Kenneth Flakes, PE
10 Tips for New College Graduates Entering the Workforce
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
“Six Ways to Upskill and Adapt in Your Career” by Tim Madden (Forbes; August 24, 2021)
“The Rapidly Changing Workplace Makes Acquiring New Skills More Important Than Education” by Jasmine Kim (CNBC; October 3, 2019)
“How to Master a New Skill” by Amy Gallo (Harvard Business Review; November 29, 2012)
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
Think before you speak
“Emotional Intelligence: Why We Need it Now, More Than Ever” by Palena Neale, Ph.D. (Forbes; December 1, 2020)
“Harvard Researcher Says the Most Emotionally Intelligent People Have These 12 Traits. Which Do You Have?” by Daniel Goleman (CNBC; June 9, 2020)
“10 Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence” by Abhi Golhar (Inc.; September 21, 2018)
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
“4 Ways to Build Stronger Workplace Relationships” by Ashira Prossack (Forbes; March 30, 2021)
“How to Build the Social Ties You Need at Work” by Amy Gallo (Harvard Business Review; September 23, 2015)
“10 Ways to Build Positive and Effective Work Relationships” by Ankit Garg (Lifehack)
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:
Be open to new things
Don’t be afraid to be wrong
Practice active listening
“How (and why) to train your brain to be more curious at work” by Gwen Moran (Fast Company; October 8, 2021)
“Five Things to Know About Developing Curiosity at Work” by Dr. Diane Hamilton (Forbes; January 13, 2020)
“The Business Case For Curiosity” by Francesca Gino (Harvard Business Review; 2018)
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 confident but not boastful
Give others credit
“How to Become More Humble” by Daryl R. Van Tongeren Ph.D. (Psychology Today, August 18, 2020)
“13 Habits of Humble People” by Jeff Boss (Forbes; March 1, 2015)
“Do these 6 Things to Be More Humble” by Patty Onderko (Success; November 4, 2015)
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
Know your audience
“5 Ways You Can Be More Authentic at Work” by Avery Blank (Forbes; April 12, 2022)
“How Much of Your ‘Authentic Self’ Should You Really Bring to Work?” by Susan McPherson (February 12, 2021)
“Be Yourself, but Carefully” by Lisa Rosh and Lynn Offermann (Harvard Business Review; October 2013)
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
“20 Ways to Help Others at Work--That Will Help You Become More Successful, Too” by Alison Davis (Inc.; January 01, 2020)
"15 Easy Ways to Become a More Helpful Person” by Forbes Coaches Council (Forbes; January 17, 2018)
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
Know how to pace yourself
“How to Improve Your Attention to Detail Skills” by Glassdoor Team (Glassdoor; June 29, 2021)
“7 Simple Habits to Improve Your Attention to Detail” by Kimberly Zhang (Lifehack)
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
“How to Set Healthy Boundaries When Starting a New Job” by Melody Wilding (Harvard Business Review; April 19, 2022)
“How to Set Clear Work Boundaries – and Stick to Them” by Jayne Hardy (Ted; January 14, 2021)
“How to Set Boundaries at Work Without Being Labeled a Jerk” by Nicole Wood (Quartz; November 4, 2021)
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
“Do You Struggle to Achieve Your SMART Goals? Try These Professional Goals Instead.” By Kenneth Flakes (Professional Plus; January 2, 2022)
“How to Set Goals That Actually Work” by Heather V. MacArthur (Forbes; February 7, 2019)
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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