Three Skills To Master Before Entering The Workplace

Congratulations to all of this month’s college graduates!

Soon many of you will enter the workplace for the first time.

Here are three skills to master before you begin your first job:

1. Accepting criticism

True to the Gen Y stereotype, I used to have a hard time accepting criticism.  I didn’t think I was perfect; I just didn’t like hearing other people tell me when I wasn’t. I think this is a common weakness in our generation that has the most potential to hinder our workplace success at the entry level.  In your first job it is essential that you accept feedback so you can learn how to perform better in the future.

For many new grads in the workplace, it’s uncomfortable to receive what I call “360 degree criticism.”

Throughout school you only received feedback from your teacher/professor.  Once you enter the workforce, you might get feedback from your boss, colleagues, clients, and even Trudy the IT girl down the hall.

Many new grads are used to receiving feedback on their work in a very controlled way from one source.  Learning to accept criticism from all sorts of people–and then process that criticism to determine what’s valid and what’s not–is imperative.

Visit this site for tips on accepting criticism at work.

2. Writing coherent e-mails

Confession: I used to write long, rambling e-mails.

They weren’t very effective.

Being able to write a concise, professional e-mail is important.  Before you start composing a message, think.

What is the purpose of this e-mail?

Would it make more sense to pick up the phone or stop by the recipient’s office?

Is all of this information absolutely necessary?  Is my message clear?

Also, avoid hitting “send” immediately after typing a response.  Take two minutes to check your message for spelling, grammar, and clarity.  You’ll quickly earn the respect of your colleagues if your e-mails are well-written, and you’ll lessen the opportunity for misunderstandings.

Here is a more extensive how-to guide on crafting professional e-mails.

3. Managing your time

One nice thing about college is that you’re able to work around the clock.  You can procrastinate assignments until 2 or 3 in the morning, and then sleep in until noon.

At most workplaces, you won’t be expected to pull all-nighters, but you will be expected to complete projects on-deadline. And arrive at work before noon.  This requires more efficient management of your eight-hour work day.

Develop a time management system that works for you.  Some people like to make lists and cross off tasks as they are completed, while others block off chunks of time in their Outlook calendar.

Make sure that – whatever system you use – you prioritize your work.  Avoid letting small tasks get in the way of completing an important project.

On that note, keep distractions to a minimum.  I’ve found that checking e-mail once every hour makes me more productive than immediately reading (and responding to) every message as it comes in.  This allows me to concentrate on the task at hand.  Setting-up similar reward times to check Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and your other favorite spots on the web will also streamline your work day.  Don’t keep these sites up all day – you’re just begging to be distracted.

Here are some additional tips on time management from the infamous Penelope Trunk.

What other skills do you think are important for new grads to master as they enter the workforce?


Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator for Syracuse University Career Services.  In his position, he is responsible for student engagement with Career Services.  This includes managing the marketing campaigns for events and programs, leading social media initiatives, and fostering relationships with people across campus to build awareness of the office.  Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and LinkedIn.

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4 Responses to “Three Skills To Master Before Entering The Workplace”

  1. avatar Shane Arman says:

    Good list here Dan.

    I think the way you accept criticism says a lot about who you are and is a test of your skills and character. Listening is key when you receive feedback because the ultimate goal is not to make that same mistake again. I take every criticism as an opportunity to motivate myself to improve.

    Being “teachable” is also important in the eyes of your superior, because when they see how receptive you are, they’ll be more likely to trust you and assign you important projects.

    To the time management point, I think this is a strength of top PR students/graduates from what I have seen. No doubt it’s important as we enter the workforce, but I think Gen Y are pretty darn good at juggling multiple things at once.

  2. I think the way you accept criticism says a lot about who you are and is a test of your skills and character. Listening is key when you receive feedback because the ultimate goal is not to make that same mistake again. I take every criticism as an opportunity to motivate myself to improve.

  3. [...] Three Skills to Master Before Entering the Workplace | Student Branding Blog [...]

  4. studentforce provides students a platform by which they can manage their time effectively.

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