embark on my new office adventure?
I suppose I’d tell myself that the best prep I could ever do is to get into the right work mindset: to be prepared to ask questions no matter how silly I may feel they are, to have an open mind and, most importantly, to have fun too! This past week has shown me just how exciting, stimulating and entertaining the office environment can be (often trumping uni classes, if I’m honest). After only a week at Red I’ve realised that the people really make a workplace and if you’ve got the right team behind you, you’ve every chance at success.
Lastly, I’ve spent a while listing the key differences between university and the workplace, but I felt it quite important to slip a big similarity in before I leave: the need for coffee! That reliance on caffeine never goes away, so make sure to not get rid of your Café Nero loyalty card just yet!
  • What are some of your top tips for the transition from university to the office environment, or maybe from shift work to a 9-5?
  • What have been some of your biggest learning curves?
  • And most importantly…what do you love most about office culture?!
As always, we can’t wait to hear your thoughts!



Very enjoyable read Megan. Particularly liked your second takeaway. It's that old saying; every day's a school day. Youre never done learning.
Posted on Thursday, March 03, 2022 21:26 by Colin Urquhart

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