Most university college graduates have spent a long time functioning and succeeding in the same environment, but that success may not translate to the workplace.
This may be because the undergraduate environment has engendered certain attitudes and behaviours that are subtly wrong in a real, life job.
Once a graduate recognises the adjustments that need to be made they can adapt comfortably and easily to the workplace. Managers, in turn, need to be aware of these necessary adjustments and help to guide graduates through the process.
At university, college and school the hierarchy is simple: teachers, possibly some teaching assistants and students. As such, recent graduates often put their colleagues in one camp or the other. Workplace relationships are more complicated than that. Being overly formal or overly familiar can mean graduates do not engage appropriately with the people that will help them get the right results.
Managers can help by showing how a good presentation or other end product was created by engaging the right stakeholders and consulting the right resources appropriately.
Work ethic adjustment
This could go either way with a recent grad where they either exhibit a sense of entitlement because they ‘got the job’ i.e. passed the test or they believe that doing ‘all nighters’ and coming up with brilliant ideas is the way to prove they are worth their salt. Although being prepared to work long hours when necessary is obviously a sign of loyalty and a good work ethic, executives are more interested in the quality of their work and how efficient they are.
Managers can help by explaining to grads early on what is expected of them and encouraging them to speak to other colleagues and mentors to help them to prioritise their work load.
Team player adjustment
Recent grads are used to being measured on what they have personally achieved in the form of grades, awards and individual recognition. Although in business personal achievement and results are measured in order to ascertain performance, they are also being assessed on how well they have worked with a team to achieve shared organisational goals.
Managers can help by emphasising that they shouldn’t strive to be top of the class, but rather facilitate their team to achieve its goals.
Work in progress adjustment
Some graduates will produce a piece of work that has never been looked at by the person grading it until the moment that they grade it. This often means that graduates do not discuss or show their work to their manager until they judge it to be perfect or finished. This can mean a lot of time and energy spent on something that the manager did not actually ask for.
Managers can help by frequently asking grads where they are up to and encouraging them to discuss their progress more often.
Grads are used to being told what to do and complying with that. There may have been useful discussion with their tutor, but in order to get the grade they had to do the work. There is a tendency to translate that to the workplace with grads simply obeying what their managers ask of them.
Managers can assist grads by getting them to consider that they are helping their manager to get things done rather than simply complying , which will result in their being valued more highly. It will also make the work more rewarding for the graduate.
As a recent grad the key is to accept that you may need to learn to do things differently; that what worked at university may not be the best way for you to succeed in the workplace. Do not be defensive if you are asked to change your approach.
As a manager of a recent grad it is important that you appreciate your new employee’s background and that you help them adjust accordingly.