Graduation time means lots of excitement, recognition, and celebration! Those nights spent studying until the wee hours of the night followed by caffeine-enabled early morning classes finally paid off!
Study groups, parties, sporting events, finals, research papers, and all the things that led up to donning that cap & gown happened so fast. You’re about to embark on a new adventure called work and the excitement of the season is a huge milestone for you to enjoy!
Having been in the work world for some time now, I wanted to share a few thoughts with anyone who has recently graduated from a College or University.
Identify and appreciate the differences between the real world and the school solution.
Book knowledge is important, but once you leave school, you need to bridge the gap between what you learned in the classroom compared to how things really happen in the workplace. Being able to identify what’s familiar to you is one thing, but appreciating what’s different is another. You should challenge your classroom-based assumptions and work to uncover how these things play out in actual work situations.
While some situations or tasks you encounter will be “textbook”, others might defy all you learned while in school. If you had the benefit of working during college in the same field after graduation, you may have more experiences to draw from in order to bridge this schoolhouse/work world gap. Once you clearly understand what’s the same, what’s different, and how to proceed based on this assessment of your new surroundings, you can add value to your company in such a way that you don’t come across as that newbie who thinks they’ve got it all figured out.
Lean on and learn from the wisdom of the Elders at work.
With a degree in hand, you probably have limited experience in the workforce. Some may have had the opportunity to work in a particular field prior to graduation, but most likely not. That said, you can lean on and learn from the “Elders” at your company.
Employees that have been around a while can provide a historical perspective on how the company got to the hear and now. These seasoned pros lived through the changes, evolution, and metamorphosis of the company and if you develop the right relationship with these veterans, it can help you in the long run. Imagine learning from someone who survived several mergers, acquisitions, and layoffs. You can learn to navigate the company during tough times from somebody who’s survived these challenges.
And, with the emergence of technology in the workplace, you might find yourself sharing some of your wisdom with these Elders as well! You bring a fresh perspective to the equation. You also bring a high acumen for computers, apps, and social media that when shared with senior employees, can result in some strong work relationships for mutual benefit.
Gain an appreciation for and recognize the value of tribal wisdom.
Remember that you’re not alone in this new journey in the land of work. Look around you and you’ll see plenty of people who can help you raise your level of understanding on the job. Need a few opinions? Just ask someone! Need to “test drive” and idea before you go final on it? Reach out and create a pilot program or get feedback in a survey. The tribal wisdom is there, but you need to seek it out.
Collaboration with your co-workers is essential. As a new employee, developing genuine relationships with your teammates from the outset can result in deeper relationships that make it easier to brainstorm, ask questions, and learn from those who came before you. One way to get to know your group better is to attend company social events. It’s amazing how much can be learned after 5pm!
Since graduation this is probably the last thing you wanted to do! But, you’ve developed ways to read and process information quickly over the years and this skill can come in handy. Just as you did while in school, continue to read. Become a sponge and absorb information that will help you get started right.
If you haven’t done so already, sign up for some groups on LinkedIn related to your particular industry. You can also sign up for email updates from your company, its competitors, and any other regulatory agency that impacts the kind of work you do. Reading is something you’ll definitely want to keep doing!
Get totally immersed in your work, but don’t drown in the process.
While it is extremely important to get engaged in your work and get off to a great start, at some point you might realize you seem to be working all the time. With tech gadgets connecting us 24/7/365, there’s no escape! I tell my Friends that companies show you a lot of things, but they don’t show you the OFF switch.
So, you need to make sure that you don’t get so immersed in your work that you drown in the process. You need to get high-quality work done. You need to exceed expectations. You need to create a name for yourself. You need to set goals and surpass them, then raise the bar again and again. But, you need to stay healthy enough to enjoy life too! Find the right work-life balance.
Turn problems into solutions.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant, had some sort of problem, and nothing got fixed? It doesn’t make you feel good, does it.
The same could be said for the workplace. It is easy to complain about problems, but who will be the person to step up with a solution? Given the restaurant example above, if the Waiter, Cook or Manager provided a solution to my problem, I would keep coming back. I’d be happy to be there once again!
At the workplace, bringing solutions to problems can improve the overall experience. People will keep coming back again and again. You’ll even brag about the place to your Friends. When you see these lists of top companies or best companies to work for, many of these places have systems in place to make sure problems get turned into solutions. Employees offer up suggestions (solutions) to everyday problems such as child care on campus, health club on campus, better benefits, etc.
These and other solutions helped create a workplace rivaled by others. So, bring your solutions to address problems not only for the workforce, but for the benefit of the company’s goals as a business too!
I hope these suggestions find you motivated, dedicated and excited for this next chapter in your life! You’ve worked hard, you’ve learned lots of great things, and now is the time to turn your school days into a successful career!
All the best and continued success!
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