As we grow up, there are certain first-time events in our lives where everything changes. Graduation is one of them. It is a ritual signifying that the individual has come of age and is ready to contribute to the world in his or her special way.
First Job: Transition from College to Corporate
While you may not feel any different when you join your first job, the fact is that the people around you are seeing you differently now. Unlike college, you have more freedom to make your own choices now. At the same time, there are expectations that you will have to work hard to fulfill. Corporate life brings a different set of experiences and challenges. But these tips will stand you in good stead
For most students, one of the toughest things about the transition from college to employment is dealing with the change in environment. Unlike the boisterous classrooms they are so used to, offices tend to be quiet and serious places. People may not have time for chit-chat and there will be a bunch of rules for everything from sending emails to using the coffee machine.
These changes can be bewildering initially, but eventually you will get used to them. Companies demand a professional attitude during work hours. This doesn’t mean you are expected to work like a robot. A lot of organizations today engage their employees with various recreational facilities. However, these are a means to help you become as productive as possible, not an excuse to avoid work. Professionalism is characterized by the following traits:
1. Punctuality: Always be on time, whether for work, to meet a client or to attend an event. In business, time is measured as opportunity and money. Therefore, the time you waste can be a loss to the organization. Also, for external parties, you are the face of the organization and being late creates a bad impression not just about yourself, but also your employer.
2. Appearance: Find out if there is an official policy regarding what to wear for someone in your role. Certain companies tend to be relaxed about dressing norms, especially in the IT or creative fields. But other firms are very particular about their employees’ appearance. If you’re not sure about what would be appropriate, observe your seniors and dress accordingly.
3. Interactions: A certain degree of formality must be maintained during business interactions. Polite greetings, a helpful demeanor and common courtesy are important facets of interpersonal relationships within an organization. Even if it is a semi-casual occasion, like an office party, maintain the rules of etiquette and don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t say or do inside the office.
4. Dealing with criticism: It is difficult for fresh graduates to hear repeated criticism for something they have done (or not done). But there is no point in getting angry or upset. Listen to criticism without internalizing it (i.e. blaming yourself). The boss who criticized you today will probably smile and praise you when you do a better job tomorrow. Moreover, there are very few people who haven’t been criticized by their superiors at some point. And this includes your boss!
Creating meaningful relationships
Relationship-building or networking is a very important trait for a young executive. Some of the most successful people around you will be great at it. As you progress along your career path, you will meet many people. Making a good impression on them and building mutually-respectful and helpful relationships will take you places.
1. Take the first step: Be the first to introduce yourself to colleagues, clients or people who are important to your business. After you have done so, make small talk for a while and then withdraw before the person loses interest. If the person works for another organization, exchange business cards.
2. Be a familiar face: Don’t restrict yourself to bonding with your team. From the guard at the door to the CEO of the company, ensure that people know who you are and what you do. This creates better working relationships and could also have a bearing on your career growth.
3. Seek a mentor: A mentor could be someone more accomplished than you or a superstar in your field of work. As a young employee, you would be greatly benefited by working closely with and/or observing a mentor do their job.
4. Follow up: During the first meeting, if you promised to call or meet the person later, make sure to follow up on your commitment. Do this preferably the day after you meet the person.
One of the things that no employer will compromise on is lack of ethics. Unprofessional and unethical attitude is a firing offence in most organizations. So what would construe unethical behavior?
1. Taking shortcuts: When doing your job, do it in the manner expected by the company. For example, do not steal or plagiarize information for a report if you are expected to write it yourself.
2. Giving or taking bribes: It is not only unethical, but also illegal to offer or receive money to get things done. If you are offered some sort of financial or non-financial incentive for getting work done, refuse politely and firmly and state that your organization has a strict policy against it. Similarly, if an external party asks for money, report it to your boss immediately.
3. Misconduct: The moment you enter the office, you are expected to be uniformly courteous and respect boundaries of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age or lifestyle. Just because you do not agree with someone’s choices doesn’t mean you mock them or isolate them.
4. Taking advantage: If you have been given certain facilities or perks such as a phone enabled with long-distance calling, expensive software/hardware or office supplies, respect the fact that they are not your personal property.
Dealing with your freedom
Leaving the comfort of a classroom, teachers and friends can be difficult. But entering an organization is also a liberating experience. Unlike your student days, where there is constant supervision from teachers and parents, no one will tell you what to do every hour or minute of the day in an organization. Use your time well and cultivate efficiency so that you deliver the work on time. If there are unavoidable delays, speak to your superiors and try and get an extension.
You are also financially independent and free to make choices pertaining to saving or spending. Being financially prudent at this stage can be good for your future. At times, you may get bored of following an endless list of rules and the relative lack of fun and enjoyment within the four walls of your organization. But that’s what weekends are for. Be grateful to your job, because it enables you to do more things in your free time than was previously possible!