Lessons in your first job

Over the years I have had lots of interaction with recent graduates who joined the companies I worked for as their first job out of college. Besides the inspiring fresh look they provide on your processes and company culture, they also learn a few lessons in the first couple of months and when asked are not shy to share them with you.
On a personal level I remember how I was stunned by the perspective the older workers had on their career. Some would share with me some stories from their past and happily share that they had three years of a bad manager that was bothering them but the next manager was a lot better. Meanwhile I was just thinking about how long three years were and could hardly imagine that I would also work so long for so many years. Well I guess we all get passionate about something and forget the time when we dive into it and a full career later we look back and can tell our stories to the new recruits.
Although the new recruits have a seemingly endless way of expressing their first experiences, when I analyze the conversations I have had over the years a few key themes come back every time.


In their school years they were in charge of their own projects and although there was some team work required, eventually the report was directly under their control. In business life they learn to understand the value of communication as you will no longer necessarily continuously be involved in every aspect of the projects you are assigned to. You will make your contribution and pass it on  to the next person or department. The eventual outcome depends on a group or team effort but there may be many steps involved. If you fail to communicate clear and complete on your part of the process, chances are that the quality of the outcome will suffer as a result or rework will have to be done. Hand offs are important, passing the baton may not fail or you loose the race.


On graduation day the exhilaration is high after the graduates have thrown their hats in the air. Not for long though. After a sometimes grueling job search whereby the graduate starts to doubt the value of all those years of hard work, they will enter the company and be completely baffled with all the information they do not yet understand or have after their orientation weeks. Who said something like: “The more I know the more I realize how little I know”. This is very true. Their knowledge is limited and needs to be enhanced with practical knowledge to be ready to be applied to the company’s processes. During  the first years in a company the learning curve will be steep and not all graduates realize that when walking in the door the first day.


Unless the new recruit comes from a family that ran a business, or has done enough internships during their college years, they will not realize how a business functions. In their college years there were not many consequences of missing deadlines and the worst that could happen was a low grade or a debate about commitment with the professor. In business missing deadlines can mean, costing money, loosing customers, impact on quality, diminished credibility, etc. There are real consequences here that touch people’s lives. As they start to realize that they are no longer working on a paper for the professor, they also start to improve their contributions by being less academic and more practical in their usability.
As we have discussed in our post on Graduate Development, there are more fields where the recent graduate needs support to fast track their development. Make sure you understand where they are coming from and what fascinates them to ensure you can help them develop and receive their fresh perspectives on your processes in return.
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