I recently found out that I am going to be asked to speak at George Mason University to their Capstone class. The Capstone program is designed to prepare students to enter the workforce after college by exposing them to the real skills that are required of them to succeed in the work environment. I started thinking about what I would speak to them about and I came up with a few ideas but one of the things I am going to focus on during this speech is just sharing some general tips that I have picked up through my years of working in a Corporate environment that I wish were shared with me in school.
1.Dress Neat – If presented with a choice when starting out a job of what to wear always choose to potentially over dress as opposed to potentially under dressing. This topic may sound like no big deal but a lot of peoples perceptions of co workers stems from how they dress on the job.This is actually one of the topics you should try to make sure you understand before you start a job
2. 401K – This is one that I am always surprised by. Many people don’t participate in company sponsored 401K programs and some that do do participate do not always put in the amount that the company matches. If the company matches 4% and you only put in 2% you are giving away 2%. This is free money from your company that you are not getting.
3. Grunt Work – When you are the new person at a job expect to be given your fair share of grunt work until you get the hang of things and prove you can do this grunt work well. If you don’t show you can handle this work well, don’t expect to be given more important work. The way to get important work on a project is to consistently show that you can handle easy tasks quickly and professionally. Don’t take it personally if you think they are giving you all the crappy work on a new project. This is their way of seeing what you are capable of.
4. Interviews – Do some homework before you interview with a company. At a minimum visit their website and know what the company does. Have a few questions in mind that you would like to ask. Don’t ask how much the job pays. Also, keep in mind that you are also interviewing the company as well. You want to be sure it is a place where you can see yourself working.
5. Never be late for meetings – Especially ones your boss will be in. This is one of the ultimate no no’s. I have been in meetings where people walk in 15 minutes late and actually walk right in front of someone that is presenting in order to go to their seat. It disrupts the entire flow of the meeting and you can just see faces around the room thinking..what a moron!
6. Adjust your schedule – If you are working on a team where most people come in at 9 and you would prefer an earlier schedule, try to work the hours that the majority of the team work until you get the hang of the job and you are more established there. When you are new on a job it is important you have access to those experts on the team so they can spend some time with you to bring you up to speed and also so they are available when you have questions of them.
7. Act professionally – Everything you do can be viewed by someone as an audition for a future job/task. Be careful who you crack jokes in front of and what types of comments you make in front of people. Everyone at work does not have the same sense of humor that your friends do.
8. Don’t yawn in meetings – This one goes back to my days at GE. In one of my first weeks on my first job out of school I was in a meeting with several managers and one of the new guys in my Leadership class yawned in the meeting. One of the managers (ex military)stopped the meeting, walked over to this guy and asked him if they were keeping him awake. He told him next time he got the urge to yawn in a meeting to bite his cheek. I will never forget this meeting.
9 Be considerate of Others time – Do some investigative work before you simply go to the projects expert to ask them for help. This goes a long way with people if you can show them that you gave it a shot before simply running to them for help. Also, when you schedule a meeting for an hour, try to set an agenda and stick to it. People schedule the rest of their days around these meetings. Just because you may not have anything to run to afterwards doesn’t mean others don’t.
10. Double Check your work – This is not college anymore. In college you used to be able to write a paper and just submit it and getting a B was sufficient to get a decent grade and graduate. B quality work in a work environment stinks. Take pride in the work you are producing and look it over a few times before turning it in.
11. SPELLCHECK! – I cannot emphsize this one enough. It is such a simple thing to do and SO many people don’t do it. Sending emails or submitting documents without spellchecking them signals that you rushed through it and didn’t care enough to even spell check it. Also, I know for myself when I read a document with a ton of spelling errors on it I immediately form my opinions of the document and it often takes my focus away from the actual content as well.
12. Social Media – What you post can and will be used against you….so be careful!
These are just some of the tips I plan on sharing with the students and am really looking forward to meeting them in a few weeks.