For most traditional new graduates, moving from the school world into the workplace is a huge culture shock.
They are going from an environment where everyone has been the same age and generational outlook to a suddenly diverse social environment with people of all ages and backgrounds present. Learning the ropes of a new job, mastering the social ladder of a workplace, and in general, trying to figure out business etiquette can be pretty frustrating to new workers.
Here are some tips for new grads on navigating their bold new venture in the work world:
1) Be patient. Today’s graduates are used to the fast pace of technology and in a way, this has built up a low tolerance for being willing to wait. Especially for job promotions or advancement. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. Now let’s move on” seems to be the mantra. But unfortunately, the big wheels of business don’t move that quickly and sometimes the opportunity simply isn’t there yet. Take a deep breath. It will happen, but not necessarily on YOUR timelines. It’s all in the timing… great things come to those that wait!
2) Don’t forget to thank those that help you. Manners do matter, and those that have made the effort to help you remember who has thanked them or not. This can have far-reaching impacts on your career – those that become your biggest supporters (and this is reinforced by taking the time to thank them) can open doors you can’t even imagine… both now and in the future.
3) Your career will be a series of choices, not “A” choice. I read somewhere that the average high school student is going to have 23 jobs in their lifetime… so if statistics don’t lie, you definitely won’t be putting all your eggs in one basket. Don’t like the work that you are doing and it isn’t rewarding enough? Then look for the skills that are transferrable out of that job and roll them into something that you DO enjoy doing.
4) Tread lightly and carefully. I am not saying you need to fear your co-workers, but you should know that the office political environment can play out in similar fashion as social cliques back in school… with deadlier consequences. Refrain from gossiping (which is a behavior common in high school and college) and choose your words carefully. Until you have an accurate read on each person in your office, keep your cards close to your chest. Gossip never has a place in the workplace, but it does happen, and that person you confided in could just as easily turn around and stab you in the back… torpedoing your career. Keep your own counsel.
5) Education doesn’t end with your graduation. Not too many career centers or colleges / universities prepare students for the staggering fact that their education isn’t ending… in fact, it is just starting. Beyond your formal schooling, there’s a whole new universe of learning called “professional development” – this is the stuff that will give you the job-specific skills to be successful. The sooner you can become aware of the fact that you need to demonstrate continuous learning by taking classes, trainings, workshops, webinars, and attending conferences / tradeshows / conventions, as well as gaining industry certifications, you will be light years ahead of anyone else in your graduating class. This process does not end until you retire. And if you ignore this area, you will have a much more difficult time with career advancement because employers are hiring subject matter experts. How can you build your knowledge?
6) Network. In school, this was called making friends. And you’ll be doing that same thing… but in a business context. Some of my best friends were met while we were working together… some are closer friends now than others, but the point is that networking really is building a connection with people with whom you have some kind of shared interest or goal. And when you have that ‘spiderweb’ of people in your network, you’ll find that job and life opportunities flow much easier your way because these are the people who can and want to help you.
7) Don’t leave your dirty dishes in the office sink… your office mates are not your mom. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but the subtext to this statement is really important… you are now on your own and you cannot expect anyone to pick up your slack. Everything you do from this point forward is business, and not bound by any bonds other than your employment agreement. It’s pretty darned scary to be suddenly put out in the ‘cold’ after having warm, supportive environments at home and school. The work world doesn’t operate that way… you either sink or swim. You are judged by your actions and you should always do the right thing… and never expect someone to be there to catch you when you fall. That’s called life, and over the course of your career, you are going to make mistakes and have to learn from them. That’s called experience.