Navigating expectations in the professional world

Transitioning from the academic world to life as a professional can be both exciting and daunting. It's a journey full of new experiences, challenges, and, most importantly, more expectations. For students entering fields like graphic design, web development, and media, where time is of the essence and tight deadlines occur, understanding how to manage expectations from managers, colleagues, clients, and suppliers is a skill crucial to your day-to-day role.

Our aim in this blog, is to provide you with the knowledge and practical advice you need to handle the various levels of expectations when working on projects throughout your career, so read on to learn more.

Bridging the gap between studying and industry

University projects and those you may be tasked with in the working world share many similarities, and your studies will provide you with the key skills you need to succeed.

However, they also have a few key differences that you may not have considered before entering a professional environment.


Both your clients and your employers will have strict and tight deadlines by which they expect work to be completed. This often means you may be juggling several different projects in a single week!


Tight budgets or last-minute changes may mean that you need to prioritise crucial features or design choices. When studying, the only cost you need to consider is that to your own time, but when working, company and client time also need to be considered.

Teamwork and communication

In any workplace, strong teamwork is essential, but when building a website or carrying out marketing projects, collaboration is key. Especially in an agency setting, you will likely have several team members performing different tasks, such as copywriting, graphic design, coding, and more, so you must all work in tandem to ensure success.

This means you need to be proactive if you encounter issues, keeping your team updated with your progress and being responsive on internal channels like Slack or emails.

Clear communication is key as a breakdown in communications, a misunderstanding, or a delay can impact the entire project and disrupt the workflow of other people.

Understanding client expectations

No two clients are the same and every project requires a unique approach, so it’s important to ensure you understand the specifics of each job before you undertake it.

Considering client needs

When working with a client, it is important to treat them in the same way you would a member of your own team and focus on clear communication and setting realistic targets.

When do they want the project to be completed? What are their non negotiables? Is what they are asking for realistic?

Temper unrealistic expectations

A client will have approached you for your expertise, so it is important to be honest when giving timeframes and updates. Don’t tell them that you can build a full website in a week when you have several other projects going on!

Setting achievable milestones and clearly communicating with your client helps them better understand a realistic timeframe for the project and ensure that you don’t need to sacrifice quality to rush a job to completion. It can also help reduce the chance of misunderstandings which can sour professional relationships.

Balancing creativity and practicality

You will often need to strike a balance between your own creativity and client expectations, budgets, and timelines. There are always ways to express yourself in your work, but you need to be able to adhere to any pre-existing brand requirements and styles at the same time.

The work you want to do should be achievable within the set parameters because adhering to these will often dictate your success in a project just as much as the final product.

You can always plan to make personal additions, suggestions, and choices if you think it would improve the final product for the client, but these would need to be discussed during the briefing stage or if you have additional time left at the end of a project.


Changes and amendments are an integral and inevitable part of client work – not everything you make will be a perfect fit for every client first time round!

It is crucial to leave time for amendments in the initial budget and in your own schedule, ensuring that you don’t need to charge your client more or finish a project late due to changes.

If your client has larger amends than you expected and you think the changes will take them over budget, clearly communicating additional costs and expectations will help maintain a positive relationship.

Remember, what you think looks or functions the best may not be a view shared by your client, and you must be willing to make changes to meet the client’s needs even if you don’t fully agree with them.

Leveraging technical and soft skills

To work with clients, you will need to be both technically astute and able to build and maintain client relationships. While your technical skills are crucial for your specific role within the team, the ‘soft’ skills help to you collaborate within your business and with clients.

Continual development of both skillsets is vital. For your technical skills, that means staying informed and up to date with current trends or advancements in the industry.

Many industries are dynamic and constantly evolving, so to ensure you are always delivering the best service to your clients, it can be a good idea to continually upskill with additional training.

University helps you prepare for work

When making the transition from education to the workplace, it might sound like there’s a lot to think about, but most of it will simply come with time and practice.

Remember that no one will expect you to pick everything up straight away or be an expert from day one. Many of your colleagues will have had years of experience to hone their skills, whereas you are just starting out and eager to learn.

Having these considerations in mind, though, will help you embrace the challenge, make mistakes (and learn from them), and grow in the workplace. Continually trying to improve your own abilities and understand the nuances of your workplace and your clients will help you thrive throughout your career.

About the author: EDGE Creative

EDGE Creative are a Sutton Coldfield based marketing agency with a history of employing young, developing talent. They deliver multi-channel marketing solutions to a huge range of clients across a variety of sectors in the UK, including website design and development, content writing, social media management, and more.

They believe in developing the next generation of marketers, actively encouraging apprentices and work experience candidates to reach out to discuss potential opportunities!

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