Some things you need to know but didn't learn in class

On the Job

Working

June 20, 2007|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun Columnist

With a college degree in hand, you're ready to conquer the real world.

Or you snagged that coveted internship and you're ready to experience what the workplace is all about.

But before you enter the rat race, there are a few things you probably didn't learn in college that you need to know.

I've asked Mary Crane, a business coach and consultant, to provide some advice for young workers on how to get ahead. Crane, a lawyer and former Capitol Hill lobbyist, trains young workers at Fortune 500 companies and law firms on business etiquette and other workplace issues, such as generational concerns.

Here are Crane's top five Do's:

1. Stay connected.

Make a commitment to stay in touch with fellow students, beyond your close friends, and instructors because, well, you never know.

Crane gives the example of Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steven A. Ballmer, who was the first business manager hired by founder Bill Gates. Ballmer lived down the hall from Gates when they were at Harvard University, according to Ballmer's biography on Microsoft's Web site.

"None of us knows where the next Bill Gates is," Crane says.

2. Get connected.

As a new employee, invest in face time with managers and colleagues. Young workers are used to communicating via e-mail, text messaging and through mobile devices such as cell phones, but Crane points out that their managers are likely to be baby boomers, who value in-person interaction.

"As soon as they enter the workplace, they should focus on getting to know their managers, other managers and other people within the organization," Crane says. "The reality is that managers are most likely to promote people they've really gotten to know."

3. It's all about culture.

Your casual attire may have gotten you through calculus class, but it's not going to cut it in the workplace.

Crane says many employees and managers butt heads over dress policy. Interns and new employees also should pay attention to other office norms, such as how your immediate supervisor likes to communicate: via e-mail, face-to-face or some other method.

"Every organization has a culture," Crane says. "That culture may be expressed in how people are dressed, how they communicate and in the work hours people spend. A new hire wants to be part of the culture fast."

4. Turn off your technology tools - at least periodically.

Crane says she's increasingly hearing of young employees who listen to their iPods while working, but other people, especially managers, presume they're slacking off. That includes usage of cell phones and addictive BlackBerrys during meetings and other places where your full attention is required.

Crane recalls hearing of a first-year law associate being reprimanded for using a BlackBerry while he and two senior associates were waiting to get on a conference call.

5. Ground your helicopter parents.

It used to be that young people would be mortified at the thought of having mom or dad involved in your life, let alone your professional one.

But increasingly, parents are getting really involved. I'm talking trying to sit in on job interviews and calling recruiters to see whether their child got the job.

It's a little too much, folks.

"It's great that parents have been so involved in their children's lives," Crane says. But, "most employers would feel more comfortable interacting with the new employee or intern rather than having to touch base with mom and dad."

Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimore.com.

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