Transitioning to the workplace – part 2

As I continue to adapt to the “real world” after having been in school my whole life, I have been keeping track of things that seem to be helping me be successful in my post-PhD life. Check out this earlier post for more tips.

Disclaimer: These are things I’ve done or noticed and have greatly helped me be successful and effective so quickly. These tips may not work for everyone. 


Tips on Networking

  • Go to as many meetings/workshops/conferences as your job allows — this allows you to meet the maximum number of new people. Try not to call in to meetings, if teleconference is an option. By attending in person, you gain valuable face-to-face time.
  • Talk to the speakers after their talk/meeting– have a few questions to ask so it’s not awkward.
  • Find people in positions you aspire to and ask them how they got there and any recommendations as you embark on this path.
  • Have an elevator pitch ready and tailored to whoever you’re talking to — who you are, what you do, what you want to ask them.
  • Have a mentor/supervisor introduce you to people doing what you aspire to do.
  • Keep a spreadsheet/document of all your contacts and relevant information — contact information, how you know them, when you last contacted them.
  • Send regular updates/check-ins to stay in contact. Meet them for coffee, lunch, etc.


Other general tips:

  • Decide on one or two things that you absolutely want to get done on a particular day. Often with all the meetings and last minute things, you won’t be able to get through a long list of items. By keeping a shorter list, you help focus your time on the important thing of the day. This goes for at home too! Especially those heavily involved with SWE or other organizations, this helps to focus your limited personal time!
  • Schedule time on your work calendar to work on these priority items. You’ll be surprised how quickly your day will get filled up with other things and having dedicated time to accomplish these tasks will make you more productive.
  • Keep a longer to-do list in case you happen to finish the priority items mentioned above. Keep adding things to this longer list as you think of them. This helps keep you from going down too many rabbit holes!
  • Be prepared to spend a few extra hours each week reading or catching up on what your office does.
  • People remember faces. Whenever possible, introduce yourself in person and then follow up via email afterwards. E.g. people remember my face from an internship 5 years ago. My name has changed, but they still remember me.
  • It’s a small world — be careful to not burn any bridges. Be kind to everyone, you never know who may end up being your boss, or being on your team in general. 
  • Know what you’re being graded on for promotions. If you care about career progression, make sure to accomplish the necessary items to be considered for promotion.
  • Pay attention in meetings and contribute when possible. It sounds like a no-brainer, but in the workplace, people expect you to be engaged and much of the work gets done in these meetings and conversations. Plus, this allows you to gain face time and credibility to bolster your reputation.
  • Say “Yes!” to as many things as you can handle – additional office duties, extra-curricular work projects, work-related volunteer/outreach opportunities, etc. This shows your passion and seriousness for your job. 
  • Make sure to find several mentors – people in various positions to help you in various ways. Don’t just rely on one person!


Do you have other tips or tricks for transitioning from grad school to the work place quickly and effectively? Write them in the comment section below!



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