5 Mistakes College Graduates Make When Transitioning Into the Workplace

By Amber Momin

This past Tuesday, WBA was pleased to present speakers Allison Whitton and Veronica Becerra from Epsilon, a leading data-driven marketing company. As former UT students, Veronica majored in MIS, whereas Allison majored in Marketing with a minor in MIS. At the meeting, both women graciously shared their personal experiences regarding the transition form college into a full-time career.

Below are the five most common mistakes they’ve seen in the workplace, as well as their advice on simple solutions to avoid falling victim to these common mishaps. Check them out, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments!

1. Appearance

• Mistake: Drawing attention to your clothes instead of your work.

• Tips for Success: Try to match your boss.

If you’re not exactly sure how to dress, try to match your boss! Not only will this provide you with a safe guideline as to what is appropriate, but it will also help your employers in associating you with those above you on the company ladder, which is a great competitive advantage if you’re looking for a promotion!

2. Schedule

• Mistake: Showing up late for work

College was pretty lenient in terms of designing your schedule; therefore, many college graduates struggle while adjusting to the 9–5 schedule that is common in the workplace. While it may be difficult to get back into the routine of waking up earlier, do NOT make the mistake of habitually showing up late to work. Your co-workers will indubitably notice your tardiness, and there is nothing worse than having them label you as irresponsible right at the beginning of your career.

• Tips for Success: Match your co-workers’ lunch schedules.

Instead of taking your lunch break at any random hour, try to match your co-workers’ schedules. For instance, if you notice that the grand majority of people take a lunch break at 11, take your break at 11 as well. Your co-workers have probably noticed that clients don’t usually call at that particular hour or have another logical explanation for choosing that time slot.

3. Work Ethic

• Mistake: Blaming someone else for your mistakes

As a newbie in the workplace, it is expected that you will make mistakes. Therefore, when you mess up, be accountable for your work and do NOT point fingers at others. The blame-game will only backfire on you.

• Tips for Success: Ask questions.

If you are unsure about how to approach a particular project or task, ask your co-workers for help. The workplace greatly differs from college in the sense that employees are not necessarily given play-by-play instructions on how to tackle an assignment, as college professors often did in syllabi. Avoid making unnecessary mistakes by reaching out to your colleagues and getting further clarification. Remember, they were once in your shoes and will be happy to help!

4. Cues

• Mistake: Turning down someone’s offer for grabbing lunch

If a co-worker asks you to take you to lunch, do not turn down their offer. Not only is this great way to get integrated into the workplace, but it’s also a great networking opportunity! Chances are if you turn down their offer, they won’t ask again, so be sure to not miss such an opportunity.

• Tips for Success: Find a mentor

Identify someone who is a rung or two above you in your company’s ladder who holds a position you want to see yourself in after a couple of years. Consult this person regularly regarding your progress and ask for their input. They will likely be honored to assist you and will offer valuable insight into how to navigate your company. Remember, forming a mentor/mentee bond does not necessarily have to follow a formal, structured process. Simply ask your mentor out for a cup of coffee and get chatting!

5. Communication

• Mistake: Taking emails personally

Recent grads are known for often taking emails from their managers too personally. Remember that managers often have a lot of their plate, and thus their tone may come off as a bit too demanding. If you find yourself in such a situation, remember to not take any of the comments to heart, and definitely do NOT reply back in an angered tone.

• Tips for Success: Avoid drawn out vague emails by picking up the phone

Emails can often lead to miscommunication, especially if the discussion at hand involves many meticulous details. If you know you are trying to communicate a topic which involves the chance of misunderstandings, avoid drawn-out, vague emails by picking up the phone and calling the person. You won’t believe how much more efficient it is to call — just remember to have pen/paper handy to jot down any important instructions you may be given!

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