What College Graduates Don’t Know Will Hurt Them

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<p><strong>Denver &mdash; May 4</strong><br />College is a wonderful experience, but as workforce veterans know, it&rsquo;s only a beginning. </p><p>Wouldn&rsquo;t it be great if somebody could take the members of the class of 2007 aside for a little inside talk on the best way to begin their careers and which mistakes to avoid? </p><p>That&rsquo;s what Mary Crane does for a living. An attorney and former Capital Hill lobbyist who also served as an assistant chef at the White House, Crane now travels North America, delivering high-impact, high-energy how-to-succeed programs and coaching services to Fortune 500 companies and top-tier law firms. </p><p>The same skills her professional clients find useful translate perfectly for graduates. Her top five tips for graduates are listed below.</p><p><strong>1. Hard work is a great start, but it&rsquo;s not enough.</strong><br />Too many new employees enter the workforce thinking they will find a meritocracy &mdash; do good work, and you&rsquo;ll be rewarded. But the most successful new employees know building relationships with their internal clients and associates is crucial. The importance of &ldquo;face time&rdquo; with supervisors and co-workers cannot not be overestimated. Managers and supervisors are more likely to reward (through increased pay or promotion) the employees they know and like.</p><p><strong>2. Be the whole package.</strong><br />Painful as it might be, graduates need to leave behind the relaxed informality of college. New employees must create a persona that communicates, &ldquo;I am the consummate professional.&rdquo;&nbsp; Everything they do &mdash; from how they answer their phone to how successfully they navigate social settings &mdash; communicates whether they have made the transition from student to professional.<br /><br /><strong>3. Take a good look around.</strong><br />Every organization has a culture, which is partially expressed by an accepted manner of dress. What is considered appropriate attire among employees at a West coast PR firm, for example, differs considerably from what&rsquo;s expected at an East Coast law firm. New hires must dress in a manner consistent with the culture of their employer.<br /><br /><strong>4. Know when to turn it off.</strong><br />Today&rsquo;s graduates are wired to the max, and that&rsquo;s mostly a good thing. But as they&rsquo;re carrying cell phones, BlackBerries, iPods, laptops and other devices into the workplace, they need to be hyper-aware of their employer&rsquo;s communication culture. There is a time to turn them off. Examples: A meeting with more senior members of the organization, a client event or a business lunch or dinner.<br /><br /><strong>5. Build a network &mdash; and not the wireless kind.</strong><br />New hires should start building their professional networks immediately. Not that it&rsquo;s easy. Midlevel professionals interested in moving into leadership positions frequently struggle with how best to build their professional networks. But networking is critical for professional development and business development purposes. The good news is that the earlier in their career the new hire starts, the easier it becomes. </p><p>The first step is not burning any bridges. New recruits immediately should commit to staying in touch with the people they&rsquo;ve met at school. Remember: Bill Gates and Bill Ballmer were once college classmates. Now, one is the richest man in the world and an international philanthropist, and the other is a top wage earner and Microsoft&rsquo;s current CEO.<br /><br />Although these five steps are sometimes discussed on college campuses, their importance is often overlooked. The graduates who practice them will get an early lead on others entering the workforce.</p>

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