News & Insights

From College to Corporate America

By Kennedy Peace

Screenshot fo a zoom meeting.

The thing about life is that we are often always waiting for what’s next. While in my undergraduate years at Hampton University, I thought a lot about what my future would hold following what everyone told me would be the best four years of my life. I had an idea of what my life would look like, but the transition from roundtable classroom discussions to client meetings is nothing like what I imagined it to be. I assumed that because I balanced multiple extracurriculars and leadership positions, excelled academically, and maintained a healthy social life in college, that everything would seamlessly translate over to my first corporate job.

But the secret is out – the transition from college to corporate America can be overwhelming. Even when you feel you’re prepared for that new chapter of your life, turning the page is not necessarily what you expect it to be. For example, the antagonist of many post-grad transitions, currently, is COVID. Gone are the days of normalcy and face-to-face interactions as the primary method of communication, let alone interviews. Finishing college and starting my career during a pandemic was nothing short of unfathomable.

When I think about it, yes, the transition from college to corporate America is no small feat. But that’s because nothing is the same. Where we live, our daily routines, even our intentions and objectives are different. We are coming from a place of academia with a focus on learning and retaining educational materials to succeed. We soak up information like a sponge, spend countless hours in the library to ensure we ace our next exam, and regurgitate the information to prove just how much we know. Yet, once you graduate, that is no longer the case. That’s when I discovered the importance of human connections and company culture in making the transition.

I began working at RF|Binder as an Associate in May of 2021. I had already experienced a year and a half of COVID’s impact on my college experience. I missed out on in-person experiences the second semester of my junior year and my entire senior year. Before beginning at RF|Binder, I was nervous about how the pandemic was going to affect my first “big girl” job. There were quite a few cons of entering the workforce while bound by the limits of a global health crisis — Zoom fatigue, difficulty disconnecting, less face-to-face interaction, just to name a few. I felt as though I would be submerged by the wave of negative COVID by products. However, RF|Binder and our company culture is what kept me afloat. Not many can say their company sends care packages and holds virtual game nights, ice cream socials, holiday parties, wine tastings, and happy hours.

I often think about how one decision made an immeasurable difference in my post-grad experience. I remember, before starting my application, a (now) co-worker told me that if I enjoyed the writing assignment that we needed to complete, I would enjoy working at RF|Binder … and she was right. I did enjoy the writing assignment and I do enjoy working at RF|Binder, but the moment I knew that working here was the best choice for me was in my interviewing process. With RF|Binder, I have always felt like I was with family. From pre to post hire, the people here have been the ultimate equalizer. Beginning to work at a company during COVID could’ve produced some very different outcomes, but it was the human connection, even virtually, that balanced it all out.

Beyond all the fun bonding activities, the relationships that I developed have also propelled me into a season of personal and professional development. That was an integral part of my transition — placing myself in an environment that allows me to surround myself with people who want to see me succeed and where growth is a two-way street. I have amazing mentors that have eased my transition into the workforce by answering questions and having conversations that I would’ve struggled with on my own. Additionally, I have been fortunate enough to come into my first full-time job with an entire cohort that shares a similar experience (shoutout to the Associate class of 2021!). We can truly relate to and empathize with one another, and at the same time, grow together.

When you transition out of college there is a shift to growing instead of just learning. When there is more of an intentional effort and focus on growth, you become more self-aware and begin achieving the goals that at one point in time may have seemed unattainable. You’re more open to experiencing hardships and hurdles because you realize that a successful story isn’t necessarily an easy story. Sometimes you must re-read the same page or chapter to reflect on areas of improvement. Although growth is rewarding and integral to long-term success, it is easier said than done. Post-grad, a focus on growth is a catalyst for personal and professional development. Growth is an extension of learning and a part of transitioning into the workforce is taking that extra step to become exactly who you’ve always dreamed of being.

If I were to leave you with anything, it would be to have patience with yourself and who you are becoming. Change is scary. Transition is scary. But it can also be exciting! With the right mindset, support system and connections, and tools to succeed, it can also be the best thing to ever happen to you. You are investing in yourself, and you are worth it. There is no point in waiting until everything is perfect because it never will be. The perfect time doesn’t exist. There will always be hardships, hurdles, and less than optimal conditions, but that’s okay. Imperfections in your transition will plant seeds for you to grow stronger, wiser, more confident, and more successful. And at RF|Binder, we view challenges as opportunities – a mindset I’ve come to fully accept.

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