8 Strategies for new grads to look like pros at their first “real” job

8 Strategies for new grads to look like pros at their first “real” job

Ah, spring, a time of new beginnings – even in the workplace. With diploma firmly in hand, eager new graduates fill offices with renewed energy, fresh perspectives . . . and plenty of rookie behavior.

Time often proves the best teacher, but new hires wanting to impress bosses and fit in with colleagues also can take action immediately to better adjust to their environment.

If you are a new hire just out of school, try these suggestions:

  1. Display professionalism

    In simplest terms, act like a responsible adult. Show up to your new job on time. Clean up after yourself. Don’t steal someone else’s yogurt from the fridge. Never interrupt. Refrain from profanity. Say “please” and “thank you.”

    Then, up your game by paying attention to image. Dress like you belong in an office, not at a frat party. Clean up your social media pages to get rid of questionable photos or immature rants (now would be a good time to check privacy settings, too). Keep correspondence free from spelling errors, emojis, multiple colors, garish fonts, and anything else that looks like a ninth grader wrote it.

    Unsure if your favorite college sweatshirt is appropriate for Casual Friday? Hold off until you gain a better understanding of what’s acceptable. Err on the side of caution for a few weeks – no advantage comes from raising eyebrows.

  2. Read the employee handbook

    OK, it might not be a page-turner, but the document does contain useful information. Knowing the company prohibits personal cell phone usage inside the building keeps you from cluelessly chatting away during breaks. And whether you have a question about vacation policy or how many pay cycles it takes for direct deposit to kick in, chances are you’ll find either the answer or the specific person to contact.

  3. Listen more than you talk

    In an effort to look smart, new grads often chime in every two seconds (and annoy seasoned workers with their “I have all the answers” attitude). If you truly have something to contribute, by all means join the conversation. Much of your time, however, is better spent observing. Learn about operations, culture, and dynamics before expressing too many opinions. Others will take what you say more seriously when they see your ideas come from thoughtful reflection.

  4. Ask for help when needed

    Remember all those teachers who professed that the only dumb question was the one not asked? Same holds true here. Seek clarification. Request to be taught the best way to perform a task. Express desire to learn what you don’t know. Such things are a sign of a diligent employee, not of weakness.

    If you’ve been assigned an office buddy or mentor, use the person as a resource! Your boss will never need to know about your cluelessness at loading the copier.

  5. Own up to mistakes

    For argument’s sake, let’s say you ignored the advice to seek assistance on refilling paper and now jammed the machine. Embarrassing, yes, but it’s not the end of the world.

    People tend to forgive errors if the one who made the gaffe takes ownership. Admit what you did, say that you’re sorry, and state specifically how you’ll handle similar situations in the future. Then, don’t dwell on the matter. Which leads us to . . .

  6. Skip the drama

    While you needn’t be an emotionless robot, remember that public displays come off as immature. Learn how to take constructive criticism without turning into a weepy mess. Stay civil when involved in a debate. Avoid gossip. Analyze the minutia of your Saturday night date with non-work friends rather than turning colleagues into therapists.

  7. Know how to manage time

    A professor may have docked your grade for procrastination on a college assignment. In the workforce, though, consequences can be much more costly. Missing a deadline impacts others and potentially threatens the success of the entire company.

    Demonstrate that you understand the expectation to deliver quality work on time every time. Ask for help with prioritization if feeling overwhelmed. Let others know as early in the process as possible about any complications.

    As a student, you probably used an assignment notebook to keep track of group projects, papers and exams. Such a central place for listing and ranking important tasks works well in the office, too. Whether you choose a daily planner, a time management app, a Kanban board, or a good old-fashioned legal pad, always have it nearby and up-to-date.

    Overwhelmed by a large project? Skip the urge to procrastinate and instead break what needs to be done into smaller, manageable chunks. You’ll not only gain a sense of control, checking items off as finished acts as a motivator to continue accomplishing more!

  8. Focus on the good of the company

    Finally, remember the saying “There’s no I in team?” New hires too focused on individual advancement alienate colleagues and lose the support vital to proving leadership potential.

    Instead, share credit. Offer to lend a hand when someone’s stressed. Voluntarily do a menial task simply because it needs completion. People respect those who show willingness to work their way up the career ladder rather than assume entitlement to the next rung.