The following is excellent advice adapted from the Scripps College web site:
You are graduating and getting ready to start what is probably your first full-time professional job. Your life as a student is over, and while it’s very exciting to begin a new chapter in your life, it can also be a bit scary. As you start your first job, it is important to realize that the first year is a transitional period; you are no longer a college student, but you’re still finding your feet as a professional.
There are many differences between college and work life. It’s critical to your job success to change your attitude and expectations to match those in your new environment. These pages will offer you some tips and suggestions to make the transition from college to career a smooth one.
Develop a strong work ethic
- Recognize that you need to know how an organization works before you can attempt to make it work better. You can only make positive changes when you have established yourself within the organization.
- Be accountable for your actions- Acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake and accept responsibility for it. Handle constructive criticism appropriately.
- Be willing to go the extra mile– You want to be seen as someone who’s willing to work hard and do what’s needed to get things done.
- Build effective working relationships- It’s crucial to develop good interpersonal skills and get along well with others in your organization.
- Be flexible– Your duties and responsibilities may frequently change, as you complete assignments and project needs change. You must be able to adapt to new situations and be open to new ideas.
- Believe in yourself – Know that you were hired because your employer saw in you the skills, talents and abilities to perform the duties of the job. Continue to challenge and prove yourself.
Find a mentor
If your organization has a structured or formalized mentor program, take advantage of it. If not, look for a mentor of your own, someone who can assist you with your acclimation into the organization and help you chart your career path. Seek out someone whom you admire and has a good reputation in the organization or field. Ideally, a mentor should not be someone in your department, because they can offer an outside perspective.
Schedule regular times to meet when you can listen and learn about various aspects of your new job, company, new trends and technologies, corporate culture, industry, etc. You can also discuss your progress – what you’ve learned, what you’d like to learn, your career goals, your mistakes, your successes, etc.
Dealing with your supervisor
Two things you need to be aware of in regards to your supervisor – 1) they are not like your college professors and 2) they are not supposed to be your friend. In contrast with a professor, a supervisor often wants you to have or get information, does not invite debate, and doesn’t give you a syllabus with an outline of expectations and timelines.
Your supervisor is expected to make sure you contribute to the organization’s goals. It will be in your best interest to make your supervisor look good by completing work on time and with excellent quality, acting like a professional at all times, and maintaining a positive attitude.
To make your working relationship a positive one, determine your boss’ style. How does he or she manage projects and make decisions? Which communication method does he or she prefer: email, memos or meeting in person? How does he or she let you know expectations or feedback? If problems arise, communicate your concerns to your supervisor, even if he or she is part of the problem. Meet at his or her convenience and ask respectfully how you can work together to remedy the situation. Most organizations have a human resource department with professionals that can assist you, if needed.
Developing relationships with co-workers
Most businesses rely on a team of people to get work accomplished, and you may be asked to work with someone whom you would not interact with or become friends with in a social environment. The following tips can help you develop effective working relationships:
- Learn as much as you can about the organization – how it’s structured and managed, how decisions are made, how people communicate, the corporate culture.
- Determine what other people and departments do in the organization and how it will impact and affect your work.
- When you begin meeting your peers, be friendly to everyone and avoid getting involved in cliques.
- Treat everyone with respect, even those who might be a subordinate to you. Administrative support is essential to any organization, and you want to have positive working relationships with your support staff.
- Learn to communicate and work well with all types of people. Learn how to negotiate differences, avoid or manage conflict and see others’ perspectives.
Enhancing your career development
Don’t stop learning just because you’ve graduated from college!
- Let your supervisor know you’re interested in learning something new on an ongoing basis. Don’t wait for the annual review.
- Get and learn everything you can out of every position or assignment you take.
- Take advantage of in-house or external learning opportunities (courses, seminars, etc.) Continue to learn about the organization and the industry.
- Realize that as you gain experience, your abilities, behavior, needs and expectations will change.
Additional web resources
A collection of “new job proverbs” to assist you in the sometimes difficult world of work
Several articles from JobWeb.com on topics ranging from communication to cube-tiquette.
Learning the art of being new in an organization from CampusCareerCenter.com