September. In my view, that time of the year, second only to January, in which we feel that sense of 'fresh' and 'starting a new'. Students (and maybe us adults too) are gleaming ear to ear with new stationary hauls; leaves are turning an array of golds and browns - a new season has arrived, and we embark on one last push to complete or attain by December the goals that we set ourselves at the start of the year (yep, those goals!!!)
It's also a time for this sense of newness to permeate through many organisations, with the intake of new graduate or placement students, entering the professional workforce for the first time. The transition from academic life to the world of work is HUGE. I went through that a few years ago now, but not too far in the past that I can't remember how I felt, the nerves, the excitement, the anxiety, the eagerness, the longing for my first pay cheque to finally arrive.
It's all too easy for seasoned professionals to forget about the emotions that a new graduate or intern, and to some extent any new joiner, may be feeling in the first few weeks at work.
As I am embarking on a sense of new myself out here in Dubai, I've been reflecting on what it was like entering the workforce for the first time having graduated from university and below are 3 advice points I'd tell myself (and hopefully anyone new entering the workforce for the first time, or simply changing jobs):
- Embrace your nerves, and be you. Don't stand to attention. No matter how outgoing or intelligent you may be, you're still allowed to be nervous, this is a change and something new, the unknown lies ahead. So instead of sitting in the lobby with those butterflies in your stomach thinking how you might need to behave, or say, or do and letting the nerves get the better of you - go to the bathroom and shake. Shake your arms, shake your body, shake your legs. Let. Go. Then look in the mirror, smile to yourself and take a deep breath in and out. This is the first day of a new chapter in your life. Embrace, even cuddle those nerves and loosen up. Be you when you walk back into the lobby. Don't be someone you think you should be.
- Breathe deeply and appreciate the moment. We're all in a hurry. External life kind of forces us to be nowadays. But wait. This is an amazing transition and time in your life. In 10 year's time, you'll be looking back and wishing you'd been more present in it. Don't be in a hurry for a promotion, or to be CEO. We all have those dreams to be something, but when you're too focused on straight ahead you miss the beauty, the opportunity to learn and grow and simply enjoy the experiences around you. Be open to opportunities from the left, right or even behind you; who knows where those roads will lead.
- It's ok to not know and it's ok to know. Just because you're young and intelligent doesn't mean you know everything, but likewise it doesn't mean that you know nothing. In my first few years of work, I spent too much time saying 'yes' or 'ok' to things that I had no clue about in an attempt to impress, when in reality my mind was racing with questions, who is that person and where do they sit, I have no idea how to do a vlookup and what on earth is a PO number. Stop. Don't feel you need say yes just because you're a graduate or new and meant to be 'eager'. Not everyone is immediately business tech-savvy and you've never needed to use a PO process before so why on earth would you pretend to know it on day 2. Going back to advice point 1, be you. Allow yourself to be content with saying ''I've not come across xxxx before, could you explain further/show me....''. It's bold to ask questions. Similarly, just because you're new doesn't mean you can't have an opinion. All too often as a new graduate I felt compelled to hold back, I was young and I didn't have experience. But that doesn't disqualify you from having an opinion, a position, an idea. Don't hold back on interjecting. We all bring something to the table, no matter how old we are, how experienced we are, how senior or junior we are. All our comments count. It's true collaboration that makes success, not any one individual.
And for all those managers or team members, about to welcome a new graduate or intern into their team this September, I've one piece of advice, GO EASY. I often hear and read managers talking about how their graduates are not hitting the ground running, they weren't the calibre expected. But the truth is they can hit and WILL hit the ground running, with the right level of base support. The saying goes, behind every great man there is a great woman. Well there's similarity with graduates, behind every great graduate there must be a great manager and team. Don't assume a new joiner will know the company culture, the systems, the process, heck even where the toilets are or how to use set a meeting up in Outlook. The activities that you do on autopilot, you too once had to learn. Be patient, be understanding, be open. Reflect back on your first day and take it from there.
Have a good autumn everyone.
Harrier Roser is an ex HR Change Manager at Diageo, now starting a new chapter in her life in Dubai.
Impact work with emerging talent in a variety of industries. More about our work with graduates, early careers and apprentices.