Three Lessons From My First Two Years Post-Graduation

Two years ago, I was reading Progressions as a student, trying to soak up as much information as possible before graduating and entering the “real world.” If you are nearing that exciting time, congratulations. There is a lot of pressure on students to have post-grad life figured out, and we don’t always stop to celebrate. So before you read the rest of this blog, take a minute to reflect on your accomplishments— I bet you have a lot to be proud of.

As you do plan for that next phase, I want to share three lessons from my first two years of post-grad life.

  1. Culture is more than free snacks.

Unlimited coffee, massages, happy hours, free yoga classes: These are all awesome perks that make the work environment more appealing. However, be careful not to mistake perks for a healthy company culture. Culture is so much more than that.

How can you read a company culture before you join the team? Be observant and ask thoughtful questions in your interview. When you ask what people like about working for XYZ Company, what do they say? When my fellow VOXers and I are interviewing a potential new hire, it always puts a smile on my face when colleagues say that it’s the people that they love about working at VOX. So, yes, perks are awesome. But don’t confuse perks with culture.

  1. Don’t say no, and know when to ask for help.

Especially in an agency setting, you’re likely going to work outside of your job description every day — that’s part of what keeps it exciting. As you work to develop your portfolio and skills, you need to be nimble and flexible, as you will likely be tasked with a variety of projects. Depending on your company, you might have several people leaning on you for support, which presents a lot of opportunity. When you’re asked to lend a hand, don’t say no. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes either. Here’s an example of how to address the situation if you’re swamped or need guidance:

The Ask: “Hannah, can you please send me a summary of all news mentioning PRSSA?”

Situation One: I’ve never compiled a news summary for this person before.

Response One: “I’m happy to compile a news summary for you. Could you please send me an example so I know what format you prefer?”

Situation Two: You are on deadline for another project.

Response Two: “I’m happy to compile a news summary for you. Does your timeline allow for me to send this to you tomorrow morning? I am working on a press release due by the end of the day today. If not, I’m happy to reach out to Emily to see if she can help sooner.”

Remember, you’re probably not the first person ever to do what you’re being asked, and you won’t be the last. Ask for examples and guidance. Doing this upfront will help you return a stronger work product.

  1. Be open to taking a different path.

If you would have asked me in March of my senior year where I would be post-grad, I would have told you that I’d be working in Chicago at a 1,000+ person agency. Instead, I started my post-grad career in Indianapolis at an agency of 40 people. Being open to a different path exposed me to new opportunities — both professionally and personally — that shaped who I am now and will guide my future.

Of course, no article can fully prepare you for the transition from college to the workforce, and that’s okay. You don’t need to have it all figured out. If you’re an active PRSSA member, you’re on the right path!

Hannah Riffle is an account executive at VOX Global in Indianapolis. She graduated from Ball State University where she was an active PRSSA member. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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