Transitioning from the college world to the office world can be a trying experience and there are bound to be mistakes made.  Errors in judgment can range from an inappropriate email address to spending too much on a business trip.  Some might be even more drastic.  Regardless of how significant, most newcomers to the “real world” hit a few bumps in the road–finding they missed something everyone else seemed to know implicitly.  Luckily, there are a few common sense actions students can take to make the transition to professional a smooth one:

Graduate in Fountain1. Follow all instructions.
Be sure to read the entire employee handbook at your new job and perhaps the instructions for any electronics you’ll be expected to use.  Employee handbooks are instruction manuals from employers, providing information on how to dress, how to correspond with clients, and proper office etiquette.  They also tell you what not to do.  If you break the rules, you can lose your job; and “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that” isn’t enough.  If you’re unsure about something you should–or shouldn’t–be doing, or how to do something that wasn’t outlined in the handbook, ask someone.  But beware: sometimes, in the corporate world, there are stupid questions, so make sure you ask the right people or observe other employee’s activities much more closely and follow suit.

2. Take notes at meetings. Whether you’re in a casual talk with your supervisor or a 20-person meeting with a potential client, taking notes will equip you to follow up and address any issues that arise.  Transcribing every discussion verbatim isn’t necessary, but jotting down any action items and a few thoughts on what’s said is of high importance.  And taking notes doesn’t mean you won’t be able to participate.  In fact, it’ll probably make you a better participant.  You’ll be better able to refer back to earlier comments and you won’t lose your thought process if someone gets their word in before you do.

3. Be nice to everyone. Whether it’s a receptionist or CEO, be sure to be polite and courteous to everyone in your office.  Don’t scream or yell at anyone–even if it’s just on the phone to the cable guy, plumber or another service person that would drive anyone else crazy.  In fact, don’t allow your personal life to affect your work life at all.  So, if you get into a fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend, make sure you avoid having that argument spillover into the professional realm.  Displaying your “dark side” to anyone can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and negative impressions and perceptions of you can hurt your career.

4. Don’t complain. Even if you hate the project you’re working on, complaining to your manager won’t get you anywhere.  Complete the project with a smile and then suggest a project you would like when the opportunity arises.  If you complain about your work, co-workers or office environment, you’ll gain a negative reputation and it will hurt the dynamics of the team and jeopardize any opportunities for a promotion or raise.

5. Networking isn’t becoming best friends. When getting to know your co-workers and managers, whether in the office or off-site, remember to put your best professional foot forward.  Telling a manager about how drunk you were over the weekend won’t win you any fans.  Focus on talking about your skills and achievements.  If you have extracurricular activities that apply to your career or are simply “rated G”, feel free to share.  Also, everyone likes talking about themselves, so if you don’t know what to say, ask questions.  Being known as a good listener will get you far.

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