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Prithvi Shergill

HCL Technologies


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From college to corporate – The first important steps on the career ladder


Prithvi Shergill looks at the important transition from college to career and how companies and employees can pave the way to a successful career.

As if the time leading up to graduation would not have been demanding enough, the real challenge starts once young professionals leaving college who have managed to master job hunting and interviews have got the job. Now, new joiners have to face a dramatically different world: new colleagues, new tasks and challenges, longer working days and less vacation, more work and most importantly, more responsibility.

Transitions at any level or life stage are difficult and the first job out of college is only the start: mid-level job changes, role changes, changes in geographies, and even personal changes from getting married to parenthood. Even though all those changes are enough to make any grown person despair, it is critical that these transitions are handled with self–awareness, resilience and a sense of purpose. Young professionals should keep in mind that it is in the interest of most companies to hire fresh graduates and see them emerge successfully from their metamorphosis and carve out a successful career for themselves. At the end of the day however, it is the graduates who have to put in the hard work to ensure they reach this goal.

Maturity, initiative, accountability, communication skills, discipline, adaptability, energy, passion, and attitude are all keys to success that graduates entering the workplace get advice on. For some though, it will be nothing less than a paradigm shift requiring fundamental changes. Ultimately, it is about demonstrating a curiosity and respect for the opportunities the new professional environment and culture offer and adapting to maximise these quickly.

Thoughtful organisations have put in place robust college-to-career transition programs designed to give deep insight into the company and corporate culture as well as the organisation's way of working. Even without a dedicated program, the first initial days and talks with peers and colleagues will help young professionals succeed in competitive and demanding workplaces, and overcome those that are unacceptable in a professional work environment.

Here are some of the most common obstacles a young graduate faces while settling down in the workplace and what can be done to help them:

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

University life is largely secure. You have a protective environment that encourages and nurtures you to perform. The real world is a more challenging place. The first step towards translating these to opportunities is to acknowledge that the world of work needs one to demonstrate a commitment to grow, which is enabled by a change in mindset and prioritisation. Being able to seek feedback on performance and looking at critique received as constructive will lead to alignment and demonstrate adaptability and learnability.

Respect time

Submitting an incomplete project report or showing up late for a professional meeting or simply to work has more dire consequences than during college days. They can result in poor evaluations and a slide down the career ladder. The quicker young professionals realise this, the better they will fare in the corporate environment.

Have a point of view and know how to articulate it

The Millennial generation in particular uses social media with a savviness unmatched by others. As a working professional, they need to understand that messages on any social media platform no longer just represent an individual but also the organisation. Whereas there are strict regulations on social media in place in some companies, others have to set clear rules for their new hires and demonstrate what’s acceptable and what is not.

At an individual level, capability on how to communicate and work productively and professionally with colleagues and clients is a must, as well as email, phone and face-to-face communication etiquette.

Striking the work-life balance

Most certainly, a full time nine-to-five job does not allow the same freedom that a college schedule with fewer daily hours and many more vacations does. In addition to performing and getting along at work, young graduates also need to take care of personal demands such as setting up their own place to live, taking care of personal finances while integrating professional and personal commitments. Keep this mind and help them work through this in the first few days.

A fine balance between work and life is needed and the earlier it is set in motion in a young person's career, the fewer the chances of burn-out and conflict later. Hobbies outside of work that keep the passion of young people alive, will also have a positive influence on their engagement and performance at work.

Putting your best professional foot forward in a career after years of college life isn't an unsolvable mystery but does require a concerted effort and willingness to change from graduates. If consciously worked on throughout the first few days by new joiners and supported by the organisation, both organisation and employee will enhance the value from this new association.

Prithvi Shergill is Chief Human Resources Officer at HCL Technologies

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Prithvi Shergill


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