Career tips for school leavers and university graduates.
How to start your career with a bang!
Finished university and found your very first proper corporate job? Before you tackle the challenges that await you in the workplace there are some essential do’s and don’ts for managing your first job successfully.
“The corporate environment can come as a shock to graduates who are used to a structured and supervised setting usually with exams and projects set to measure their progress,” Tina Monk, Career Counsellor and Life Coach from Sydney Career Coaching says. “When they enter a workplace, all that’s provided is a sketchy job description, an annual performance review and less guidance and supervision than what they are used to.”
It’s no wonder some graduates find this transition difficult especially when dealing with what Monk calls “the corporate food chain”; the hierarchy of power and authority takes time to understand.
Communication is a major hurdle for graduates in the workplace as they may be reluctant to approach their managers for guidance; feeling over awed by them, and may struggle to complete tasks on their own. Monk advises building a rapport with colleagues from whom guidance can be sought first, and reserving the most important aspects for your manager. “Ensure you’re having regular meetings with your manager to gauge your progress, ask questions, learn from your mistakes and get feedback on how to improve so you get better outcomes in future”.
According to Dr. John Taccori from Careers Doctor , often graduates are in a hurry to complete their assigned tasks instead of taking time to master the basics. “You need to do the small things well and take pride in the work that you produce,” he says. Taccori suggests learning from co-workers and applying different methods based on their experiences and the corporate culture of the organisation – best practice methods learnt at university may not be the only way to complete tasks. Applying all these methods will lead to the development of competencies required to successfully perform in the job.
Compensate for lack of experience
Monk says, “Every workplace has its own unique culture that you need to learn by observing others. It’s easy to get it wrong and get on the back foot when you are new”. She advises spending as much time as possible noting the way people do things and doing your best to fit in especially relevant for those graduates with no prior work experience.
Taccori adds, “A graduate can add value to their employer by being involved in the cultural fabric of the company, especially with corporate social responsibility making up a major part of a company’s public image. Why not volunteer in their favourite charity? Other ways a new recruit can add value include; providing help to team members during deadlines, having lunch or networking with members of other departments to learn more about the company. “Show initiative and volunteer to roll up your sleeves, don’t wait to be asked”, says Taccori.
Areas for success and recognition
Monk says there are five important things graduates can do to achieve recognition and progress in their chosen careers. Building a unique brand and standing out from the crowd; becoming an expert in a certain area(s) so your advice is sought by co-workers, looking for ways to continuously improve what the business does and ensure you are acknowledged and recognised for it in some way, gaining visibility in the company and industry by joining associations and organisations in your field of work, and building and maintaining a powerful network.
Taccori advises focusing on developing your technical skills and soft skills. While technical skills come with time and experience, soft skills need to be improved upon constantly such as; being self-aware, ability to engage with clients or co-workers, learning to be part of a team, good listening skills, being culturally literate and lastly being adaptable to change and flexibility. Soft skills set graduates apart from the average recruit – It’s how you do your job that adds value to what you do.
Monk offers the following Dos:
- Always go above and beyond what is expected of you and strive for excellence in all that you do.
- Ask for regular feedback on what you are doing well and what you could improve upon.
- Put your hand up for further training and look for other ways to improve yourself personally and professionally.
- Nurture relationships with all stakeholders as any of these people could be the key to your future success and you’ll enjoy your work more if you enjoy a good rapport with co-workers.
Taccori says the following are strict Don’ts:
- Earn your stripes before you tell people what to do – a higher qualification than what your manager or supervisor is not a basis for throwing your weight around.
- Be friendly towards everyone regardless of job description (even the cleaners and clerical staff) and don’t make enemies with a poor attitude.
- Be punctual and avoid unnecessary absenteeism as a new graduate. High absenteeism is noticed and not valued because when you are not there, others have to pick up the slack.
- Do not focus on your salary unless you have built your equity which takes time and bring it up during your performance review only.
Career counselling for school leavers
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