Campus to Corporate – How has life really changed?

Everyone is busy ushering in the New Year – celebrating, partying, making resolutions, reminiscing old times and of course getting used to writing “2015” in the “date” columns. Yes, 2014 comes to an end. In fact, yet another year begins! Some are enjoying the holiday with their loved ones, some on trips with friends and some others working hard like any other day to ensure everyone has a jolly good holiday. So what is it that we’re celebrating about – just a day, a month passing on the calendar, like any other? Not that I don’t enjoy the holiday or the celebrations (in fact, a year should have more such days where we celebrate life). But I feel this gives us a chance to look back for a few hours and re-assess, get our bearings right.

So what do I remember from 2014? What is the big change that happened?

A year back, I was sitting happily in college with not a worry in the world. Of course, there were placements. But then everyone knew it was about to come – it was a bomb waiting to explode. And we’d already got a taste of it a year back. Nothing new. But the major change was the one that would happen in April – when we’d get out of campus and into the wilderness.

College life was coming to a close. Corporate life was waiting to swallow us. What lay on the other side was unknown, scary. Most seniors spoke of it as unpleasant. “Yaar, enjoy college life. You’ll never enjoy the same way again” “Life gets boring after college man”. These are two lines that you will hear for sure. And that can be scary. You start thinking – “Is this why I got into B-School?” “Is this all a big mistake?” “Should I have taken up that engineering job or gone for MS?” Yes, it gets a bit messy at that point. But then, you manage to deal with the situation (by facing/ignoring it). And soon enough, you’ll be placed in some company and sent packing out of college with the diploma in your hand. It all happens quite fast.

And now, it has been almost 8 months into the job. Life has changed for sure. Was it all true? What about the part where life gets boring? Does corporate life make you a slave? The answer is debatable, of course. I’d say that the answer depends greatly on your choice. So how has life actually changed?

Let’s do a little exercise here. Take two minutes and think about what campus life means to you? How do you think life really is? What is expected of you? What have you achieved in it?

Great! Now do the same for corporate life. What do you think about it? How do you think life will be? What do you expect to do? What have you heard about corporate life from peers/seniors?

Done? Great! There is a mismatch isn’t it? Well, if there isn’t a mismatch now, you’ll soon see why there will be one. If there still isn’t a mismatch, then congratulations! You’re on the right track. And here’s why the mismatch usually happens!mismatch

So how do you find out what the companies are looking for? That should give some insights – about how to set our expectations, isn’t it? The first answer is – Google the questions! And here’s what you usually end up with – “We are looking for change agents, people who can deal with ambiguity and solve complex problems in a short period of time and should have a drive to achieve excellence”. Whoa, whoa whoa!! Just wait a second there! You’re looking for WHAT?! Can someone please translate that to English?

Honestly, it doesn’t really mean that they are looking for some super-genius person who can solve every problem in the universe. It just means that you should be ready to embrace and deal with the change that is about to come. For starters, words change meaning. Yes! Words that we’ve known all our life, change their meanings suddenly. Now that is unsettling. Let’s have a look.

Planning

In college, planning generally refers to planning of trips, dinners and dates. And on some occasions, to meet deadlines and study for exams. But the general thumb rule is –

tempoYes! Procrastination is the answer to every problem. Why need a plan when you can just put it on the list of things-to-do? In fact –

procrastination-is-a-higher-form-of-planningAnd as you would have experienced, the best part is – IT REALLY WORKS! ALMOST EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Sadly, this just can’t go on. It worked during undergrad, it worked during post-grad. That does give one the confidence of pulling it off yet again. Many people still do! But sadly, it just adds to the frustration. You need to plan everything. Food, accommodation – things that were taken for granted till now – need to be planned. Expenses, instalments, bills, credit cards – all need to be monitored. You have to meet deadlines or pay the price – it isn’t as simple as getting a lower grade in class. This may sound tough but can be achieved quite easily – as long as you have your priorities set right and plan accordingly.

Punctuality

The alarm goes off at 8.30AM. A few snoozes later, you realise that it’s 9. And yes, you remembered right – there is a lecture at 9! A swift brush and a generous dose of deodorant later, you find yourself getting inside class – just in time for attendance. The prof shoots you a dirty look. So do the people who occupied their seats 5 mins before the lecture began. Well, at least you reached on time for attendance! Damn, if only the prof took attendance at the end of the lecture. You could’ve slept some more! Worst case – you’ll not get the attendance. Even worse – a grade drop!

If only we had such systems in corporate life! Being on time to work, meetings, keeping up with deadlines are of utmost importance. In fact, impressions are made and broken depending on how punctual you are – shows your seriousness about commitments. Missed the usual bus? No autos on the road just when you HAD to be on time for that meeting? Sorry, but these excuses just don’t work! This change can be a huge disappointment in your daily life – having to get up early, being on time, punctual for work, deadlines – sometimes it just doesn’t feel right! But then, that’s how it works.

Team-work

Here is a typical FB chat –

23rd Nov, 21:20:05:
A: “Guys, we have a case submission tomorrow night 23:59:59”
B: “dude let’s divide the case. A – you do page 1-3, P will do 4-5, I’ll do 6-8. C has gone home so we’ll have to take care of it”
C: “sry guys. I’ll do the next case. Thanks for taking care of this one”
A: “no probs man”

24th Nov, 22:15:28:
A: “Hey guys. Here’s my part – Attachment1.pptx
B: “here’s mine – Attachment2.pptx. hey P. add your part and send it to the prof”

24th Nov, 23:32:14:
B: “hey P. have you submitted it?”
A: “dude I don’t think he’s reading this!”

24th Nov, 23:40:12:
P: “sry guys! I’d gone to the city. I’ll quickly finish my part. A, can you please collate it?”
A: “fast dude. The prof’s gonna screw us this time if we’re late!”

24th Nov, 23:55:39:
P: “here’s my part! Attachment3.pptx
A: “cool”

24th Nov, 23:59:01:
A: “Here’s the final ppt. I’m sending it to the prof – FinalPPT.pptx
C: “Thanks guys. I owe you one :)”

Yes! Now this is called team-work. In fact, the guys below seem to sum it up quite well –

every-group-project-the-hangoverSadly, this doesn’t work once you start working. Everyone is held accountable for the entire project – missing deadlines is sad, pointing fingers is unprofessional. And one more thing – you may not always like your colleagues but you must learn to work with them in a positive way. The sudden weight of accountability for others’ actions is one factor which makes people despise corporate life.

Recommendations

Ah, Yes! Recommendations! Our favourite slide of any PPT – where we have the freedom to display our “global” prowess. The slide which we completely own, the one slide where we couldn’t just push in some more case facts just to complete the ppt. After all, you are the CXO – you may say whatever you want and get away with it – as if it is going to affect anyone anyway!

This is one bubble that bursts big. Your recommendations aren’t sacrosanct anymore. You may be from one of the top institutes but that doesn’t give your words the weightage you think it should. You’re going to start as a trainee – the new kid in the block. The only way to get through this hurdle is patience and persistence.

So you see? This is mostly why people say corporate life “sucks”. The transition can surely be frustrating. After all, words change mean all of a sudden. So how indeed, do you make a successful transition?

There are a number of ways in which this is done. I’ll list down a few here that worked for me.

Learn the culture – understand how the company operates, how the culture is, understand the difference between policies and politics, the importance of both.

Have the right attitude – you’re here to learn and lay a strong foundation. Try to stay focused no matter how stressful the situation. The attitude you have today will decide your success tomorrow.

Impressions and relations – put in an effort to know your colleagues, maintain networks with integrity – keep appointments, make calls when promised, give an apology when required.

Limit your expectations – this is by far the biggest reason for frustration. Try not to have too high expectations of your job. You may start off with some routine tasks which might seem mundane and below you. But the way you deal with it defines whether you’ll be successful in it. I know we all want to change the world and transform old fashioned ways to modern efficient techniques. But you need to hold your horses.

Ask questions – talk to people and ask doubts whenever you have any. Discussion always brings more ideas and perspective to things. You might even find an answer to the project you’re stuck on.

Making the transition from collegiate life to corporate life will require you to strike a balance between gaining respect from your colleagues and accepting that you are the new kid on the block.

Give yourself time to adjust to your new life. And don’t worry. You’ll survive your first job just like you survived your first year at college. When you look back, you will surely have fond memories of it.

Meanwhile, ENJOY everything that comes in the way and try to LEARN as much as possible – a strong foundation can go a long way into having a successful career! Cheers! 🙂

(Images taken from DogHouseDiaries, memes picked up from Google)

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