The transition from student to professional is definitely one of the largest, most important and most difficult jumps of an individual’s life. Nonetheless it is one which we all must make. Our education may train us to be good employees, but we will never be completely ready for what is out there, waiting for us, no matter how hard we prepare. Harold Geneen, the late President of the ITT Corporation and a well-established American businessman said – “In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later”. However, in the fast and brutal professional world which exists today, survival of the fittest is a universal law. And there will be a plethora of fitter competition, which has an abundance of experience, at the workplace. This makes it especially difficult for new recruits entering the battlefield and planting their first steps in their respective work places’. I could think of many basic tips and cues to provide for fresh graduates as well as recruits who require some more seasoning and refining of their already established experience and know-how. Here are 5 of the best:
Sales and Marketing
This is especially essential for those who are yet hunting for a job or are new to the professional world. After all, isn’t a job interview all about selling and marketing oneself (and the skillset the individual possesses) in such a way that the only words which can come to the interviewers lips are the sweetest of them all – “You’re hired”. Additionally, any workload, even technical, will require some analysis and thought process on the marketability and sales potential of the product/service in question. The marketing team will advertise the unique selling points and features of the same, but the technical team will be required to implement those unique selling points in the product/service. So even if you are from a technical background (yes engineers, I am talking to you), developing certain implicit sales and marketing skills is always a bonus. Whether we admit it or not, quite often a promotion or a raise is a result of selling and marketing our growth and performance in the company in the right way. Last point here – don’t just work hard, work hard and work smart.
Inter-Personal Skills & Diplomacy
A wise man once said – “Your words are you weapons, use them wisely”. I cannot underscore the importance of developing one’s communication and interpersonal skills – no matter what your domain is. Even the brightest mind at the work place can often go to waste due to a lack of refined communication and collaboration skills and the ability to work well in teams. Establishing firm and fluent interpersonal skills is necessary, from the grass root levels of college projects to the higher rungs of multinational corporation projects. Earl Wilson said – “Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break”. Being a part of the grapevine also tends to be an essential step for new recruits to fit in and find their comfort. How often have we heard people talk about “the art of diplomacy”. Well diplomacy is most definitely an art and mastering diplomacy and tact is another important rung in climbing the corporate ladder. Diplomacy will not only help the company on a larger level but also will help you succeed, earn some points and make a few friends (well you can call them that) on your road to success on a personal level. So, always remember this – keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Judgment is one of those things which will mainly come with experience. This will vary from judgment of a co-worker or even your boss and their true character to judgment of a particular decision which can affect the project you are working on or a client you are working with. Bill Gates famously said – “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. So, there will also be times, regardless of the years of experience, where an individual’s judgment can and will go wrong. Well, in this case the only thing to do is pick oneself up from the ground, dust oneself clean and remember never to make the same mistake again. Personally, I think experience is defined as the art of learning from your mistakes. However, in the today’s times, we can qualify experience as learning from one’s own mistakes as well as the mistakes of the people around you. It would be criminal to commit the same foolish mistake that someone around you whose experience you could have learned from committed. So, learn from your own experiences as well as experiences of others. My wise words on the topic – To err is human, to err again in the same way is plain stupid.
Every one admires a great leader. Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Dhoni for the Indian cricket team, Steven Gerrard as captain of Liverpool – all examples of great leaders and people who are looked up to. Yes, for a fresher it’s impossible to immediately be the great leader of the company. But, demonstrating leadership skills in willingness to take up work and responsibility can go a long way in earning you recognition points with your boss. Taking responsibility and owning up for the occasional mistake you make can also help your case. Additionally, it is important to learn to lead not only from the front, but also from the back, the middle, the side or wherever. Leadership is a skill you WILL need to demonstrate if you want to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder. And this WILL involve learning to stand out from the crowd. Each of us may have spent a large amount of time and effort in trying to fit it in and be a part of a group or circle in our easy student lives where the world was a much simpler place. But, being a leader is all about being unique and standing out of the crowd. Don’t shy away from or be afraid to get noticed for the right reasons. Lastly, always remember, leadership skills are not only important to climb the corporate ladder, but also to STAY there.
A great analogy I heard about networking from scholars at Duke University – “It’s about farming, not hunting. Sow some great networking seeds. It’ll help you reap rich harvests in the future”. It happens so often that individuals meet the right people to network with. But a major drawback is the failure to see that they are in the company of the right people at that moment i.e. the failure to see and grasp the opportunity when it so readily presents itself. Networking is important, not only within the company but also outside it. Networking can include individuals you meet professionally and personally. But, don’t use networking as a simple “hand out your card and expect a favor” technique. It is very important to build and maintain a relationship before an individual can enjoy the benefits of the hours he may have put into his networking efforts. However the hours put in are worth the effort. Remember, even if you can reach your goal without a good network, smart networking will definitely help you get to your goal faster.
These are a few basic tips, which if followed will make your transition to the work place easier and will help you cement a place and a name for yourself. I will leave you with a few words, again from Harold Geneen – “It is an immutable law in the professional world that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality”. So, keep performing and good luck.