Get ready for the real world, class of 2015. College is a supportive haven with lots of safety nets and a focus on individual achievement, but the workplace has different rules. You’re going to have to prove you can be fearless and independent, but also willing to share your success. Here’s how to change your thinking.
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In an editorial for Fast Company, entrepreneur Kristen Hamilton says, “Fire yourself from college right now. I’m not asking you to drop out, I’m asking you to drop the collegiate mindset and adopt the one you’re going to need to get hired next year.”
Hamilton is co-founder of Koru, a start-up that is working to solve the skills gap problem by putting recent grads through intensive workplace boot camps with companies like Amazon, Zulily, and PayScale. Koru applies the principals outlined here with their students, who sign up to do intensive short internships to find out what it really takes to take off running in the career path they are interested in.
Employers want to know you’re not afraid to take risks, even if it means you fail. Mistakes are the source for all learning and innovation so don’t hide them. Instead, own them and use them to illustrate how you got from A to B, otherwise you’re going to come across as disingenuous in your success. What employers want to know is how you used that mistake to change your thinking, what you gained from it, and how it informs what you’re doing now. As Theodore Roosevelt says, “The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”
Don’t Play “Head of the Class”
Motivated college students are often striving for the “A” and competing to be top of the class. Employers would rather see that you have a proven record of working in a team or group, rather than for your own personal victory. Companies and organizations depend on employees working together as a community for the success of everyone. Just like in basketball, sometimes you have to pass the ball or set up a shot for someone else because no one wins if everyone’s trying to be the star player.
It’s not about how many “Friends” you have on Facebook or “Connections” you’ve made on LinkedIn. Sure, networking for the sake of creating opportunities for yourself has its merits, but the real chances in life are going to come from people who actually know you. In order for that to happen, you have to build strong relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and mentors who can attest to your work and who want to see you succeed because they feel vested in you. That won’t happen if you don’t take the time to talk with people, be interested in them, share ideas, ask questions, and offer assistance. Employers want to see that your network is more than just numbers.
No Hand Holding
Don’t expect that you’re going to understand everything when you begin a job, but also don’t expect that someone is going to coddle you. You’ll need to show some initiative and teach yourself what you don’t know.
“Be an owner of your own learning,” says Hamilton. “Don’t know how to use Google Analytics? Teach yourself, or reach out to somebody who can teach you. You need experience, and if you’re in an environment where you’re not getting it, leave.”
Save the World in Time
College idealism about changing the world and making a difference is a beautiful thing, and something you should hold onto. Just don’t expect that saving humanity from a terrible fate is going to happen in your first job. The ability to make that kind of a difference in the work you do requires time and a great deal of experience. The most important thing you can do is just get started in a job. Everything you learn there, even if it seems menial, is going to someday lend itself to your big role as an agent of change.
Shine Your Inner Light
Show employers that you have personality and what it is that makes you unique, like your sense of humor, your passion, your interests. If they see that side of you in an interview, they’ll know they can count on you to bring those traits to the workplace everyday. Letting them see what makes you a great person is what will make you stand out from other candidates. Be your best version of yourself.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you have any mental makeover tips for the Class of 2015? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.