Thursday 24 March 2016

10 tips to prepare for the world of work

It’s all very well knowing what career you want and what you need to study to get there. At the same time, there are many other ways of preparing for the world of work that you’ll also have to pay attention to if you want to give yourself the best chance of success.

Develop an open and inquiring mind

This is one of the most important things to learn. By keeping an open mind and always asking questions you’ll be able to develop the right kind of understanding of any topic or task that you’ll need to tackle in your career. It will ensure that you always keep learning, developing and improving.

Learn to work to deadlines

One of the most difficult things to adjust to when you first start working is the constant deadlines and the pressure they create. At most you will be used to essay and assignment deadlines, which were presented in more or less a tightly ordered structure. In the workplace, however, things can be more chaotic, with many more deadlines constantly calling for your attention. You need to develop a resilience to this pressure.

Learn time management

Being able to successfully manage your time is one of the most valuable things you will ever learn to do. Doing well in your career will require you to be able to juggle many demands, cope with diverse pressures and pay attention to a multitude of details – all at the same time. The only way to do this successfully is to learn time management. It might not be a bad idea to take a short course in this.

Get into productive habits

Part of managing your time successfully is developing the right habits – so that productive behaviours become an automatic part of the way you work. Learn which things distract you from working and what enhances your focus and effectiveness. You might find that an early morning meditation is the best way to start the day, or that taking a short walk at lunch re-energises you. Turn these activities into habits.

Learn how to balance work with the rest of your life

Tertiary studies are a step up from school. Everything seems busier and your workload is definitely heavier. In the same way, the workplace is an even more demanding environment. One thing is for sure: you’re only going to get busier from now on.

This makes it very important to learn how to balance your work schedule with the other aspects of your life. Know what your priorities are, and make sure that you plan your days in such a way that you can pay attention to all the important facets of your life.

Know how to present the right appearance

It’s true that first impressions count, but the lasting impression you make is also important. So you need to develop the right way of presenting yourself, which is appropriate to the career you wish to follow.

Different careers have different norms, ways of behaviour, levels of formality and degrees of conservativeness. Find out what these are for the career you want and develop them in yourself so that they become second nature. For example, a banker is expected to be sincere, serious and prudent – so if this is your intended career, that is the image you need to learn to project.

Know your subject

This may seem like an obvious thing to say – however, it’s easy to forget that much of what we learn in our studies needs to become lifetime knowledge, when all we are concentrating on in the moment is the next exam. Instead, focus on accumulating a body of knowledge about the subject of your career, and try to become an expert in it.

Develop the confidence to take initiative

Allied to knowing your subject is the confidence to present your knowledge. Too many people know a lot, but are hesitant to voice their opinions or demonstrate too much competency in the workplace. There are different reasons for this.

You need to have the confidence in your knowledge and ability to work independently, without having to be told what to do all the time. Don’t be shy about showing your knowledge and ability – without being overconfident or arrogant.

Have a clear career path

For some people this will be really easy; for others it will take quite a bit of thought effort. Of course certain careers have more defined paths than others – for instance, someone wanting to become an advocate will have to follow clear steps to get there. With other careers you may have to define your career path for yourself. The trick is to decide where you want to end up, and plot your path back from there. That way it will be easier to see a clear route towards your goal.

Use as much technology as you can

Technology is already defining almost every aspect of the workplace, and this is only going to continue, at ever-increasing pace. Technology not only provides us with work tools; it also influences the ways in which we work and our behaviour in the workplace. This makes it very important to become comfortable with technology and to try and keep up with it as much as possible.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)

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