Cygnus Centre of Excellence

Ten essential strategies to ace your first job

Essential strategies for keeping a job

Blending in while standing out

The transition from academia to work (campus to corporate)is one of life’s biggest challenges. You are about to enter a whole new world—one that looks and feels very different. You’ve been preparing and waiting for this moment all your life, but once it arrives, it can be exhilarating yet daunting.

The transition from campus to corporate life can be poses challenges and requires adjusting to a totally different scenario. To help you succeed, I have laid out 10 essential strategies to help you ace your first job.

Smooth transition from Campus to Corporate

The Transition from Campus to Corporate
Business team standing against window with leader in front

Adjust to the “new” bie normal – tips for acing your first job

Getting through your first job interview is indeed tough, and it goes without saying that your first job holds the key to professional success. As you enter the workforce, it’s natural to be excited, ambitious and ready to take on the world!

So, it can turn out to be a bit of rude shock when your first assignments are menial tasks such as taking meeting minutes or arranging for coffee and croissants. However, fret not, embrace being new and the work that comes with it.

Supporting your superiors and clearing their plate of such tasks, is often the first step to winning their trust. They will not be able to trust you with complex tasks unless you nail the simpler ones.

Dress for success

The first thing a person notices when they meet you is how you look, then they hear you speak and finally, they process what you have just said. Dressing for success doesn’t necessary entail wearing fancy clothes and expensive items, but it does require you to appear smart, sharp and presentable. There’s nothing more appealing than wearing a smile, bringing confidence and carrying yourself with enthusiasm.

Prepare for teaming on steroids

The difference in focus from campus to corporate

In university, the focus was always on the self or beating the next best classmate. In the modern workplace, it is more important to coalesce as a team and collectively deliver an output. It is important to recognize that you will gain more by collaborating rather than competing. Everyone has individual strengths and success is best enjoyed as a group.

Build your circles of influence

We have all heard that the most important success factor in the working world is “networking”. Often networking is confused to mean being LinkedIn friends with a person of influence or shaking hands with a business icon.

As a fresh graduate in the workforce, one of the best ways to network is to be friends and forge genuine connections with the people you work with. The rising tide lifts all boats and you will notice that as your supervisors climb the ladder, more often than not, they will pull you up with them. Build your tribe of people that inspire and uplift you.

Break the mould – stand out and excel

In the academic setting, there is usually a right or wrong way of approaching a problem. In contrast, work is unpredictable e.g. your boss could ask you questions whose answers are not “google-able”, making it essential for you to think out of the box and challenge the modus operandi.

Build EQ as opposed to IQ

An imperative skill to pick up that is not taught in university is to pay attention to people’s reactions. If they seem distracted, keep the conversation short. If their gaze is full of intent and with pupils dilated, expand your points and engage them.

Manage up

How to handle deadlines and communication – the difference from campus to corporate

Unlike college, deadlines in the workplace are not set in stone. In case they cannot be moved, you can always alter the scope of what you had to deliver, supported with valid reasons of course. However, for all this to be possible, it is essential to have open two-way communications with your colleagues and supervisors. Flag to them early when you don’t understand a question or if you are unable to find the required information.

Make mistakes

As a fresh graduate, there’s always pressure that you put on yourself to get everything right, the first time. Despite this best of intentions, things will go wrong. In college, when you fail, it’s a sign that you didn’t learn and may not graduate. In your career, when you fail, you have a choice between moping around or genuinely trying to change.

You learn hugely valuable lessons from failures that you can take on with you for the rest of your working life. Handle your mistakes with grace and turn them into action rather than inaction.

Work out Loud

Newbies are often shy and may believe that in the grand corporate scheme of things, that their work is inconsequential. To be honest, that belief could not be further from the truth.

Too few people “Work Out Loud”. It is essential that you take credit for your work. It particularly helps to keep a brag book of your accomplishments and journal entries of what does and what doesn’t work for you. Increasing your self-awareness will help you direct the path of your career.

Train for the marathon, not the sprint – recommended strategies for keeping a job

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington famously remarked “For far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion – that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success… the advice I’d give to young people today is this: don’t just climb the ladder of success – a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress — chart a new path to success, that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.”

Take that time off to relax, recover and recharge. Spend time with your family and friends, as these are the people whom we often take for granted but who have given up so much of their energy, time and resources to help us succeed.

Radhika Debroy
Radhika Debroy
Strategy Consultant at EY-Parthenon | [email protected]

Radhika is an island girl with a city at heart. She was born in Kolkata, brought up in Seychelles and currently lives in Singapore. By the day, she is a strategy consultant with EY-Panthenon and by the night she spends her time researching about ancient civilisations. In a recent travel to Cambodia, she worked with an archaeologist who had discovered a new temple and is working the site ruins near Angkor Vat.

At EY-Panthenon, she works closely with clients to understand their business problems, break them down and tease out areas for value creation. She's really passionate about making a change for the better in the energy and sustainability space. In pursuit of that goal and to learn more about the field, she will be joining Wharton MBA class of 2023.

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