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Adjusting to the 9-5: Transitioning from student to working life

Adjusting to working life post-university can feel like one of the most challenging transitions to go through. As you wave goodbye to weekday lie-ins and being able to choose your own schedule, you might feel a little overwhelmed at how to manage your busy new lifestyle. Not only do 8 hours a day disappear while you’re at work, but often, graduates find themselves living on their own in a new city, and learning to juggle work, general life admin and a social life can be pretty demanding. Usually, you’d find yourself in a routine once you’re settled, but in a post-lockdown era where many of us still work from home, finding that optimal routine and balance between working and living can be even trickier. But it’s not impossible – here’s a few tips to help you through the change from student to professional:

Close your laptop at 5

Striking a work/life balance early on is pretty important, as it’ll be easy to burn yourself out if you don’t. Finishing up and closing your laptop when the working day ends is crucial in setting that boundary, and unless you’re in a pretty senior position (which most graduates aren’t), you really don’t have to be working into the night in your first grad job. As students, we’re used to working on something until it’s done and getting things completed when the productive mood takes us. A graduate job is slightly different, and you have to learn to be productive during the hours you’re being paid for, and shutting off in the hours you aren’t.

Make time for hobbies

As a student, you’d usually have plenty of time for anything you want to pursue, but as a graduate working full time, you lose nearly all the time you dedicated to the things you love. While work will take up a large chunk of your time and be something that occupies your thoughts for most of the day, it’s important to not let it take over your life. You might not have time for all the hobbies, sports and socialising you did as a student, but carve out some time for at least one or two things that bring you some joy. It’ll be something to look forward to at the end of a long day, and it’ll do wonders for your mental health.

Get outside!

For a lot of jobs it seems like working from home is here to stay, which means that winding down during the commute is no longer an option. It’s useful to take a walk after work to get some fresh air after a day inside to refresh yourself. You’ll never feel like going for a walk after a long day at work, but trust me, you’ll always be glad you went for one after you come back. It also helps to mimic the commute to get your brain to switch from work mode to chill mode and vice versa in the morning and evenings, and stepping outside will allow your mind to take a little break.

Make time for your friendships

It’s likely you and your friends are probably starting work at the same time, and as your schedules go from 0 to 100, your time for each other will likely dip sharply. Working full-time can be a lot no matter how long you’ve done it for, and learning how to juggle all your new commitments while still making time for your mates is key. Having a good support network while you adjust to adult life is super important, so dedicate some time during the week if you can to catch up with your friends, even if it’s just a FaceTime call because you’re all in different cities. It might be tricky, but socialising a little during the week will also help stop the working week from dragging on and you only living for the weekend.

Get organised

Whether that’s meal planning or prepping, getting yourself a calendar and scheduling time to see people, or staying on top of the life admin, being organised has never been more important. There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day to realise you forgot to do the grocery shopping, or forgetting the really important appointment you booked in last month. Work will keep you super busy and other important things can easily slip your mind if you’re not careful, so planning ahead will make life a lot less stressful.

Realise that it won’t be like this forever…

Eventually, you’ll adjust. You’ll stop dreaming about becoming an entrepreneur so you can give up the 9-5, you’ll stop Googling ‘how to get rich quick’ and you’ll be able to make it to lunch time without wanting to nap. Soon, you’ll be able to see how many skills you’ve learnt and your growing independence in your role will make the day go by faster. After the first few months have passed you’ll have it (kinda) figured out, and balancing the million things on your to-do list won’t seem so daunting. Embrace the change (and try not to miss the student lifestyle too much!).

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