Settling into the workplace as a graduate

Words by Maddie Astle, Founder of Mind The Gap Graduates

One thing, among many, that graduates can struggle with after leaving the comforting arms
of education is adjusting to the workplace. This new environment, that we are often ill-
prepared for, can be daunting and someone that is used to the structure and demands of
school or university can often feel lost.

A few things I’ve found difficult since starting work are: not being able to choose when I
work (the 9-5 structure really bugs me and my productivity bursts); learning how to write an
email for so many different purposes; not being graded on things; and feeling very, very

Along the way, I’ve worked out a few things that I’d like to share in order to help other
people settle into the workplace as a graduate or to simply make you aware that you’re not
alone if you’re feeling this way.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re not sure of something. Whether you’re in your
first, second or third job out of university, everyone – no matter how qualified – will need to
adjust and become familiar with things, and asking questions is one way to improve.
Work out how best your manager responds to questions, and maybe set them aside to ask
them all at once, schedule a meeting to go through all of your queries or maybe just take
them as they come and ask them one by one.

Don’t be afraid of asking questions or saying when you’re not sure – it makes it easier and
quicker to learn.

Get into a routine

Working 8 hours a day, having to get up earlier than you might like and working until the
early evening can be hard to adjust to. Once you’re in a routine that you find comfortable, it
can get a lot easier.

You might want to make your breakfast or lunch the night before, or do exercise in the
mornings before you start, routines are very personal so work out what you want from your
workdays and do that.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, no matter what level or how long they’ve been in a job. Pretty
much every mistake can be rectified and you will always learn from it. I made a mistake in
an email in my first month at work and it ended up being an issue, but ever since then (over
a year ago) I’ve developed a strong email manner and always quadruple check before

Make a ‘good emails’ folder

To battle any signs of impostor syndrome or to make a record of your achievements when
going for a promotion or rewriting your CV, having a good emails folder is a great idea.
Whether you get a compliment from a client, your manager tells you how well you’ve been
doing or evidence of a sale you’ve made, drag and drop it into your good emails folder to
look back on.

If you don’t get many emails but want to keep track, email yourself with details of this
achievement and store it in the folder.

There are so many other ways to settle into the workplace, so you might find that the above
options don’t work and have your own techniques. Just know that it will get easier as time
goes on, but to also remember that we’re only human so mistakes happen and we can
doubt ourselves at any stage of our career.

Trust me when I say you’re probably doing a much better job than you tell yourself!

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