How do you jump into the scary world of work after studying in the safe world of education in your teenage years? You may have had a taster through holiday jobs and volunteering or even a work placement and internship. The leap from student to a professional can still be daunting.
Here are 9 ways to make the leap from student to professional a softer landing:
1. Shift your Mindset
You only need to be concerned with yourself as a student. You don’t tend to have responsibilities for other people. Your deliverables are assignments for your course and studying is a personal activity, albeit alongside other individuals.
That changes when you get a job and work with others. Then you become part of a team(s) or a group working towards common business goals. People start to rely and depend upon you to deliver your part of something bigger, or for someone else, rather than simply for yourself. Change your language from ‘I’ to ‘We’. Jobs and business get done through and with other people.
2. Develop Relationships
Learn about how other people tick – their personality, skills, attitudes, behaviours and ways of working. They include work colleagues, customers, clients or service users, suppliers and any other people who you interact with. Develop your self-awareness to match your behaviours with their preferences and build rapport.
3. Shape Perceptions
You are on show as soon as you arrive. Your colleagues may have preconceived ideas as to what the ‘newbie’ fresh out of college is going to be like. Seize the opportunity to shape their perceptions in everything you do.
4. Make an impression on your First Day
Turn up slightly early, ready for work. ‘I overslept’ won’t cut it on any day. Come prepared. Be confident. Be organized. Take notes. Ask questions. Listen. Behaviour breeds behaviour, so first impressions matter. Shake people’s hand firmly and look them in the eye.
5. How You Look
Check out the typical dress code and fit in. Find out if it changes according to different situations.
6. What You Say and Don’t Say
You are surrounded by people your own age at college. You will find different generations in the workplace with different motivations for being there. Don’t try and be the office comedian until you’ve proved yourself. Don’t be a know-it-all. If you don’t know how to do something, don’t say “I don’t know”. Say, “I’ll find out”. Accept tough love if you get things wrong.
7. What You Do and Don’t Do
Facebooking, Instagramming and Snapchatting when you’re bored are no-nos. Leave outside arranging your social life and Internet surfing. Unless you’re online for specific work purposes. Do not bitch online about colleagues, your job or the company. Check out the work ethic of your colleagues. How hard and smart do they work? How do they communicate? Take your lead from them. Be resourceful. Be sociable, join in and build your network. Go the extra mile, get your hands dirty. Don’t let people down, do what you say you are going to do. Be confident but without the right attitude.
8. Be Curious
Absorb. See yourself as a reporter. Capture what being professional means working for your employer. Observe how people talk, dress and behave. Look out for what is and isn’t acceptable around here – using the phone, emails, at meetings. Discover the stories that people like to tell about the company. What is not being said? What clues do they give about what is important to people who work here? Watch out for the latest news about the company, the sector or field. Show interest, have an opinion.
9. Take the Initiative
Do things without being asked. Offer your ideas to help the business. Ask intelligent questions that get your colleagues thinking. Make a customer happy. Be a team player and help your colleagues. If you want feedback, ask for it (and avoid being defensive).
What would you do or avoid doing?