The New Grad Quagmire

It’s an interesting dilemma for new grads these days. Assuming you’re lucky enough to score a job, you’ll find yourself thrown into a workforce for which you’ve (probably) received little or no formal training. Sadder still, you probably won’t receive much on-the-job training either. If you work for a large corporation, my guess is they’ll send you to an off-site orientation with other new hires where you will get a condensed overview of company culture and operations. These programs are usually pretty good and you should go with the mindset of learning all you can. However, if you start in a small business or an organization without a training program (like I did), you have to be a bit scrappier about how you acquire knowledge. Either way, there’s a few things you must understand about the workforce before you can really hit the ground running. Let’s start with wardrobe malfunctions. At the beginning of my career, I made some choices that were regrettable to say the least. (The knee-high patent leather boots come to mind… ) In a continuation of my college mindset, I chose outfits based on what “looked cute” rather than what “looked credible,” and I paid a price for it at the time. Clients and colleagues didn’t take me seriously, so I stumbled a bit coming out of the gate. These days, however, I’m very careful about the impression I want to make and I use clothes – strategically – to reinforce that image. You should too. Moving on from something you can control (your clothes) to something you can’t, let’s talk about how to prepare for the inevitable information overload. Ever heard of the phrase “sipping through a fire hydrant?” If not - get ready - because as a new professional, that pretty much sums up your life for the next couple months. From the location of the supply closet to the details of the Topeka Project, you are going to have A TON of information thrown at you in a very short period of time. In fact, for most of you this will be your only training. So don’t get flustered or visibly overwhelmed by the avalanche. Just expect it, hunker down, take good notes, and bring your A-game. Everyday. Finally, The Wall Street Journal recently surveyed 479 college recruiters to discover what new grads needed to improve most these days. The result? Critical thinking skills. In a recent article, the WSJ stated new grads are being held back professionally because they “can't turn their isolated observations about a client's business into a strategy.” Right or wrong, it seems the consensus is today’s grads are adept at completing tasks, but many lack the ability to tie those tasks back to their organization’s big-picture goals. Enjoying this article? Here are 9 flawless reasons to subscribe to our blog. For advice on how to sharpen your own critical thinking, plus six other skills you’ll need to shrink the learning curve at work, I hope you’ll join me for the upcoming webinar, “7 Things Your First Boss Wants You to Know on Day One.” We’re going to dive deep into what you’re expected to know when you show up for work on the first day… but no one ever told you until now. So if you’re a student thinking ahead to your first job or even a recent grad who feels “held back” at work, this webinar is a must-attend. Sorry, this event already happened! Please go to our webinar page to review our upcoming FREE webinars. You can also check out our past events in the archive section. Emily Bennington is coauthor of "Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job" (Ten Speed Press, 2010). She is a contributor to The Huffington Post, Monster.com, and a frequent speaker to college students and organizations on the topic of career success. Bennington also hosts the Professional Studio 365 blog, which helps new professionals successfully navigate their first year in the workforce. She can be reached via email at ebennington@msn.com or on Twitter @EmilyBennington. The photo for this article is provided by Shutterstock.

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