Ross Reflections: 5 Tips For Successfully Navigating Post-Grad

Alexa and her family at the Big 10 championship game in Indianapolis

3) Be Adaptable: Starting a new job straight out of college is scary because there are only so many things that school can teach you. A lot of what you are doing in your day-to-day is learning on the job. There are company-specific processes to follow and always new acronyms to learn.

In a business school project, if I wasn’t comfortable presenting, I would tell my team members and someone else would present. I would do the same when I felt a certain part of an assignment played to my strengths.

However, the real world isn’t like this. You can’t really pick and choose what you want to do. You need to learn how to be adaptable. Step up to the challenge.

At first, it can be scary. At work, you are often working with a variety of people who are subject matter experts in their own respective fields. At the same time, most have been at the company for far longer and possess more experience than you. I’ve had “to learn how to get comfortable with getting uncomfortable”. Because that’s the only way you’re going to grow.

For example: in my last project, I didn’t really like to lead meetings. I felt like I didn’t have any authority in leading meetings with my external vendor. I just joined the company and was still familiarizing myself with the business and how work gets done. However, throughout the duration of the project, I became more comfortable with leading and closing the meetings. I was able to facilitate fruitful and productive discussions.

I have applied my previous experience with an external vendor to my new project, where I am now working with a creative agency. Now, I am no longer shy about voicing my opinions in meetings.

Alexa and her Lilly volleyball team

4) Maintain Your Relationships (aka Networking): Networking can sometimes be perceived as a dirty word, even though it’s hammered home over-and-over again in business school. However, I like to think of networking more as maintaining your relationships.

You should still be networking with people within your company every day. Treat every interaction as a learning experience. I’ve set up time with people who have interesting job titles because I simply want to learn more about their experience and what they do day-to-day. Nine times out of ten, someone will accept the calendar invite just to chat and share more about themselves.

After switching teams, I’ve also continued to meet with former peers. I have found it is rare to find people you can really click with sometimes. It’s nice to continue to foster meaningful relationships. For example, my previous supervisor and I meet once a month just to catch up about life and I also go to her for professional advice. I love how our relationship has developed naturally and that we are able to have both professional and personal conversations.

People I’ve met through one-on-ones have offered to set up recurring meetings to mentor me and provide advice and feedback. They wouldn’t have offered to regularly meet if they didn’t mean it! So take them up their offer.

I have recurring meetings with people who are not connected to the current projects that I am working on too. It’s important to get different perspectives on my work. When invited, I also provide my own opinion on the work that they are doing because networking is a two-way street. You never want to feel like you aren’t providing value to the other party.

Alexa Tran

5) Take Time To Reflect: Now this wouldn’t be a Ross Reflections column if I didn’t preach about how important it is to reflect.

I’ve learned that post-grad is a weird transition period. You’re no longer a student, which means you’re no longer in your little college bubble surrounded by people your age. You no longer have classes to go and assignments to complete that are due at exactly 11:59 p.m.

Instead, you’re now considered a young working professional. You work 9 – 5. You don’t know how else to fill your time outside of 9 am to 5 pm.

In short, you’re still figuring out what being a young working professional means – I know I am. I’ve learned that it’s important to take this post-grad time to really “discover” myself.

Professionally, reflect on what you value in your job, what tasks energizes you, what do you like and don’t like about your job, and how you like to be managed. I’ve learned that I enjoy independence and autonomy in my work. However, I still do enjoy collaborating with others and garnering feedback from others to help shape and inform my work.

This major takeaway made me realize how I can be a more productive worker and add value to my team. I have been able to communicate to my new supervisor about how I work best, which helps set up my success and ultimately my team’s.

Personally, reflect on what your values are. Are you living a life that aligns with your values? Are you surrounding yourself with people who lift you up?

I’ve learned that I enjoy meeting new people and I get energized from these interactions. At the end of the day, I need time alone to recharge. I’ve learned what values are important to me, such as loyalty, kindness, and honesty. These are the values that I aim to live by – both personally and professionally.

If you are a recent graduate like myself, take the time to reflect on your post-grad adventures. Savor this time in your life because it truly is a period of deep discovery.

If you are awaiting graduation, consider the tips I’ve shared and get ready for your own post-grad adventure because it is bound to be eventful!

And if you’ve graduated for a while now, I hope this column made you reminisce a little and that you could relate to some of the tips I’ve shared.

My name is Alexa Tran and I graduated from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in May 2021. I majored in Business Administration and minored in Religion. I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, so I knew that I always wanted to be a Wolverine! I am passionate about traveling, mentorship, iced coffee, and Trader Joe’s. I enjoy spending time with friends and family and managing my travel Instagram and blog: @adventuringwithalexa.