28 June 2024

Expectations vs Reality of the World of Work

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As a university student, you are on the edge of an exciting new chapter of life… the world of work! You’ve got your knowledge and skills in the bag and are as ready as you’ll ever be for your grand entrance into the professional world.

And, of course, like anyone else does before starting something new, you have your expectations all laid out. Ideally, an effortless transition from lecture hall to dream job, preferably with a sexy new office and free snacks right?

But wait! Before you start rolling out the red carpet, let’s take a second to talk about the gap between your expectations and the (sometimes less glamorous) reality. 

We’ve asked around, and these are some of the most common expectations before starting a placement, internship or graduate job and then their realities.

Interns and recent graduates have little responsibility

A common misconception is that you will be the DCR (Designated coffee runner) or the dude who’s glued to the printer. Scanning, photocopying and bored out of their mind. Before I started my job at my placement company, I dreaded that the absolute most. But I’m glad to inform you that this isn’t the case. 

While you may be subjected to a coffee run or two, the company hired YOU because you impressed them, and YOU have something they are willing to pay for. (You can add that to your daily affirmations!) Whether that be your bank of knowledge, personality traits or just a fresh perspective. Your contributions are valued just as much as any member of the team.

You’ll be given lots of training, taught new softwares, new ways of working and allocated tasks from the get-go. So you might find yourself knee-deep in real projects that actually make an impact as early as day one, but that’s the best bit! The practical element of the job will be where you learn the fastest and the best.

So, if you thought you’d be sitting on the sidelines, think again. It’s a lot more likely that you’ll be in the middle of the action, doing something worthwhile and contributing to the goals of the company.

First day worries? Gotta present in a meeting? It’s okay! Read How to Thrive Outside of your Comfort Zone

Larger firms are better as they provide more opportunities

Picking between a big-shot firm with a fabulous reputation and a more laid-back small firm is like choosing between the buzz of London and the chill vibes of a countryside village. They’ve both got their pros and cons so don’t rush into picking the big firm just because of its glitz and glamour. Take a moment to consider if it’s truly the right fit for you.

It is true, larger firms are undeniably impressive. They offer tons of resources, vast networks, and the prestige that comes with working for a name brand is just the gravy on top of the potatoes.

In a smaller firm, you might take on a wider range of responsibilities, helping you develop a broader skill set and perhaps step into leadership roles sooner. These environments often encourage innovation and creative problem-solving, with less red tape and more room for your ideas to shine.

Plus, the flexible structure of smaller firms can lead to a better work-life balance, with a culture that really values your contributions. So, while big firms have their allure, don’t underestimate the amazingly fulfilling experiences that smaller firms can offer.  

Whether you choose the grandeur of a big firm or the personalized charm of a smaller one, we’re here to bust the myth that either is better than the other. The key is to find the environment where you can thrive and make the most of your potential.

Want to know more about what it’s like to work for a small to medium-sized employer? Read about Abigail’s first-hand experience at an SME here

Hear some of our team’s experiences!

Your job description will be 100% accurate

Your job description isn’t going to be your work bible. Treat it more as a rough guide instead of a sacred script. Once you get your feet wet, your role may take a whole new direction based on your strengths and your company’s needs.

You may start off as an Excel whizz and end up as your company’s marketing magician. Your job description is not set in stone, so if you realise that there’s one part of your role you love or would like to try something new, keep an open line of communication with your manager to tailor it so you can best benefit both yourself and the firm you work for – And everyone’s a winner.

When the workday winds down, it’s clear that most jobs shape-shift like a chameleon. The role you start with might morph so much over a few months that it barely resembles the original job description. But that’s the beauty of change! As your company and role evolve, you get to grow and learn alongside them, picking up new skills and experiences along the way. So, embrace the journey – you might just surprise yourself with what you can do!

Socialising with senior team members will be difficult, and you’ll only connect with other newbies

If you worry that socialising with your team is going to be tough because everyone else is older and more experienced, fear not! You might immediately hit it off with your fellow newbies but don’t sleep on your seasoned coworkers. They can be a goldmine of wisdom and great stories. 

These folk have been around the block and are often thrilled to welcome fresh faces and share what they’ve learned. You probably have more in common than you expected, and soon enough, you’ll be chatting like old friends. 

You can start conversations by asking about their career paths or seeking advice on projects—people love talking about themselves and their experiences. Offer to help with tasks or join team activities to blend in with the group.

Plus, the added bonus? Building strong relationships with experienced team members can open doors to mentorship and professional growth. So, break the ice, soak up their knowledge, and get ready to be the life of the office party, no matter your age!

Want some more advice on how to choose your very first adult job? Here’s some more guidance.

So there you have it, people—your ultimate guide to navigating the expectations versus reality in the wonderful world of work.

As you dive headfirst into your career, you’ll quickly find that reality can be a bit of a rollercoaster. But who said that’s a bad thing? Keep your expectations flexible, and remember that the professional world is always evolving, so adaptability is a great skill to have, no matter your role or industry.

Take your openness to change and your positive attitude with you, and you’ll be on track to thrive in the workplace.