Everyone makes mistakes. In starting your professional life, it’s important to know how (and when) to apologize. While your college life may let you get by with a quick “My bad!” I promise that your colleagues and bosses will quickly write you off if you glibly utter that response. Don’t mistake silence for approval or acceptance of your error.
Someone recently asked me is I could teach a small group of college-bound high school seniors how to set up their LinkedIn profiles. Funny, because we’d just come out of our monthly Lean In Circle meeting where we went through our profiles one by one and updated them. There are a ton of people blogging in detail about tips and it’s definitely a project to think about that first little intro blurb, but I’m just going to give you a quick checklist of things to do for that new empty little profile and link them to other posts that give you some tips on how to do those things.
Dan Chambliss and Christopher Takacs followed over 100 students over eight years at Hamilton College to see what works and what doesn’t. They show the reader how college works and see beyond the four years, with frequent commentary from alumni looking back at their college years and with insight into what choices paid off and what opportunities they missed. While they are researchers writing for an academic audience, and the book is a little dry, with more information about background methods than the lay reader wants, the core is a very reliable, persuasive guide to what needs to happen for a successful college experience (and if college isn’t successful, you’re unlikely to have a successful post-college launch, right?)
Interestingly, students don’t need to find a large group of great people—they need just a few—and those can come from nearly anywhere on campus. But those friends are crucial to success on all levels. And, although probably true all through life, it’s interesting to consider that friendships within one group may preclude friendships with other groups—whether due to time constraints or clannishness.
Those of us in the work world are consumed by meetings. It’s a huge part of getting things done, or NOT getting them done. Sure, your classes have “meetings” but this is a whole other beast. Corporate meetings fall into two categories, much like class sizes.
There are big meetings, when a large group shows up to be lectured at by someone at the front of the room.
The speakers have info they think is vital to convey. By stopping all company work for their Town Hall, All Hands, or monthly webcast, they are really serious. It costs a lot of money to have everyone stop working at the same time. Pay attention. Just as a giant introductory class might not be the most interesting part of a given academic subject, it’s foundational for everything that will come later. You still need to listen and make sure you’re getting the material down. You’re in no position to guess what’s relevant and what’s not. It’s also a great chance to get a feel for the larger culture in any new job (or with any new client or vendor). How do the folks on stage dress? What do they look like? I’d take it to heart if I only saw really old white guys on the stage or you’re in marketing but the only people ever on stage are the folks from finance and operations. There’s a subtext there.
Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t,
and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
Let’s assume you’re in the half that has something to say. You’re used to just saying it, but you’ve experienced a fairly forgiving audience—your peers, professors, and parents. (You are already used to competing with the electronics in the audience’s hands–that’s a good skill.) Out here in the real world it’s a whole new game. Everyone is strapped for time, so you’ve got to be concise. Everyone is juggling a lot of different roles and responsibilities: You’ve got to hit the audience at the right time. There can be a lot of different audiences so the words and venues you use may well be different for peers, upper management, and outside audiences. You need to practice to be good at these things. Work with similar groups on campus and get experience with a less safe audience or start asking a friendly group for feedback. (Ask your parents a serious question where they get to help with your future—they’ll be thrilled. Unless you have recovering helicopter parents—more on that in a future post.) In the interest of cutting to the chase: I’ve created a short list of the things you need to consider in communicating with other people and I’ve added context with the kinds of opportunities I think you can find on your campus.
Back in 2012, The Chronicle of Higher Education published this study on employer perceptions of college graduates. And one-third of folks from my very popular segment, Media/Communications said that colleges were doing a fair or poor job of producing graduates who were going to be successful employees. Another third of employers across all industries said “recent graduates are unprepared or very unprepared for their job search” while “over half of the employers indicated difficulty in finding qualified candidates for job openings.”
Sure, this survey is three years old and the job market is much improved. Some students are now reneging on offers because better ones come along. The thing is, while the offers are being made, and the jobs and internships filled, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be well-regarded. And failing at your first job without being told why is pretty disastrous. You may not end up fired, just shunted off to the side or conveniently laid off.