Steph Wright graduated from the University of Leeds in 2018 with a degree in Philosophy. She now works as a Talent Executive for THG, attracting and retaining the best graduate talent.
Here is her insight and advice on making the transition from university to the workplace. So, whether you are an undergraduate hoping to do an internship or a graduate who has secured or is seeking their first job, there are lots of great tips to make you more effective as you enter the workplace.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a step-by-step guide which will tell you how to be ‘successful’ or have ‘an impact’ in your first graduate job, but there’s definitely a few things you can do to make the transition from university to professional work a little easier.
Manage your time
It’s an obvious one, but managing your time is the key to making your job easier. Although it’s important at university, it’s even more important at work because your ability to manage your time doesn’t just impact you anymore; it also impacts everyone you work with.
At university, you might work collaboratively on a group project every now again, whereas at work, it’s almost like you’re working on one big on-going group project which is constantly evolving and changing.
If you can’t manage your time properly, you’ll end up slowing everyone else down and affecting your team’s productivity. I’ve listed some tips for managing your workload below:
- Colour code your work calendar. For example, put meetings you need to attend in green, phone calls in blue, reminders in yellow etc. This just means that you can open your calendar in the morning and know instantly what you need to do/where you need to be.
- Dedicate 30-minutes each day to admin e.g. arranging meetings, inputting information onto spreadsheets etc. It’s boring, but if you do it little and often, you’ll stay on top of your workload.
- Use OneNote. It’s basically an online folder which will help you to prioritise your deadlines and manage your workload. You can create to-do lists, highlight notes, attach files and categorise your work.
- Write a list of all the tasks you want to have done by the end of the day. It can sometimes be a little overwhelming when you think about everything you need to do, so writing it down can help you to prioritise tasks and work through them depending on urgency etc. I almost always end up doing things that aren’t on the list too, but it just gives me somewhere to start. I also feel more productive when I cross things off.
It’s easy to feel like you need to say yes to everything in your first job because you want to impress your manager and add value to the team as soon as you can. But if you can’t do something, it’s more impressive to be honest about your workload and suggest a more realistic deadline; it shows the person asking for your help that:
- you can manage your time properly
- you want to complete the work to a high standard. Obviously, if you’re on top of your workload, then always try and help where you can, but if saying yes will affect your other work, just propose an alternative timeline. It’s much better to manage your time and exceed expectations than over promise and under deliver.
I never really understood the value of networking until I started my job. I always thought it involved going for serious conversations with senior people to find out what they do and how they ended up in their role. Although this is a form of networking, it’s not the only way to network – connecting with someone on LinkedIn, chatting to someone in a training session or attending a work-related event are all great ways to grow your professional network.
LinkedIn is a great way to grow your professional network, learn about industry trends and find new opportunities; around 70% of our hires are found through LinkedIn. So, if you’re in second year and you’re looking for an internship, or you’re in third year looking for a grad job, you might secure something if you update your LinkedIn and connect with the right people.
Recruiters can tailor their searches by university, degree course and graduation year, so if your profile is up-to-date, they might find your profile and reach out to you – a much easier process than applying online with 100+ other applicants.
Since joining THG last August, I’ve managed to build a professional network of people who I can lean on for advice, support and expertise. Although I won’t rely on this network of people for the rest of my career, I’ll probably end up crossing paths with them again later down the line. For instance, I work in a team of 15 people – around 5 of them had worked together previously.
This shows that the professional network you build at the beginning of your career might impact you in 3, 5 or even 10 years’ time, so always try and make a positive first impression when you meet anyone in your first job.
Have confidence in your abilities
It can be hard to have confidence in your abilities when you’re an intern or a grad because you don’t have as much experience or knowledge as your colleagues. However, you can bring fresh ideas and a new perspective which other employees perhaps haven’t thought of or considered yet.
If your ideas are informed, well-thought out and realistic, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be taken onboard! Just expect to get questioned on them – this doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, it just means your colleagues/clients/manager wants to understand the logic behind your decisions and make sure you’ve considered all possible outcomes.
Be confident in your abilities!