• Kenneth Flakes, PE

10 Tips for New College Graduates Entering the Workforce



iStock | Andrey Popov

Starting a new career comes with an abundance of emotion. On the one hand, you may be excited to finally put those skills that you learned in college to use. On the other hand, you may be fearful that you may not be wholly equipped to be successful in your new career. These conflicting feelings are often experienced and quite natural. Prioritizing your professional development immediately upon graduation, however, may help you become more confident in your new career.


Below are 10 tips that can help any new graduate in any profession transition from college to the workforce:

1. Grow Your Technical Knowledge and Skills


“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” – Robert Greene


Upskilling is a common term used in the workplace to define continuous learning. The workplace is constantly changing and although the technical skills you gained in college got you into the workforce, professionals need to be dedicated to upskilling to remain relevant in a competitive work environment.


Professional Plus tips for growing your technical skills:

  • Spend time with subject matter experts

  • Take advantage of any company-provided training classes

  • Read books related to your specific field

  • Take additional classes

  • Attend conferences, seminars, and workshops related to your area of interest

  • Watch YouTube videos relevant to your areas of interest

  • Subscribe to technical magazines

  • Join a technical organization or society


Further reading:


2. Develop Emotional Intelligence


“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

Professionals in the workplace need to understand their emotions and the emotions of their team members; hence it is important that any new college graduate develop their emotional intelligence. Great emotional intelligence can lead to better collaboration, increased trust, and greater productivity with your team members.


Professional Plus tips for developing your emotional intelligence:

  • Learn to take feedback well

  • Practice active listening

  • Practice self-awareness

  • Be observant

  • Be communicative

  • Think before you speak


Further reading:


3. Develop Relationships


“Business, after all, is nothing more than a bunch of human relationships.” – Lee Iacocca


As a professional, you will be expected to work both independently and in teams. It is important to develop relationships at work because good relationships often lead to greater collaboration among teams.


Professional Plus tips for developing relationships:

  • Actively engage with your coworkers

  • Connect with coworkers with common interests

  • Listen actively

  • Offer assistance

  • Respect others

Further reading:


4. Be Curious


“I had discovered that learning something, no matter how complex, wasn't hard when I had a reason to want to know it.” - Homer Hickam


As a young professional, take the advantage of being a new colleague and be as curious as possible. Asking the right questions shows that you are engaged with your work. Curiosity often leads to new ideas which can aid in solving problems and increasing efficiencies.


Professional Plus tips for being more curious at work:

  • Ask questions

  • Be open to new things

  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong

  • Practice active listening


Further reading:


5. Be Humble


“Humility will open more doors than arrogance ever will.” – Zig Ziglar


Self-confidence is important to a successful career, but excessive pride, arrogance, and conceit can be detrimental to your career. Humility is also a key attribute for learning to consider your colleague’s opinions. Humble professionals are also more likely to maintain positive and long-lasting working relationships with colleagues.


Professional Plus tips for being humbler at work:

  • Be willing to acknowledge that you don’t know

  • Own up to your mistakes

  • Accept constructive criticism

  • Listen before speaking

  • Be appreciative

  • Be confident but not boastful

  • Give others credit


Further reading:


6. Be Authentic


“Authenticity is about being true to who you are, even when everyone around you wants you to be someone else." - Michael Jordan.


If you want to build trust with your colleagues, be authentic. If you want to be others to respect you, be authentic. Remember that your company hired you to be yourself and not to be someone else. Besides, it is hard work being someone else. It is much easier to be yourself.


Professional Plus tips for being more authentic at work:

  • Know your core values

  • Accept your weaknesses

  • Be vulnerable

  • Know your audience


Further reading:


7. Be Helpful


“I believe that you can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar


You can build stronger relationships with coworkers by being helpful. Your coworkers will be more willing to help you if you are helpful to them. Being helpful can be fulfilling which can make you more engaged with your work.


Professional Plus tips for being more helpful at work:

  • Ask your coworkers if they need any help

  • Do more than what you have been requested to do

  • Don’t wait to be asked to perform tasks

  • Volunteer to perform tasks no one else wants to perform


Further reading:


8. Pay Attention to Details


"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." - John Wooden


Detail-oriented professionals produce quality work. An easy way for a young professional to clearly distinguish himself from his peers is to focus on the details of his work. Remember, however, that there is a fine line between being detail-oriented and being a perfectionist. Perfectionists can be slow to get started on tasks and get easily overwhelmed.


Professional Plus tips for paying more attention to details at work:

  • Thoroughly check your data

  • Check your formatting

  • Review your email before sending

  • Limit multitasking

  • Know how to pace yourself


Further reading:


9. Set Boundaries


“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” —Brené Brown


Personal boundaries are important because having them allows you to define limits so that your coworkers won’t take advantage of you. You definitely don’t want to become burned out early in your career.


Professional Plus tips for setting boundaries at work:

  • Commit to your definition of work-life balance

  • Know when to say no

  • Don’t compromise on your personal beliefs

  • Don’t forget to take time off

  • Don’t overshare personal information with colleagues

  • Be clear and consistent in how you desire to be treated


Further reading:


10. Set Achievable Goals


“Start setting goals that you feel you can accomplish. Don’t try to go right to the top in one leap. Every time you accomplish a goal you develop the strength and wisdom to accomplish the next one.” – Chuck Norris


Everyone should have goals, but young professionals should set initial goals that are realistic. Failure often is a prerequisite for future success, but there is no need to set goals that you struggle or fail to achieve; hence, the importance to balance ambition and realism.


Professional Plus tips for setting achievable goals:

  • Know your job role

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses

  • Speak with your manager

  • Be realistic


Further reading:


Final Thoughts


Every new college graduate should dedicate themself to growing their technical skills and soft skills. You should invest in developing these skills even if your employer doesn’t invest in professional development. Think of your technical skills and soft skills are your personal intellectual property. Your personal intellectual property can never be taken from you and as you grow your skillsets you will become more marketable and valued at your company.

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