Graduation season is here and you know what that means. It's time to get a job! You didn't invest a small fortune into that degree for nothing. If you're in line to march across that stage this spring, chances are you've spent the past several months gathering your references, tightening up that resume and preparing for the next chapter of your life. If you were lucky enough to secure a job offer in advance — CONGRATULATIONS! You're one of an estimated 21 percent of graduates in your position. While you may have managed to skip the dreaded post-grad struggle, you're getting a head start on an entirely different kind of transition. *que adulting struggle*
The segue from college to career can be disorienting, especially for those who aren't afforded any down time between senioritis and the practical steps of shutting down one phase of life to begin another. For those of you who are moving straight from the classroom to the conference room, things are about to go from zero to 100 real quick as you step into a whole new world, and a brand new culture, with tons of unspoken rules.
As a Human Resources Professional who has supported dozens of college graduates through this transition, I offer you 9 pieces of advice to get your career off to a flawless start:
1. Recruitment is over.
Remember when they flew you out to headquarters and had a driver waiting for you at the airport to escort you to your five-star hotel? Well, the honeymoon is over. Think of your new job as work bae. They rolled out the red carpet during the recruitment process and did whatever it took to get you, and now that you've committed, things just aren't the same. To be fair, you had a hand in the deception. You prepared for weeks, wore your best suit, and turned on your most professional demeanor to wow them into loving you. But eventually, the wooing gives way to the real work.
2. Time is of the essence.
Remember the good old days when you could schedule your Monday classes in the afternoon to provide a little buffer from weekend shenanigans? Those days are long gone. Your boss could give a damn about your circadian rhythms and peak performance times. Of course you know this on an intellectual level, but don't underestimate the power of habits. I can't even count the number of Monday morning tardies I've seen college hires accumulate in those first few months of employment. It's almost expected. If you really want to stand out in a positive way, show up on time, every time.
3. Go above and beyond.
You're still in training. No one expects you to be 'super employee' overnight. In fact, it takes an average of 2 years for an employee to actually earn their keep, but there are some practical things you can do to set yourself up for success. Show up on time. Volunteer to come in early or stay late if necessary. Go above and beyond, always do your best, and learn from your mistakes. Your work ethic and 'can do' attitude will take you far.
4. It's not about you.
Most corporations market themselves as a desirable place to work. The really good ones provide all kinds of incentives, activities, and accommodations to support that claim. Why? Because happy employees = high productivity. But don't get it twisted, the second half of that equation is the first priority. The primary goal of any company is to maximize profitability. The moment that the cost of paying your salary outweighs the results you produce, you cease to be of value. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but always keep in mind that it's not about you, it's about those results.
5. Think big picture.
College grads get entry-level jobs, but that doesn't mean your contribution is insignificant. You are a small part of a much larger picture. When you sit down for your quarterly review, be sure to understand the overall objectives of the company and how they feed into your deliverables. If you are able to perceive and communicate the bigger picture, your managers will definitely take notice.
6. Bias is real.
The company you work for is not immune from the systemic issues that plague the rest of society. There is an abundance of data that demonstrates the gross wage gaps between men and women, and white people vs. ethnic minorities. While the prejudice and microaggressions that minorities face in the work world are perhaps less quantifiable, they are no less real. There's no easy solution for navigating racial politics at work but finding a trusted mentor, preferably someone outside of the company, can be very helpful. And don't hesitate to take advantage of your EAP to speak with a certified therapist. At the end of the day, the goal of racism is to wear you down, chip away at your esteem, diminish your focus, and ultimately make you fail. Not today, Satan.
7. Be Humble.
As a millennial, you bring a lot of value to the workplace. Your energy, fresh perspective, and tech savviness are priceless. Depending on your industry, you might find that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to processes. You may also be placed in a role that has you managing employees that are much older than you. Take time to get to know your employees, learn what motivates them, and support them in their growth. If you see things that could be done more efficiently, feel free to speak up, but manage this dynamic carefully. Be sure to explain why the change is necessary. When possible, gather their input and make them a part of the process. Treat people with respect. It will take you far.
8. HR is there for you...sort of.
If you're having an issue that can't be resolved within the chain of command as outlined in your employee handbook, it may become necessary to take your grievance to HR. That's what they're there for...right? Here's the deal, even the best, most well-intentioned HR Manager occupies the precarious role of advocating on behalf of the employee while at the same time protecting the interest of the company. If you're going to report misconduct, be prepared to support that claim. Fair or not, the burden of proof always lies with the accuser.
9. Show 'em what you got!
You did it! You got that degree and nailed a solid job with a reputable company at a good salary. Thousands of grads would love to be in your shoes. You have everything it takes to thrive in your new role. Work smart, control what you can, treat people with respect, and focus on flourishing.
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