Professional You – An introduction to a new series

Today, we begin a new series of articles exploring the transition from college student to new professional. This series is for students starting internships, as well as new grads starting in your first professional position.

Whether interning or working full time, you understandably want to make a good impression and get your professional career started in right direction. One of the first things to keep in mind is that it takes time to learn a new position. It’s great to be excited and zealous for the work, but make sure you give yourself enough time to adjust to this new opportunity. For interns, that learning curve may only be 1-3 weeks, since your time with the organization will be relatively short. In all honesty, you’ll be in learning mode for the entire internship, but those first few weeks will be especially key. For full time employment, you’ll need at least six months, but probably closer to 12-18 months of steadily learning and observing your new surroundings.

You probably have a million brilliant ideas that you’d like to share with your new supervisor and colleagues. That’s great! But before you start offering suggestions for how to improve your new organization, take time to observe. What should you be observing? Everything. Take note of how different positions relate to one another, and how your position is expected to relate to everyone else. Learn the processes and procedures for your own position first, and if possible watch to see how others put them into practice. A lot of organizational processes exist for a reason; some of them are outdated and need to be revised, but your first few weeks on the job are not the best time to start offering suggestions for their revision. Now’s the time to learn and observe.

Ask Questions
Reading procedural manuals and attending training sessions are certainly ways to begin learning your job (professional development and training opportunities differ from one organization to the next), but asking thoughtful questions is also an important part of these first few weeks. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s ok to ask questions – not in the “Why do you do it this way; this is so stupid”-sort of way, but in the “I’m interested in learning how this works”-sort of way. It’s fine to ask questions of your colleagues – fellow interns or other newer professionals – but make sure you also take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of the more seasoned professionals and your supervisors.

Do Your Job
This may seem like an obvious one, but I regularly hear employers complain that their new hires just “won’t do their job.” When you accepted the offer of employment, you were hired to perform a particular role within the organization. That’s the role your employer expects you to perform. You likely have interests in other areas of the organization, which is great, but your primary responsibility is doing the job you were hired to do. So do it, and do it well! As you become more experienced with your own role, you can begin to ask for opportunities to learn new things and seek out additional responsibilities. As long as your own job is being done (well), most employers will be happy to give you the chance to help out with other projects or in other departments.

From Twitter – Advice for making the transition
@Intern411Meg – Know what you want going in, build great relationships, take your work seriously, volunteer to take on extra work.
@ilovegarick – My advice? Listen. Keep your mouth quiet & pay attention because even tho U have a degree, contrary to pop. belief, U don’t know everything.

In the coming weeks, we’ll look at other topics related to transitioning into your first professional position, including what to wear, how to deal with conflict, how to offer constructive suggestions, and more. Will you be starting a new professional role soon? What questions do you have about the transition?

The Professional You series offers tips and suggestions for college students transitioning to their first professional position, whether an internship or full time job.

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