Prep talk: How to smoothen the transition from college to job
Sending emails, maintaining client relations, an in-depth knowledge of necessary software; five professionals tell us what they wish they had known before starting out.Updated: Mar 30, 2018 18:01 IST
Outdated syllabi and the lack of practical learning are common complaints about the Indian higher education system. Yet the transition from college to work is often rough for other reasons too. From not knowing enough email etiquette to the inability to maintain client relations, the first few months of professional life can feel confusing and overwhelming, all for want of the right few details.
When there are no options, you learn on the job. With a little foresight, however, professionals with two to three years of work experience say that much of this initial discord, between what you know and what you are expected to do, can be avoided. Here’s some advice from marketing managers and coders to young business developers, about things they learnt the hard way.
The right balance
In college, you make friends. At the workplace, you network. Sachit Narain, who now works as a financial controller, started out as a relationship manager after getting a Bachelors degree in business administration from Symbiosis College in Pune. “All my work revolved around client servicing, setting up meetings, communication between teams. In college, you have informal relationships. At work, it is important to maintain the right balance of friendly and professional in your equations with your clients, even with something as simple as taking them out for dinner,” says Narain. “If I could do this all over again, I would join an entrepreneurship club to help develop such soft skills.”
Asking for help
“When you’re in college, your approach to projects is very self-centred,” says Bala Sai, 27, a brand strategist from Delhi with a masters from MICA, Ahmedabad. “You can procrastinate till the last minute, work to your own schedule.” This attitude can affects your work ethic if you’re not careful, he says. And this is crucial because in a workplace your ‘but I can do this later’ is connected to another team member’s deadline.
“You have to learn to work as a team. This also means you need to reach out for help when you need it, instead of relying on only yourself… and the internet,” Sai says”. In one of my earliest communication pitches, I was working very hard to crack how best to frame a communication strategy for the brand. Till a few days before the pitch, I was struggling. Then I turned to a senior sitting right next to me at work and within a few minutes, he had cleared up so many of my doubts.” You have to realise at work that you can ask for help, you can get perspective from others. Most co-workers and almost all seniors are very willing to help.
Aneesh Gupta completed his BCom from Delhi University and began work as a financial analyst two years later. “For the first two or three months, I would have to keep asking my seniors for help using Excel,” Gupta says. “Dealing with numbers requires an in-depth knowledge of tools like pivot tables and vlookup, to structure the data correctly and help infer data, something you usually don’t learn in college.” Another common struggle is written communication. “No matter what your job, chances are you will have to send an email on your very first day at work,” says Nanditha Sankar, 25, a management consultant with a business school in Chennai. “In my first few days, I had to correspond with professors and delegates from around the world, and I ended up making grammatical errors or using informal language more suited to text messages,” she says. “I realised how important it was to learn to write a proper email, and ended up taking an online course to brush up my skills.”
Connect the dots
“In college, you learn subjects and sometimes fail to sense their interconnectedness,” says Ishita Das, 28, a marketing manager based in Delhi. After her MBA from Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad in 2015, Das joined her company as a trainee. “One of my first projects was to conduct a survey of partner retailers and come up with strategies to retain loyalty. After over a week, I came up with many ideas - neon billboards, lower rates. After hearing me out, my project manager simply said, ‘All this is great, but this would cost over Rs 10 lakh per week’. No matter what you do, the role of budget, revenue and the game of numbers cannot be ignored. So pay attention to numbers, and see how to make the creative ideas practical too.”