There's plenty of good news to greet recent graduates as they enter the workforce. The economy is healthy, and the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in nearly 50 years in April 2019. Now is a great time to find a job. But as Page Tisdale, director of The Citadel Career Center in Charleston, SC, will tell you, showing up is only step one. Another key step is to build effective working relationships in the workplace.
To be successful in your first position after college, Tisdale shared five tips recent graduates should consider both before entering the workforce upon graduation, and once they're in their new job role:
1. Get as much experience as you can working with people
One of the best things you can do to prepare for your career is to work with others. That can mean finding an internship, working a summer job, joining a club or participating in on-campus activities. Career counselors often stress the importance of teamwork in the workplace, and you'll be a better teammate if you have practice interacting and collaborating with others.
"These [activities] will teach you to communicate and understand expectations," says Tisdale. The more you practice professionalism, the better off you'll be.
2. Put down the phone and engage in face-to-face communication
Before she became a college career coach, Tisdale worked in Human Resources and as a recruiter. In that role, she noticed two specific skills that many recent grads lacked: eye contact and phone etiquette. As digital natives, many young workers have spent their lives interacting with screens. While this has its own benefits, all jobs require interpersonal communication skills at work — and younger employees often struggle with this.
If you're in the same boat, commit to improving some of these soft skills before you begin your first job. Spend some one-on-one time with friends and family. Share a conversation over coffee and leave your phone in your pocket or purse to eliminate distraction. Work on placing all your attention on the other person. While email makes up a lot of modern-day business communication, the art of interactive, in-person discussion is still essential and important to fostering relationships with coworkers.
3. Rehearse the interview process
"I tell students, 'Communication is not negotiation,'" says Tisdale. In her experience, many people new to the workforce worry about how to approach asking about benefits like vacation, health insurance and attendance expectations.
"That's just communication," she reminds them, not aggressive negotiation. To get comfortable talking about these issues, Tisdale encourages graduates who are applying for jobs to find a friend and practice a mock interview.
"I tell them to think about what they'll say when they're asked about their biggest weaknesses and strengths. You want to have an answer ready," she says. "Write down what you think you want to say and process it. Take notes and practice it."
Tisdale also encourages new hires to develop strong relationships with mentors. That way, when anxieties about expectations — or salary or vacation or benefits — arise, they won't feel afraid to speak up.
4. Stay humble
"I tell all my students, 'You deserve nothing; respect is earned,'" says Tisdale. Employers generally hire people for entry-level positions because they see your potential. If you're one of those entry-level hires, it's time to prove them right. And that, she says, begins with building relationships and being a productive, helpful part of the team.
"Don't walk in there feeling like you run the show," she says. "Lay low and get the lay of the land. Don't be afraid to ask questions, but don't be annoying either."
Be a problem solver. "Get in and figure out how to do things without being told," she adds. Look around for people who are contributors and create relationships with those people.
5. Work hard
It may seem obvious but getting along with coworkers has a lot to do with performing your job responsibilities well.
"The economy is great right now. There's no reason for a college grad to be unemployed. So go ahead and get into the job market. Don't hold out for months and months because you think you deserve an assistant director position," says Tisdale. "But remember, you don't have to have it all figured out right now. If it's not a right fit, don't quit. Go towards something; don't run away."
In other words, do your best at the job, no matter what it is. A good work ethic that inspires respect from your coworkers will inevitably make work life better and will build relationships that could lead to future opportunities.
Whether you're still hunting for an entry-level job or you're considering your next move, you'll need a resume that shows off the accomplishments that would make you an asset to the team. Use LiveCareer's Resume Builder to get the job done right. And be sure you pair your resume with an attention-grabbing cover letter that outlines your ambition and skills. LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder can help you at every step of the cover letter writing process.