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Is Your College Experience Preparing You For the Work World?

Jan 4, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Not every college graduate is prepared for their first job. It’s easy to blame the college, but often your preparation for the work world in college depends on the effort you put into it. If you’ve developed a habit of handing in papers late, avoiding leadership positions, and waking up late, work is going to be a tougher transition for you than it would be if you’ve made a conscious effort to develop habits that will serve you well in the work world.

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Here are a few habits and skills you can develop in college—that will put you ahead of your competition when you graduate:

You work in groups a lot 

You might love group work, and you might hate it. But chances are you’ll have to work in teams when you go into the work world—as both a member and a leader. Get good at leading teams in college, and you’ll have a skill that will serve you extremely well at work—and put you a step ahead of many college grads who never develop these leadership skills, or take longer to learn them.

You get the chance to give presentations

Many students avoid having to be the one to give their group’s presentation in class. If you step up to volunteer for that role, you’ll be building valuable skills for the workplace. There’s a good chance that no matter what field you go into, you will wind up having to speak in public—and it’s possible that public speaking job you have to do will be important to your career. If you can learn early to be comfortable in front of crowds, to put together interesting presentations, and to think quickly on your feet in front of people, you’ll definitely make a good impression the first time your boss asks you to deliver a presentation.

You never miss deadlines

Some professors will let you get away with missing deadlines—and if you’re going to school online, your deadlines might be very flexible. That won’t fly in the work world. Your boss isn’t likely to take pity on you and let you deliver your presentation a week late because you’ve been working really hard. In the work world, you have to deliver—period. Start developing this mindset early on in college, and you’ll be more prepared for work.

You’re taught to write well

No matter what industry you go into, you will need to write and your writing will forge others’ impressions of you—even if all you’re writing is the occasional email or memo to coworkers. In the work world, as in college, grammar and spelling mistakes are not OK. Being able to express yourself well in writing will mean an easier time getting your message across—and getting support from others. Employers universally complain that today’s new employees don’t have strong writing skills—so be the one that stands out for great writing.

You show up for early-morning classes

The great thing about college is that often you get to create your own schedule through the classes you choose. Many college students deliberately choose classes in the afternoons so they don’t have to get up early. Unless you’re planning to work nights for the rest of your life, though, this isn’t preparing you for work. Start scheduling a few 9 AM classes during your Junior and Senior year, and waking up early to go to work every day after you graduate won’t be such a huge shock to your system. If you get used to getting up early, you’re less likely to oversleep and come in late to work.

You dress like you care

Recent grads are famous for making workplace wardrobe mistakes—revealing belly buttons, dressing in T-shirts and jeans, or wearing flip-flops to the office. The problem with this is that your clothes often predict how you’re perceived—and if you make mistakes like this, it won’t help you advance quickly. Get a head start on other recent grads by slowly building up a “workplace casual” wardrobe while you’re in college. That way, you won’t have to spend a lot of money on new clothes when you land your first office job—and you’ll be more used to dressing in office-appropriate attire, so you’ll be less likely to make those new-grad mistakes.

The more prepared your mindset is for the work world when you graduate, the more likely you’ll impress from Day 1—and the more likely you’ll move up to a better position. Develop these skills in college, and they will serve you well later on.

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