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Embrace Your Student Mindset: Drop Your Briefcase, and Pick Up Your Notebook and Pencil

Chris Heron

Everything is new and exciting when you’re transitioning from being a college student to a young professional. As a student, you are constantly getting feedback. Your friends think your wild ideas are cool, and you feel like you can go out and change the world. As you transition into the workplace however, your bold ideas might not go over well at first; you might not be getting the feedback or praise you’re used to; and your motivation might suffer. Maintaining and embracing your student mindset and a positive attitude keeps you hungry for knowledge and personal growth, which in turn, helps your entire organization. This is not just for new grads—everyone can benefit from embracing a student mentality in the workplace.

Here are some of the best ways to use your student mindset to your advantage:

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Make the most out of a “ramen noodle” budget

If college has taught you anything, it’s the ability to work with what you’ve got, even when “what you’ve got” is little to nothing. The ability to work efficiently in a limited space, with limited instructions, and a limited budget can lead to success in your career.

Odds are, you’ll have a much greater budget when working on projects as a professional compared to being in school. Even when you’re project has a large budget, you don’t necessarily have to spend it all to get the job done.  Find what you are spending too much on, what is necessary to complete the task, and focus on the key components to improve the efficiency of your project. By focusing on the task at hand rather than the amount given to complete the project, you will learn to work efficiently and stretch your budget even further than expected.

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Stay Hungry: Being a “student” means you are here to learn.

Embracing and maintaining your passion is a major component of how you can distinguish yourself and set yourself up for success. Having the passion and curiosity to learn and try new things, which is emphasized in college, should be valued just as much when you enter the workforce.  

Dr. Wei-Chung Wang, vice president of global marketing and strategy at Kdan Mobile and professor of economics at Juniata College explained what he looks for when hiring new employees. He simply replied, “Attitude. Skills, I can train—but a positive attitude and learner’s mentality, I cannot.”

Accept the fact that you don’t have all the answers and embrace the idea that there’s always more to learn.

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No task is out of your comfort zone

As a student, you can consider yourself fresh clay. You still have the flexibility and freedom to be molded and shaped into different forms, even if that means taking on a new role. You are going to be given tasks at work that may seem complicated or totally out of your element. The best way to turn them into a positive experience is if you can get yourself to approach it as an opportunity to learn something new rather than a daunting task. You may discover that this new task you were given happens to be a great fit for you and it could reignite new passion.

There are always new roles out there. How will you know if it’s for you, if you don’t give it the old “college try”.

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Understand that mistakes are inevitable.

The best part about being the “new guy” in a company is that you’re allowed—and even expected—to make some mistakes! Take advantage of this opportunity to be outspoken, suggest new ideas, and don’t be afraid to implement changes that can help your team (while following the company’s guidelines, of course). At the same time, remember not to take constructive criticism personally.  Be coachable.

Part of the reason that an employer wants to hire someone right out of college is because they still possess this student mindset. They want someone that’s energetic, pitches bold ideas, and isn’t afraid to stir the pot.

Even if you’ve been with the company for a while, you can still get in this mindset. Pitching bold ideas, while understanding that not all of them will be a success, allows you and your peers to grow together and think differently.

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Many recent graduates entering the workplace think they are expected to change their mindset from being a free thinking student to a worker who fits into the existing box. This doesn’t have to be the case.  After talking with multiple employers from various markets, employers are looking to hire individuals that have a Student Mindset.  

Continue to practice tools, and embrace the mindset that helped you succeed throughout school, believe in yourself, take risks, and you will notice a great change in your attitude towards work.

Everyone goes through their share of challenges, whether it’s transitioning from college to the workplace or switching from one company to another.  At Kdan, we love to hear the creative solutions that people use to conquer their challenges.

Share with us, in the comments below, what challenges you have had when entering a new workplace, and how you dealt with it.


Also published on Medium.

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About the author

Chris Heron

A recent graduate of Juniata College (2018), Chris majored in Economics with a minor in Communication while he was also a member of the school's men's volleyball team. Chris currently resides in Taiwan, where he is a Global Marketing Specialist at Kdan. While in Taiwan, Chris is also working to implement his own brand into the asian market.

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