Tips for Transitioning Successfully from College to Corporate

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Congratulations to all the graduates, as well as, you parents out there who have a child graduating! I thought this would be a perfect topic for June as it is the season for our Grads, as well as, people making changes, seeking new job opportunities or promotions. I recently had the opportunity to work with two impressive 15 year olds preparing for a school debate competition, speaking with them about how they appear to others through their non-verbal communication, the image they wanted to present and some pointers on how to achieve their goal. It was amazing to see how this information transcends to all ages and stages of life.

Transition is an on-going process in everyone’s life. Although this article is titled to focus on college students, many of these same principles apply for those of you who want to transition from one position level to a higher one or from one company to another.

Any kind of change or transition can be stressful and difficult. Fortunately, knowledge, awareness and proper planning will help reduce anxieties and make you more successful in your new environment. Making a positive first impression and an ongoing positive impression are critical aspects to success where key elements include:

  • Looking professional
  • Presenting a professional presence
  • Possessing business etiquette skills that will outclass your competition
  • Effective communication skills

Looking Professional: In college you can wear practically anything you want to class, down the hallway or to the cafeteria. Unfortunately, pajamas are not allowed in the corporate world. If you work in a company that has a “business casual” dress code you will have a bit more flexibility. This being said, you always want to look professional. In a new work environment observe what the successful people at higher levels are wearing. Take this information and model your dress attire accordingly. Of course your budget will be different, but you can “fake it until you make it”.

Mix and Match Suiting – Buy a suit and separate pieces from the same manufacturer, in the same fabric and a piece or two in complimentary fabrics and/or patterns. As the paychecks come in, you can then strategically add pieces that can be mixed and matched to increase your rotation.

Fit your Body Proportion – Not all manufacturers are for all body types. Try on several different brands to ensure you find the best fit for your body (i.e. thin, tall, short, petite, muscular, curvy). Then, expect to alter the pieces to get the fit perfect. An amazing article of clothing that doesn’t fit well can make the wrong impression and send the wrong message about you. Yes, this is an extra charge, but will make the clothing look far more expensive – hence, making you look far more polished! Also remember, size varies by manufacturer so don’t get tied to a specific size number.

A+ Grooming – Great grooming can make up for the designer clothing that are not in your budget – at least not yet! Great grooming will make you stand out from the crowd! Top notch grooming for men includes a close shave daily, polished hair style, well-groomed neckline (in between haircuts) and manicured nails and cuticles. Top notch grooming for women includes a natural face of makeup, perfect eyebrows, a hair style that doesn’t look like you just threw it in a ponytail or rolled out of bed and short and manicured finger nails that are not distracting.

Final Touches – If you want to out class your competition it is all in the details. Add an accessory that will show you pay attention to the details. It is amazing how these touches can show that you will pay attention to the details in your work. Men, add that tie or sock that reflects the Personal Brand you want to communicate. Women, add the appropriate earring or necklace that will tie your ensemble together. Shoe selection is critical. Men and women, ensure your shoes are in perfect order (no scuffs or run down heels). Ladies, an appropriate heel height of 2 -4 inches for the office environment (and comfort) is important. If you cannot walk in the shoe gracefully or keep them on all day, select another pair.

Business Etiquette/People Skills: In today’s competitive job market your mannerisms, behaviors and how you carry yourself are traits that set the tone for your future success. These factors are critical in obtaining the job as well as building a strong employability factor – which is necessary to be successful in your chosen occupation and to move up the ladder.

Key skills to possess:

Solid eye contact – do not drop your eyes when shaking hands

Firm handshake – ensure it is not too firm and certainly not weak

Proper Posture – stand up straight and no slumping

Email Etiquette – Email etiquette in college is drastically different than in the corporate world. In college, emails are usually not time sensitive (unless you are applying to jobs). In the corporate world a quick response demonstrates respect, attention to details, organization and will go a long way towards reflecting a positive and strong professional image. Also, write in full sentences, do not use slang and always assume people other than your intended recipient may be reading your email.

Effective Communication – One common denominator between college and the corporate world is asking questions. Asking questions is key! It demonstrates many things, such as your interest in the workplace, desire and willingness to learn and your respect for others. From setting up your printer to asking your manager details about a project, there are no stupid questions. Asking questions is a useful tool in order to build relationships and strong connections with your colleagues and management. Don’t hesitate to ask non-work related questions in order to find commonalities. I am not suggesting being nosey but asking “did you have a nice weekend” is certainly appropriate. Compliments – both being able to receive graciously and give sincerely – additional ways to create positive relationships.

Proper wardrobe planning, building your business etiquette graces and communicating well will absolutely lessen the stress of transitioning into the corporate world and make you more successful! Best of luck to all our new graduates!

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