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From college to corporate: What you need to know
Sunder Ramachandran
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February 04, 2008

Graduating from college is a significant rite of passage. For most graduates, it signifies an important transition into the real world of being totally independent and earning a livelihood full-time.

The thought of making it on your own can make you anxious and uncertain about the future. Or, it can make you positive and rosy about your expectations. The difference depends on how well you prepare for the mental and physical things every move requires, especially from college to the workplace. 

Consider the following three key career skills that will be vital as you transition to the workplace:

Career skill # 1 -- Develop effective communication skills (interpersonal & written)
What do you think researchers say is the most important ingredient for success and achievement in today's workplace? What's the foundation for supportive, cooperative work and personal relationships?

Interestingly, the answer to both of these questions is the same -- the ability to communicate skillfully and confidently with people. Therefore, excellent interpersonal communication skills are the most powerful career and personal skills you can possess.

This means, how you communicate with others and through others to get business results. As a young professional, you need to focus on both verbal as well as written communication skills (e-mail and regular correspondence).

Human resources professionals estimate that more than 80 per cent of people who fail at their jobs do so for one reason -- they don't relate well to other people. Even in highly technical jobs, success or failure is determined more by human relations skills than by technical proficiency.

A study published by the Carnegie Institute of Technology reports that 15 per cent of financial and career success is due to technical competence and 85 per cent is due to interpersonal skills.

Let's face it, dealing with others isn't always easy. In fact, if you're like most people, it will probably turn out to be one of the biggest day-to-day challenges you will face in the workplace. Therefore, it's important for you to meet the challenge and be successful with all the people with whom you interact.

Strive to build strong and better relationships with your work associates (this includes your manager, clients and customers, peers, co-workers and others). If you work on mastering Career Skill # 1, you're certain to be on your way to success.

Career Skill # 2 -- Administrative: Manage your job
It's a fact of business life. Every day employees are judged by their ability to manage projects, priorities and deadlines. An organisation's success (and your own career success) depends, to a great degree, upon your skill in getting things done -- on time and with the desired result.

Find out as soon as possible what your company and manager expect from you. This will include using your people (interpersonal communication) and technical skills (the knowledge, skills and abilities that make you a sought-after professional).

Once you determine what's expected of you, decide how you will accomplish it. Design a professional development plan so that your action items lead to achieving your goals. Stay on top of even the most demanding schedule of competing priorities and multiple projects. To help with this, build a deadline ie a "safety net" to make sure no critical deadlines slip by.

Also, make sure that your deadlines are realistic.  Finally, get a mentor who can help you design an effective career plan.

Career Skill # 3 -- Build and leverage your relationships
The old adage "Who you know can be just as important as what you know" applies here. And, nowhere is this truer than in today's workplace where managers, colleagues and mentors (if you're lucky enough to attract one or two) often determine who gets noticed and promoted, who finds a new job, and who thrives in the new organisation.

Take charge of your career by becoming a partner with your manager. That means that you will be working to gain your manager's respect and trust in your competence. Enlist your manager's full support for your projects.

As we covered earlier, know what's important to your manager. Be open to constructive criticism because it has a constructive impact. Your manager is the person with the power to open doors for you, help accelerate your learning and development and support you in achieving your goals.

Strive for harmonious working relationships. Workplace conflict can have constructive or destructive consequences on an individual's performance, the team's performance, and the organisation as a whole.

This conflict is often the result of clashes in vision, priorities, values and personal loyalties. Anticipate and sidestep the pitfalls that could impede your progress. Once you are on solid ground with your team and manager, look around and see which bridges you need to build so that you are connected with the right people in the organisation (those who can make things happen for you).

Some of these relationships may last over the span of your career. Nurture them and value them for what you can get as well as give to them.

A final word
A smooth transition from college to the work world is possible if you have the proper mental attitude, make smart moves early in your career and establish ties to your community.

To put things in proper perspective, by all means recognise the seriousness of starting your first full-time job, but don't be mentally overburdened by trying to match the success of co-workers or other professional colleagues.

However, as long you stay at your first job, do your best and accomplish as much as you can. Bear in mind, though, that your career is more than a single job. During your career you will most likely work with many companies in various positions. Some will be more fulfilling and challenging than others.

The success you achieve will result from the discipline, dedication and determination that you develop as a young professional. These attributes will uniquely shape your character and promote your success throughout your lifetime. For now, study hard and work diligently but enjoy life to the fullest.

The writer is a managing partner at WCH (We Create Headstarts) Training Solutions, a New Delhi-based training and consulting firm. He can be reached at

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