From College to the Real World

If you’ve just graduated with your degree, no doubt you’re excited to start your career. Classes are finished, exams are over, and you’ve landed your first job. Congratulations! It’s all smooth sailing from now on in…or is it?

Perhaps not. According to AACU's, 2015 survey students are in for a rude awakening: fewer than three in 10 employers think graduates have the necessary critical thinking, written and/or oral skills to apply to real world context. They also believe students lack the ability to work in teams. This all means that, despite having spent the past few years honing skills for your desired profession, transitioning from school to work may not be as easy as you’d think.

Luckily, all those negative perceptions described can be rectified. There are some things you can do right now and shortly to set yourself up for success. Here are a few simple-but-effective strategies that can launch your career in a positive way:

Practice punctuality: The truth is, while it’s occasionally acceptable to turn up late for a lecture, the same leniency won’t apply in the workplace. Impressions count, so please make every effort to show up on before the start time of any meeting. If you always aim to arrive somewhere ten minutes early, you have a grace period in case something happens, and you would have otherwise been delayed. Arriving on time shows you value other’s time. It’s a simple trait that projects high responsibility.

Come to collaborate: Much of your success during undergraduate work (and some graduate level courses) is centered individual performance. At work, that translates to the contributions you make to how your team performs. While you still have personal goals, your performance metrics are also what you bring to the overall initiatives at hand. Learn to work well with the different personalities and capabilities of your team, and create opportunities to bring ideas together to achieve and exceed your goals.

Make friends with failure: Not everything you try will work out. Early in my early career,  I made an enormous blunder with how I dealt with a senior leader. I worried endlessly about the stupid error I’d made but eventually admitting I had messed up moved me higher up the promotion chain. My honesty was respected, and I was able to learn from my mistakes and move forward. Only individuals who are trying to do something can fail, so it’s bound to happen. The important thing is handled them swiftly and honestly when they’re made, then learn from them, so they’re not repeated.

Know what you don’t know: Although your degree conveys a good grasp of a lot of subject matters, it can’t cover all knowledge. Therefore, don’t assume you know everything. The worst thing you can do in a new job is to act as if you know it all. Being modest is a far better characteristic, so display a willingness to learn. Ask questions, and don't be afraid to admit you need a better understanding of a topic under discussion. It’s better to admit you don’t know than to get stuck in a situation where it’s expected that you DO, and a critical error is made. Communication and honesty are keys to success over your first few years, and it will serve you well into your career.

Become intimate with taking initiative: One of the greatest mistakes you can make early in your career is showing a lack of initiative. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. Look for problems to be solved, seek out opportunities to be of service. If you learn what keeps your management team up at night and then resolve that situation for them, you will become virtually indispensable.

Starting your first job is the beginning of a long, lucrative new phase of your life. By taking these few simple steps, you can debunk the myths of new college hires and watch your career skyrocket into your wildest dreams. All the studies in the world can’t stop you from becoming the most valuable new employee, and with these simple tips you’re well on your way to achieving just that.

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