Your academic career, whether high school or beyond, will teach you so much. Everything from basic math to chemistry will be absorbed into your brain for use later on in life. However, as we have all learned at some point, schools don’t always teach us everything we need to know. Especially when it comes to your professional career – here are some things that you should continue to work on that you might not have learned in school!
Professional communication is not something you will necessarily learn in school, but it is something that you can quickly adapt to. If you are in a formal work environment, you may be expected to write professional emails that you don’t have experience with. Or perhaps you are a member of a more casual team, and formality not part of the culture. Learning how to be a professional, in large part, is comprised of learning how to communicate with your peers. There will be workplace chat groups, emails, calls, videos, one on one meetings, and large group conferences that you will need to learn how to navigate.
One great tip is to adapt to what the rest of the team is doing. When you are matriculating into a new role, observe what some of the other writing and communication styles are to help learn how to fit in. How do other team members speak to each other? How do they communicate with leadership? How do other people respond to their communication style? For instance, let’s say there is one person, Dave, that always tries to talk to the CEO as if they are their friend. If you can read the CEO’s response to this, you can figure out how you should communicate with them as well. If they cringe and try to set some professional distance between themselves and Dave, you now know that this is the wrong way to communicate with them. If they pat Dave on the back and start talking about their families, you can understand that they don’t mind it and like connecting with employees. You can learn so much by merely observing your teams’ communication strategies.
Working with people
When you begin a new job, you are almost guaranteed to be working with a diverse group of people. Teamwork makes the world go round! However, working with colleagues can be a very different experience from working with classmates. Your colleagues may have diverse backgrounds, expertise, communication skills, and work styles. How are you supposed to prepare for this when the only experience you have is group projects at school?
School projects are an excellent technique for building communication skills in your education. To help you translate some of these experiences into your professional career, reflect on how you worked with teams in the past. Were you more of a leader or a follower? Did you enjoy facilitating group projects, or keeping the team on task?
One of the best pieces of advice I learned when first joining a team was to simply: be a sponge. It might take some time for your team to trust a new member, so it’s okay to sit back for a meeting or two and listen to what others have to say. Observe the various team members’ work styles, and figure out where you fit in the team, and how to be an ally with everyone. When you are ready, jump in with a few suggestions, ideas, or questions that will demonstrate insight and listening skills. Practicing this piece of advice will help you show off to your manager and team members.
It might take time to learn how to be a productive team member. Dealing with conflict can be tough – try not to get frustrated if it does not go as smoothly as you thought it might at first!
In the corporate world, there is a lot of competition you may not have experienced before. Competition is an excellent way for managers to help keep a team at the top of their game. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful! Learning how to take this stress in stride will help you to succeed.
There may be an outright competition in which you have to work alongside your colleagues to reach goals first. Or, maybe there is an open position at a higher level, that multiple people are vying for. There is also inherent competition in the workplace when numerous people are working towards the same goals.
Regardless of what kind of competition it is, know your worth and where you stand. Make sure you understand the rules and guidelines of the situation. And always, always ask questions! Asking questions will show your supervisors that you are eager and motivated to succeed. When a competition is closed, or a role is filled, ask for feedback from your manager about your performance. Understanding where you have room to grow is essential to succeeding in the future.
You likely learned a lot of responsibility while you were at school. Keeping track of your homework, exams, and juggling multiple classes is a lot of work! In your professional career, everything is different. If you make a mistake and don’t deliver the necessary pieces of a project, you won’t get a bad grade; your entire team will suffer. If you forget to set your alarm and are late for a meeting, you are potentially shedding a negative light on your company, not just yourself. Understanding the impact that you have in a particular position will help you to maintain and expand upon your responsible qualities.
Perhaps your job isn’t one which you have to worry about deadlines or waking up on time, but you do have to deliver high-quality work. Or maybe you have to remember to check in with clients every week to ensure they are satisfied with your product. Whatever your outcomes are, ensure you are holding up your end of the bargain. If you aren’t sure of where your responsibilities lie, this is an important question to ask of your supervisor. Check-in with them to make sure you are doing things correctly, and where you might have room to grow.
Continuing along with our trend of asking questions, feedback is one of the most essential, and often neglected, things that you will not learn in school. In your educational career, often the only feedback you receive is your grades! At work, you won’t receive a grade from 0-100 on how well you did on a task. Instead, you might get a contract or close a sale to demonstrate that you did a good job. The piece of feedback that is often forgotten about, however, is verbal.
In the professional world, it is expected that you will do good work. Your employer hired you for a reason! They wanted a hard-working employee, and if you don’t deliver on this, you may receive some negative feedback. No one likes to hear that they didn’t do a good job, but if you are proactive about feedback, you’ll be able to frame the conversation positively. If you ask your supervisor what you could have done better, or what tasks you could do to challenge you more, you will be better off for it. You can also ask them about what things you are doing well to help boost your confidence and ensure that you can expand upon these positive qualities.
About the Author:
Caroline Forrest is Director of Community Outreach at JobGet. She graduated from Stonehill College with a Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2016 and worked at various non-profit organizations until finding a Boston-based software startup company that focuses on helping people find jobs. She is excited to be working in the startup world. Caroline has always had a passion for helping people find their perfect job. As Director, she works on implementing programs with the Boston community to streamline the way that people obtain employment. In addition to community work, Caroline contributes to building the company by managing various systems-based roles such as marketing, HR, communications, and content marketing at JobGet. To learn more about JobGet, check them out here!