College Grads and Workforce Expectations

For most college grads, the time after graduation is filled with mixed emotions. Where exhilaration meets fear and the road to their tomorrows is paved with uncertainty. And the hopes of landing that first job making all their personal sacrifices along the way well worth it. This is the standard for American students. As our college grads enter the workforce, much of the focus is on attaining the job itself with little thought to what is required after job acceptance.

What I’m referring to isn’t about performance goals or what you might find in a corporate handbook. It’s about company culture, the art of fitting in and what students might have to swallow to stay employed.

The Difference in Student Stress and Workplace Reality

Depending on the industry one chooses as a career path, expectations are different both from the perspective of the employer and employee. Anyone that’s held a corporate job (small-, mid- and large-size enterprises) knows that the job in practice is seldom how it’s represented on the initial job employment description and subsequent interviews.

But most college grads never even consider these issues because how would you know what you don’t know, until you experience it?

What they do think about, and lose sleep over, is the overwhelming sense of having enough of what it takes to compete, measure up or be good enough. These sentiments are the source of concern and what sets up new employees (and seasoned ones) for integrating into a workforce environment that is detrimental to self-esteem and wellbeing.

What College Grads Stress About Most

According to a recent article, college graduates and others seeking their first real-life job stress over the following factors while in the hunt for employment:

  • Lackluster Resume
  • Interview Anxiety
  • Indecisiveness about Job Direction
  • Inadequate Social Network
  • Unrealistic Goals, No Jobs that Meet Criteria
  • Company Culture Weighs Heavy on Employers Looking for Long-term Candidates

How newbies envision a job is usually met with disappointment, especially in the first three weeks after day one as an employee, but true tests of character will crop up. They are tests of integrity that often arise when internal company culture pushes personal choices to the limits of what is right or wrong. And it’s been around for decades. It happens on the job, outside of work and the moments in between.

The Cost of Fitting In

True company culture isn’t found on a corporate website, within a mission statement or the phrases of a business’ vision for the future. True company culture is found in the break room, water cooler, happy hours and office parties. Culture isn’t proclaimed on the employee handbook – it’s just the CYA (cover you’re a** commentary to keep out of legal trouble).

Sometimes, the first hints of company culture whisper when you’re first asked to attend a meeting or included on a big project that has a ridiculous deadline. As an employee, you’re given some tasks to work with the team and do whatever it takes to get it done right and on time. Feeling like you’re finally having a hand in the successes to come, you step up to the plate and put in long hours and give up sleep to keep to your commitment. Three days in, you’re dragging and the coworkers notice.

One of the department supervisors, who is only about three years your senior, takes you aside for a quick pep talk. And I do mean pep. She says that it’s a grueling schedule and these projects happen often. To help you stay focused and up, “Here’s a little something to keep you going.”

She slips you a handful of pills. They’re called Vyvanse and “they’re amazing”, she adds. “And everyone in the office has a prescription. If you want one, I’ll give you the name of the doctor and he’ll hook you up. Just tell him you have A-D-D and you’re good to go.”
That’s the company culture no one tells you about. The drug culture.
The Different Ways that Drug Culture Imprisons
Once employees feel the pressure to add a drug regimen to their corporate diet to stay competitive and working, it’s hard to stop. With Vyvanse, a brand of Adderall, many people feel the need to supplement that addiction with alcohol or sedatives to come down and calm down from the anxiety, shakes and irritability that Adderall abuse brings.

Drugs Popular in the Workplace

  • Adderall
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Oxycodone
  • Xanax

As long as you play along, keep doing what your peers are doing, it’ll all be fine. Heck, you might even move up the corporate ladder. If you live long enough to see it through. Accepted and expected drug use in the workplace compromises professionalism, health, and self-worth. Can any employee, especially a recent college graduate, afford to give all that up?
And what about trust? Is this the type of employee behavior that is safe from an unforeseen and shared social media post that’s like an expose on reality television?

Swallow Your Pride or Take a Stand

If the desire to fit in outweighs personal integrity, there’s a problem bigger than the drug use. However, by refusing to succumb to the pressure of coworkers and supervisors and standing your ground, there are risks. Companies can get very creative when they want to oust an employee. If you reside and work in a “right to work state” like Arizona, a company can let you go just because you don’t fit in.

Deciding to stay in an unhealthy work environment will take its toll on employees over time. For recent grads looking to launch their career on the right footing, sometimes it takes a few hops from company to company to find the right place. It isn’t an indication of flakiness. You deserve to find an employer with a company culture that fits you too.