Okay. You’ve been at school for years now. You’re finishing up classes. You’re getting ready to walk the stage at graduation. You’ve crammed all of the head knowledge and book learning possible into your brain. You’re ready to begin starting a career.
While it’s easy to feel prepared at the end of your time at college, though, there are some things about full-time work that you don’t think about on campus or in a classroom. Here are some things that most colleges won’t teach you about starting your first post-graduation full-time job. Keep these in mind as you are starting a career.
1. Starting a career requires the ability to solve problems.
You’ve answered countless questions at school. You’ve passed a ridiculous number of tests. For goodness sake, you figured out how to navigate the convoluted modern university system and came out the other end with a degree in hand.
You can solve any problem, right?
The issue is that you can’t let down your guard when entering the workforce. Just because you’re trained and you’ve mastered the basics doesn’t mean applying them will be straightforward.
Problems continue to surface on a daily basis when you’re starting a career. What’s more, you won’t have a professor guiding you through how to solve them. Often the buck will stop with you.
A lack of problem-solving skills among new graduates is so significant that, according to data from High Point University (HPU), 65% of executives reported that they’d rather see colleges equipping students with this critical life skill than technical skills and training.
If you want to succeed at work, always be ready to solve problems when they arise.
2. It’s hard (but important) to stay motivated over time.
The HPU study reference above also reported motivation as a critical life skill that many younger employees lack. This shouldn’t come as a surprise in a world that is grappling with the effects of The Great Resignation.
Millions of workers have been quitting their job on a monthly basis (per CNBC). While many of these are legitimate career moves, the number of times employees have simply not shown up for work is staggering.
Even for those who stay on the job, it’s easy to get discouraged, feel pressured, or struggle with boredom at times.
The ability to see the bigger picture and maintain focus in those moments is essential. It shows an employer that you can be counted on to consistently deliver quality work, no matter what your personal feelings may be at any given moment.
3. The way you use your network matters.
Everyone knows networking is important for landing a job. Your professional connections can also help you move up the corporate ladder over time.
What many fresh graduates don’t know is that having a good network doesn’t automatically equate to career success. In fact, if you use your network the wrong way, it can backfire.
Work It Daily emphasizes the fact that “A key point to remember when reaching out to connections and networking is to never ask something of someone in your initial point of contact.”
In other words, don’t just use your network for practical favors. You need to invest the time in cultivating relationships, doing favors for others, and making sure that your network is strong, regardless of how many benefits you’ve gleaned from it lately.
4. Emotional intelligence is a requirement at work.
College can be a very self-serving and inwardly-focused experience. Sure, you participate in team sports, join clubs, and go to parties. But at the end of the day, you’re trying to study, pass your classes, and graduate on time.
This makes it easy to slip through your time at college without truly honing your emotional intelligence (EI). Even so, EI is an important part of any successful career.
Very Well Mind defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.” This simple definition has the power to supercharge your career from the start.
The more you’re able to understand and empathize with those around you, the better you’ll be at communicating and working with others. The more you can evaluate your own emotions, the better you’ll be at filtering your responses and avoiding unpleasant emotional outbursts (and their consequences).
5. Communication is key to a healthy work life.
In school, you’re required to sit still and look forward. Often your primary communication consists of listening to an audible lecture and providing written responses at a later date. In other words, there is very little active communication taking place.
Things are very different in the workforce.
At work, good communication is a critical element on a daily basis. Active listening can help you give your full attention to what others are saying and respond appropriately.
If you work remotely, which is common these days, consistent communication can also ensure that you stay on the same page as your coworkers or boss.
Launch yourself into your career with increased confidence.
Making the transition from school to a full-time job can feel both exciting and overwhelming. If you want to cash in on the former while minimizing the latter, make sure to take the time to learn the little life skills like those listed above.
If you can enter the workforce with things like problem-solving skills and emotional intelligence, you’ll have a much better chance of not just surviving but thriving in your new professional environment.