First job? Here’s a survivor’s guide to sail through
We dealt, last fortnight, with common mistakes (and, let’s face it, obvious signs of immaturity) that young people make when trying to land their first jobs. But what happens once you’ve already got the golden ticket – a job interview or an offer letter by a firm, the first step of your career?
Experts say the first three months of a fresher’s life are crucial. It’s when companies are looking at how fast you adapt, how much you understand, and how hard you are willing to work to stand out. Perhaps these tips can help:
DON’T BE CLUELESS
“Indian education focuses heavily on book knowledge, which makes graduates ill-equipped for the workplace,” says Raja Sekhar Reddy, director and COO, Innovsource, a manpower outsourcing company. Your college curriculum may have stagnated over the decades, but industries and businesses have been taking great strides ahead. Don’t let the knowledge gap cost you a job. “If you’re a tech graduate, supplement your engineering curriculum with real-world updates, case studies and examples,” says Pasupathi S, senior vice president at HirePro Consulting, a recruitment firm. “In the past, organisations had enough time and resources to train candidates to make them industry ready, it is not the case today.”
Instead: Read up on the company you are applying to – what is their history and their goal? What job does your new department do? “No amount of homework is enough before a job interview, starting with the organisation, the competition, the industry, the influencers of that industry, current affairs of course, and right down to who you think is going be interviewing you,” says Ratna Gupta, director at ABC Consultants, a recruitment service. Use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, to get an insight into the firm, look up their website and if possible, meet an existing or past employee over coffee for an informal chat.
DON’T COME EMPTY-HANDED
Sure you’re a fresher, but your interview is as much about you can do for a company as what a company can do for you. “New, fresh ideas are valued, out-of-the-box thinking will set you apart from the rest in today’s work environment,” says Lohit Bhatia, who heads staffing at Ikya Human Capital Solutions. “In today’s socially mobile environment, companies need youngsters to think like customers. Half of India is under 30 years of age, it needs the people representing companies to match those demographics.”
Instead: Bring suggestions and ideas, to the table. Position yourself as the go-to person with a fresh take on things. As a relative outsider, you may already have a unique approach to problem areas of the company. But present your contribution as suggestions – you want interviewers thinking you’re helpful, not over-smart.
DON’T WASTE YOUR INTERNSHIPS
“More often than not, internships tend to get converted into a Pre-Placement Offer (PPO), if the organisation feels that a particular student is a right fit for their culture,” says Aparna Mahesh, deputy director of corporate relations and placements at Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering, a part of NMIMS University. They are your chance to demonstrate your work ethic and polish your skills.
Instead: Use your internship time by asking questions, being helpful, and presenting yourself as someone who is already an essential part of the team. Be punctual. Adhere to deadlines. Communicate effectively with colleagues and superiors. Maintain a positive attitude, because you are there to learn.
“Try to find a mentor early in your career,” says Francis Padamadan, country director at Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group – India, which advises companies on hiring. “You need someone who is a subject-matter expert and can be a guide through the initial rumble and tumble.”
If your college doesn’t have an internship program, find one on your own. Speak to acquaintances, seniors in college or refer to online resources such as internshala.com to land an internship.
DON’T START SLOW
Industries need new hires to hit the ground running. “Freshers in the payments industry are deployed on live projects within weeks of induction. So we need candidates who are agile, flexible and fast learners,” says Zarin Bhathena, senior vice president and local head of human resources at Worldline, a payments and transactional services company.
Instead: Plan for the training period. “Getting to know your colleagues is the fastest way to make friends and learn about your office environment and culture. So don’t just keep your eyes glued to that PC, but take appropriate breaks and chat with people around you and in other departments,” says Ratna Gupta.
DON’T BE SELFISH
“The first 90 days are the most crucial for new hires especially freshers who build their relationship with ‘work’ for the first-time,” says Sujaya Banerjee, CEO of Capstone People Consulting, a change management consulting firm. Too often organisations see first-timers who are unwilling to try harder, take criticism or manage their time.
Instead: Check your attitude. Instead of thinking about ‘What’s in it for me?’ focus on ‘What do I bring to the table? “An attitudinal shift is needed in the first three months at your first job,” says Naviin Goel, head of talent acquisition at Synergy Technology Services, an IT services company. “Discuss deadlines with your supervisor before you begin your task,” says Gupta. “Should there be a delay, inform your supervisor in advance, not at completion time.”
DON’T BE A LONE RANGER
It may not seem like it sometimes, but being new and at the start of your career is a privilege. Don’t try to do it all by yourself.
Instead: Seek connections with your team members and network with people across your organization. And remember, what you learn helps you build capabilities, so learn from your mistakes and failures too. “My recommendation to new hires and freshers is make the mistakes fast, learn fast and move on to great performance. You only get to be ‘new’ once,” says Banerjee.