As you will frequently be told by everyone during your time at university, nothing can prepare you for the full time working world, and unless you are someone that decided on a placement year, then your first foray into professional life is likely to be a steep learning curve indeed. This blog is designed to inform and advise best practice and the skills required to be successful in the professional world, all of which are based upon my own experiences and observations. But first, I thought you might like to know a bit about me and what I have done since graduating and what qualifies me to comment!
Having graduated with a degree in Business and Management, I was lucky enough to be approached by a successful, family-run German logistics company that had diversified into the offshore wind market and were looking to establish a UK headquarters to expand their market share and increase sales geographically. As UK Business Development Manager, I was tasked with sourcing a suitable office, establishing a local supply chain and importantly tendering for business- all of which I can assure you was no easy feat! Having enjoyed the role for the best part of 18 months and established the UK entity of the business successfully, I became disillusioned with the offshore industry in the UK and decided to return to the industry I had dreamed of working in and ultimately studied at university for: Corporate Banking. I currently am an analyst at one of the world’s largest and most renowned banks, an opportunity which I am truly relishing everyday.
I have been exposed to a variety of unique situations and roles in a short space of time. I feel relatively well suited to be able to comment on how best to adapt to post-graduate life and for some reason, when jotting down my observations, 7 seemed like the perfect amount, so here it goes…
No matter what anyone tells you, impressions DO matter, and none more so than the first. The way that you come across will stick in the minds of those that you meet and you should do all you can to impress that person, be it your boss, colleague or most importantly that person you are trying to win a contract from. In my opinion, the easiest way to influence the impression another has of you is to ensure you dress for the occasion and if in doubt, always overdress. The way you dress shows the effort you have put in and is the first way of displaying that. If you’re going to a meeting, do your research and always be punctual. As a graduate, it is unlikely you will have commanded the respect of your peers immediately, but leaving a good first impression will no doubt be the first step on the ladder.
Respect the Status Quo
As an ambitious graduate, you will be armed with new found knowledge about the industry you are moving into and will be motivated to apply such knowledge and thus make a name for yourself. However, be cautious as to the environment you are entering and be cautious not to upset the apple cart. Confidence can easily be mistaken for arrogance and arrogance can easily annoy colleagues of the team you are joining. No organisation wants a hand grenade, you need to respect the relationships that already exist and be careful not to destroy the culture with your arrival.
Patience is More Than Just a Virtue
Carrying on from the previous section, part of respecting the status quo requires patience. As a student, you are master of your own destiny and if you wish to change something, you can change it instantly and the level of change is up to you. Working in a team environment is slightly different and you may have to wait for change to occur. In addition, you will be ambitious to progress through the ranks as quickly as you can, as I know I was. However, it becomes apparent that this isn’t the norm in the working world. You have to earn your stripes, and the respect of your superiors, before you can think about a promotion. Your time is better spent on ensuring your work is the best it can be and you are giving your all.
Be The Swan, Not The Wolf
Ever since Leonardo Di Caprio broke onto our screens as drug fuelled stock broking tycoon Jordan Belfort, the trend in business has been to act like the ‘wolf’; hunt down what you want and be relentless in the pursuit of it. Whilst there is nothing necessarily wrong with that mind-set, in my opinion it is better served to be the ‘Swan’, in metaphoric terms. The swan is unflappable, calm and goes about its business with little fuss, never purveying panic or stress, regardless of what’s occurring beneath the water and therefore out of sight. Always be the swan.
Emotional Intelligence is Key
Whenever I talk to anyone about work, I always believe this to be the most important quality or skill. In the workplace it is very easy to allow your emotions to rule your decisions and taint your judgement, altering your relationships and potentially burning bridges. If you are able to control your emotions and act graciously at all times, then I can guarantee you will be more successful that those who get caught in the moment. I abide by the ’24-hour rule’; if something at work has bothered me, perhaps an email which has insulted me personally for example, then I will wait 24 hours before replying so as to ensure I don’t allow my emotions to rule my response and to enable rational thinking at all times. Trust me, I learnt this the hard way and exchanging un-pleasantries in a game of email tennis.
Manage Your Professional Circle
They always say its who you know, not what you know. Whilst I don’t entirely agree, because obviously you need to know your job first and foremost, those that surround themselves with the right network will inevitably be able to move on and map out their next steps more effectively. My advice is to take some time one day, write down where you want to be in 12 months, 5 years and then 10 years. Map out the things that are important to you (Money, Progression etc) and then list the people who are going to help you get there and how. Knowing the people who are going to help you get to where you want to be will certain help you to get there.
Every day is a School day
This is perhaps the most important mantra of them all. Your first years in professional life will feel like a whirlwind and without realising it, you will absorb information all day, everyday. It’s likely you will learn way more than you every did during your studies and what you will learn will develop your career beyond belief. The people around you will likely have vast experience in the industry and be fonts of knowledge. You should look to take all that you can from these people and act like a sponge, taking in as much information as you possibly can. The skills you will learn in the workplace will be entirely different to those from university and the successful graduates learn to marry the practical, with the textbook.
I hope the above has been helpful and given a brief insight into what I believe to be key tips for getting on as a graduate in professional life. I am not claiming to be the perfect graduate, but hope by sharing my experiences I can help others who are ambitious and motivated to have a successful career.