From Classroom to Cubicle


This spring, an estimated 1,606,000 students graduated with Bachelors degrees (NACE, 2014). Though some of these graduates will pursue further education, many of the over one million members of the Class of 2014 are starting to transition from full-time students to full-time employees.

Armed with a degree and some prior intern experience, these new alumni should know all they need to be a successful employee, right? As a recent graduate, I, along with my peers, can only hope that our educations will serve us well in the coming weeks, months and years of work. In my past two weeks working as an intern for PAN Communications, I've noticed that there are some things I never learned in the classroom, and identified several key differences between being a student and employee that it’s hard to prepare for at school.

Do you want that email in MLA, APA, or AP Style?

The first thing I noticed my first week of work is that my professors were right, writing is important, but at the start of your career the art of an email and informal communication are much more relevant than corporate communications. As a PR major and a liberal arts student, I wrote papers, press releases and social media posts all following a strict format or style guide, but what I never wrote for class was a casual email or IM. I’m lucky to have joined a great work environment at PAN where not every email or conversation is formal, but it's important to find an appropriate middle ground for interoffice communication. Skills in office communication can have a large impact on corporate culture. No professor will tell you whether or not you can use an emoji in an email-- it’s something you have to learn for yourself.


What do you mean there’s no rubric?

The second lesson I quickly learned as an intern is that everyone has their own method for success. In school, professors often outline how to tackle the problem on a given assignment, noting what markers you must meet to achieve success and get an A. Everyone I've worked with at PAN approaches tasks differently, while still reaching great results. Recent grads are charged with the responsibility of setting their own markers for success on projects, and remembering that mangers don’t explicitly outline extra credit opportunities; you have to take initiative and go above and beyond on your own!


Fine, no rubric but there has to be a syllabus?!

In school students are handed a syllabus on the first day of class, outlining what is expected of you and what goals you must reach to be successful through the semester. However, post grad life and your career don’t come with a syllabus. My mentors and my peers at PAN are more than willing to offer guidance, but there isn’t only one path to success. I quickly noticed that not everyone found their career or passion for PR in the same way. Since everyone follows a different path, it’s up to you to discern how to best spend your time. It’s up to you to decide what you love and what you think will make you successful.


When is this all due by?

While both work and higher education both have due dates for certain deliverables, agency deadlines are not always as cut and dry. You could be at your first job for a few months, a few years, or your entire career. I've met employees at PAN communications who have just arrived and those who have been with the company for many years. Students know that at the end of the semester, three or four months from the start, they get to close a chapter of theirs lives, mark their accomplishments for what they are and move on. However, at work and in life the end date isn't always in sight. You have to learn how and when to measure your own progress and further, when it’s time to make a change.


As the class of 2014 continues to make the transition from student to employee, I urge you to pass along some of the wisdom you've gained to the closest graduate. While we still will have to learn through experience, advice is appreciated!

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