From Coed to Qualified: Translating College Skills to Professional Life

Graduating college and transitioning into a job can sound daunting. For some, this will be their first time living alone and being financially independent.

Meet Catherine Abernathy, an Auburn alumna living in Washington, D.C. Graduating from Auburn in 2016 with a degree in public relations, Abernathy was nervous about transitioning from college life into professional life.

Fast forward a year and a half: Abernathy now works as a marketing associate at a technology company. Sitting down to interview her, she draws three parallels from aspects of college and professional life, including networking, meeting deadlines and attending meetings.

Professional Networking vs. Sorority Recruitment

According to recent statistics, there are over 9 million students currently involved in greek life. “Networking in the professional world is so similar to [sorority] recruitment,” says Abernathy. “You want to impress them, and they want to impress you.”

Abernathy speaks of how she has applied skills from sorority life to her professional life. “I went to this conference this year called GEOINT. With almost 4,000 people in attendance, networking here seemed intimidating,” she says, “but then, I remembered my times during [sorority] recruitment. During recruitment, you have upwards of 2,000 girls coming to recruitment parties. You have to be able to talk to many different people with varying personality traits. [Sorority] recruitment teaches you how to literally talk to a wall,” she jokingly says.

Meeting Professional Deadlines vs. Finals Week

When asked if professional life had any stress-inducing situations to college, Abernathy laughs. “Though I have learned to manage my time better since undergrad, I have had a few situations similar to finals week,” Abernathy says. Speaking of a recent deadline, Abernathy says, “I had a proposal due last week. It was a 100-page document in which I collaborated with a small team,” she says. “Though we paced ourself, I definitely found myself pulling a few all-nighters,” she says with a laugh.

Though finals week in college can be stressful for most students, Abernathy says it prepared her for tight deadlines in a professional environment. “Would I want to do finals week of college over again? No. But do I think the deadlines, focus and adrenaline rushes helped prepare me for professional deadlines? Absolutely,” she says. “Being able to work efficiently in a time crunch and on practically zero sleep is definitely a skill I honed in on during college,” she says.

Workplace Meetings vs. College Meetings

Meetings can be extremely boring and a waste of time if not executed properly. When asked about the similarities between professional and campus meetings, Abernathy makes several comparisons.

“Meetings are an inevitable obligation,” Abernathy says, “but I have found many of my professional meetings to be similar to my college meetings.” She continues, “You go to the meetings, learn what you need to improve on and make it happen.”

Finally, when asked if she had any advice to graduating students about to enter the professional world, Abernathy says this: “Don’t stress too much. Adjusting from college life to professional life is just like anything else- there is definitely a learning curve. Try to stick to a budget, find a support system of good friends and work hard. The rest will come naturally.”




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