Blog Series: Transitioning To The World of Work

We are already into week three (3) of the series.


Last week I expounded on ways to use your skills – and in case you missed it, learn how you can leverage your skill-set to grow and earn more.

In the Caribbean, it is customary for persons to attend community college prior to university and even work for a few years. For some, transitioning to the workplace can be quite difficult especially if they went to university right after community college.

In most cases, one has no idea of how to apply themself. Although some schools provide workshops, they are not nearly as real or spontaneous as what you’d expect in the world of work.

Once you’ve completed your schooling the next logical step is to find a job. Many new graduates have the education but no practical experience. Some employers are hesitant since they favour experienced new hires that can save them time and resources spent on training.

Sometimes, the issue is that persons may meet the requirements but they have never worked before, neither do they know the basics of ethics in the workplace. This will be risky for any organization, so therefore, the onus is on you to prove that you are worth the hire. Imagine you’ve landed the interview of your dreams, secured the job but have poor work ethic, no communication skills, analytic skills or interpersonal skills. This will definitely leave a bad impression of you.

I remembered my first job vividly. I was super ecstatic and applied three (3) months before I finished college. I worked for three years before going to university and during this time I learnt the basics. One thing I am so grateful for is the ethics I learned in my first job

It is important that you learn work ethics because it will set the pathway for your career.

Here are seven (7) tips to help with a smooth transition into the workplace

1. Break the ice: This is where your soft skills come in to practice. Do not ever start a job thinking that you are  more important than anyone especially if you did not start at entry level. During your first few days, introduce yourself to the staff. These are the people who you will have to work alongside for the next few months or perhaps years. You can also opt to send an introductory email to introduce yourself. Include a few lines about yourself such as your role and your expectations from your colleagues.  Meet each person separately to get to know their duties.

2. Ask questions: Meet with management to find out their expectations of you? Will you be required to work alone or in a team? Ask questions about the company code of ethics. Ask as many questions as you’d like.

When you ask, you become better informed and hence there is less room for uncertainty. It also allows you to learn what not to do. Find solutions whilst learning everything you can about your new job. Then think of how you can add value to the existing system.

3. Learn your work environment: Some work places are formal, hence will follow strict guidelines whereas others are informal and less rigid. Understand the culturally accepted behaviours and if it is channelled down from management or adopted by staff. The organizational culture will tell you exactly which behaviours are accepted.

Organisational culture is shared philosophies, ideologies, values, beliefs, assumptions and norms (Schein, 1985). It is a collection of beliefs – it teaches people how to cope and approach situations. But is it always positive? Lord and Maher (1991) found that members of an organisation judge positively or negatively on acts, based on shared instructions, values and beliefs.

Observe your colleagues behaviour and their overall attitude towards work. Are they always ecstatic? An environment where the majority of staff seems disgruntled is a hint that they are unsatisfied with their job.

It is difficult to change an organization’s culture without re-shuffling staff and bringing in new mind-sets. But sometimes, the existing human resource has the required knowledge to push the organization forward and therefore don’t require change. Be careful not to adopt the negative behaviours. Instead, learn from situations and try to stand-out positively whilst maintaining a relationship with your colleagues.

4. Do more and stay on top of things: Familiarize yourself with work processes, procedures and effective communication channels. Be pro-active and work efficiently. Pay attention to the details and ask questions when not sure. Always remember your goal is to add value to the organization by performing an excellent job.

You have to be a consistent learner, willing to learn new things. Learn the operations of the organisation and the various roles of each staff. Offer feedback to management, propose ideas and solutions. It does not mean that they will be accepted but still try.

Always be willing to do tasks outside of your defined job duties. Do more than is required. If you are working on a project, put in extra time to complete before the deadline.

5. Practice time management: Occasionally, show up earlier and leave later than your specified working hours, in order to advance important tasks. When you were given projects at school, you’d probably submit late or on time. At work, this is not acceptable. Every project reflects on your performance and ability to deliver before the deadline. Time will matter – the amount of time you have to get things done will depend on how early or late you get to work. . Some persons may have worked in the same position for years; they will resent new hires who are more qualified and are eager to apply themselves.  Always be mindful when working with them, listen to how they have approached situations before and offer tips without making them think that their ideas are not good. Be tactful when working on projects, you might appear more effective by sticking to deadlines which places pressure on others.

6. Exercise Professionalism: Use your previous work experience (if you have) and leadership skills to exemplify professionalism on the job. Professionalism also touches on how you behave at work. Dress conservatively, speak in a respectful tone, and do not re-enforce negative practices. It also addresses your interaction with your colleagues and clients. Are you rude to clients and customers, or make snob comments about others? Do they know if you are not pleased with a situation? Can clients recognize when you are upset about a situation? This is where your emotional intelligence should come into play. At no time should your facial expression give out your emotion. By exercising professionalism, you will be respected and be able to handle situations better.

7. Re-enforce positive behaviour: Regardless of the existing culture, be it positive or negative, be a positive influence. Be a motivator rather than a de-motivator and encourage others to do the same. Let your colleagues view you as someone who is always kind and approachable. Build good working relationships but, do not become too comfortable. Offer to help when you are not fully occupied. You are not a robot and you learn more when you do different things. If opportunities arise, you may be considered due to your enthusiasm.

 By practicing these behaviours, you will certainly make an impression when you enter the workplace.