By Carlene McCalla
So, you've come to the end of your studies and you're just on the brink of your working career. You've jumped through various hoops and faced the most gruelling interview processes. After numerous setbacks and a few uncompromising rejections, there's finally light at the end of the tunnel! That's it, you've finally secured your first professional job!
Now, there may be a range of things going through your mind on the morning of your first day, ranging from what to wear, to pondering about the atmosphere and culture of the organisation.
It's understandable that these things may flood your thoughts into oblivion at this point, however, it's the long-lasting impression that you will have on the company beyond the first day that really counts.
Here are six useful tips to guide you through the transition into professional life as a graduate:
Step one: Your first day
It's your first day at work but don't panic! You can make your first day a success by planning your route in advance or by doing a trial run the day before to get an idea of how long it will take to arrive. This way, you can allow plenty of time to "get lost" in advance without creating a bad impression.
On your first day, it is likely that your employer will take you for a tour of the building to show you the facilities and fire exit locations. You may also receive a health and safety induction and training on the company's internal systems.
As a newbie, there will be plenty of information to soak up on your first day, including business terms, terminology and internal processes that you will get to know gradually. If you're unsure of anything, remember, it's okay to ask questions. Don't hold back!
Step two: Fitting into the team
You've finally met the team and they seem like a nice bunch, but you're not quite sure if they have warmed to you yet from the offset
Stop, pause, relax. One main tip here is that integrating into a new team is usually a gradual process. Relationship building is a key aspect of any professional environment, so the best tip here is to really get to know your colleagues and their interests. You may have more in common than you think!
Step three: First month in
So, a month has passed and you've settled really well. There are still some business processes that you're unsure about and you've started to identify what aspects of the job you love, and tasks you see as less favourable. So, what to do now?
Questions, questions, questions. You guessed it, it's never too late to ask questions if you are unsure about how do to something, or if you need extra support on a task that is more challenging. It's often better to speak up than to keep quiet because unresolved problems will always come out further down the line.
Step four: Bridging the gap
You are now three months in and after a meeting with your line manager, you have started to identify your key strengths and weaknesses. Expectations have been raised as you've set the bar high and you have recently received a few points of constructive criticism now that your employer knows you better. You feel empowered, enlightened and motivated but somewhat frustrated about your errors. In an ideal world, you would prefer to get everything right first time, but unfortunately, this is not the case.
Remember, it's perfectly normal to make mistakes and constructive criticism should never be seen as a negative conversation. Perfectionism is often a common characteristic of graduates entering the world of work for the first time, often because of the adaptation from being a university student, to becoming a working professional.
The shift between academia and the professional world can be a huge bridge to gap. The requirement for completing a course of study may viewed as achieving the highest grade and making the fewest number of mistakes.
In the professional world, the success journey tends to lean more towards growing as an individual, increasing productivity, obtaining new skills and being flexible in different working environments.
Many employers are starting to integrate a learning theory called "The Growth Mindset" into their working culture, to encourage their workers to increase their resilience and adopt a strong, positive mindset.
This theory, inspired by Carol Dweck, focuses converting a "Fixed Mindset" into "Growth Mindset" by turning challenges into positive outcomes, viewing scenarios with optimism and believing that personal characteristics such as skills and intelligence can be changed with the right attitude and willingness to change. (Find out more by checking out Mindset: The New Psychology of Success published by Carol Dweck)
Step five: Career self-awareness
Further down the line, you will have reached your six month probationary period and by this time, you're officially a fully-fledged member of the team. You are fully adept with the business and all of its processes and by making it this far, you are clearly a valuable asset to your team.
At this stage, you may be thinking about your future within the company and where the next chapter will take you. This could include whether it's appropriate to discuss a pay review if your boss hasn't already discussed this with you.
Discussing salary in the UK tends to be a taboo topic in the workplace and is often avoided unless it comes out in general conversation. However, in the modern workplace, this is slowly changing as the culture of the younger generation takes hold.
Don't be afraid to ask, but don't forget the facts! If you have gone above and beyond and shown dedication, hard work and determination in your graduate role, express your ambitions with justification. For example, if you work for a large corporate firm and you have that all-important probation review coming up, ensure that you are well prepared by compiling some research in advance.
It might be that you have a look on Glassdoor.co.uk to find out what companies are offering to other employees in a similar job role to you in similar industries, or you may even choose to bring up some information from Unistats.ac.uk, to highlight what the average salary is for graduates who studied a similar degree course to you from the same institution. Either way, you will gain a lot more credibility from your employer if you approach the topic of salary with enough research to support your reasons for wanting an increase.
After six months, you may also consider how the daily duties of your role match up with the skills that you have gained on your degree course to assess whether the role is helping you to get the best out your key strengths.
When considering the next steps, remember to consider every option when considering the next chapter of your career. Although money talks, it isn't always the indefinite measure of career success. Some people are motivated by salary but it's not the sole focus for everyone.
You may prefer to gain role or industry specific skills, focus on your self-development strategy/personal growth mindset or even work towards a professional accreditation or course, so ensure that you are making the best decision that reflects your personal goals.
There's no right or wrong when deciding on what's best for you and each graduate will be motivated by something different.
Alternatively, you may be considering an alternative career path altogether.
Step six: Your future and beyond
Your new role may suit you down to the ground and you may have finally reached your professional dream. Yes, all your hard work really did pay off! On the flip side, if you're still quite uncertain you're not alone. Many graduates finish university not knowing what they want to do in their professional career. If this is the case, guess what? It's completely normal.
The first steps into the professional world can be daunting but rest assured, it can also be some of the most valuable moments of your working life as you will become more self-aware, independent and pick up a vast array of practical skills that allows you to put the theory of your academic knowledge into practice.
The transition between student life and working life may be different for each graduate based on a range of factors such as the type of industry, degree studied, location and many other possible key factors. Having said that, no matter where your degree takes you, every aspect of work experience that you gain throughout your career will always add value to your professional profile and will shape you into your future.