My husband has been a teaching assistant on several occasions as he works toward his Ph.D. Sometimes he shows me the papers that college seniors hand in. If the papers of these soon-to-be college grads are any indication of the professionalism that can be expected from them, it’s little wonder that many are just forgoing the job hunt and returning their parents’ homes. And I’m not the only one who thinks the current crop of college grads is unprepared for the workplace. I recently heard a piece on NPR addressing that very issue.
Photo by rileyroxx via Flickr
The NPR story looks at a study done by York College researchers in Pennsylvania. It details the qualities that human resource managers and business leaders wanted to see in college grads, and found that most college graduates are lacking in some essential qualities. Even if you aren’t a recent grad, but have suffered a recent job loss, it can help to know what employers are looking for. If you want a job in today’s climate, you have to show that you are prepared. And that means, in some cases, losing the sense of entitlement that many college grads have, according to NPR:
Polk says researchers pointed to one area where recent graduates stand out: “There’s a sense of entitlement that we’ve picked up on, where people think they’re entitled to become, let’s say, president of the company within the next two years; they’re entitled to five weeks of vacation.”
Another issue is that many college grads just don’t know how to behave in a professional manner. Learning how to conduct yourself is vital if you want a good job — and if you want to distinguish yourself from the thousands of college grads with a desire to pay down their student loans hitting the job market.
Tips for More Professional Behavior
According to the research done by York College, employers are looking for attention to appearance, ability to communicate respectfully and clearly, willingness to listen carefully and with attention, and the motivation to finish a task. And, while many employers appreciate the fact that many college graduates are tech savvy, they are less than impressed with the constant need for many to bury themselves in it, answering every text (sometimes during work hours and interviews).
Here are some helpful hints for showing your professionalism:
- Dress for the job: Before you go into an interview, call and find out what sort of dress is common at the office. During the interview, and after you get the job, make sure you dress appropriately, and pay attention to hygiene and personal grooming.
- Prepare: My husband is starting the job hunt as he finishes his Ph.D. Before he has an interview, he reviews his resume, thinks of his strengths (and a couple weaknesses, and ways he can overcome them), and considers the points he wants to bring up about his qualification. Prepare for your job interview, and, when you do get a job, prepare to do your best each day.
- Finish your tasks: Make it a point to finish your tasks, and do them well. If you are working on a task that takes more time to finish, break it down into smaller tasks that can be accomplished daily. That way you can focus on doing your job, and have a way to show your boss that you are making progress.
- Keep personal problems…personal: There is no need to go into great detail about personal issues at work. Focus on your job.
- Communicate with respect: Listen carefully, and take constructive criticism as a way to improve your performance. When you speak with co-workers (and especially your bosses), avoid using profanity and speaking as you would with your friends.
- Turn off the cell phone: Don’t text while you are working, unless it is business related. Put your personal phone on silent, and ignore non-emergency texts. Check and answer personal, non-emergency text messages when you go on break. The same is true of personal email.
Our society has become much less formal in recent years. However, many employers desire a certain level of professionalism. If you want to get a good job, or even get a raise, it is vital that you conduct yourself in a professional manner, and learn how to interact with others in a way appropriate to the workplace.
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.