Advice for College Graduates

Our youngest son is entering his final year of college this fall, and he’s starting to ask for advice about the world of work.  There’s a lot to learn in any new industry, company or role, but some advice is timeless, regardless of the new job you’re starting (whether you’re 22 or 52, I suppose).  Here are the tips I provided to Matt as he starts to think about interviewing with companies this fall:

  • Learn the business. Demonstrate knowledge of how the firm makes money, the customers, products, services, competition and industry
  • Treat EVERYONE with respect – from the CEO to the janitor – it will get noticed
  • Do MORE than what is expected of you – but also ask for more – look around for “what else needs to be done” and volunteer
  • Early on, keep your mouth shut and your ears open
  • Dress like the level above you – you can never be over-dressed at work
  • Ask a lot of questions, but don’t be annoying about it
  • Leave when (or after) your boss – never before – show you’re willing to work hard
  • Know and perform the behaviors that your boss rewards… and avoid the ones he punishes (study your boss)
  • Never drink too much at a company function – ever
  • Learn your boss and co-worker’s moods – they’re expecting you to adapt to them, not the other way around
  • Don’t be a know-it-all, and don’t talk a lot about what you did in college or previous jobs because nobody cares
  • Pay close attention to the norms in the company – how people do things, talk, etc, and then adapt to fit in
  • Never take anything home from work that isn’t yours – people will notice
  • Try never to engage in gossip about other people in the office – this is a big one.  Just deflect… don’t traffic in “I know, can you believe her?” talk
  • Bring a positive attitude and a good mood to work every day – be someone others want to be around
  • Don’t ask for more $, promotions, etc. for at least a year – instead, ask for more work so you can expand your skill and experience set