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5 Misconceptions New Grads Have About the Workforce

5 Misconceptions New Grads Have About the Workforce

For the majority of college graduates, the next step after marching across the stage is entering Corporate America. During college, we develop an idea of what we think the workforce will be like. During finals week, we dream about what it must be like to not have exams, homework, and research papers to complete. And, as we check our bank accounts, we no doubt wonder what it will be like to have a consistent paycheck coming in.

Life will indeed change in a big way once a graduate makes the transition from classroom to cubicle. But often, new graduates have misconceptions about exactly how things will change for them. Below, I share 5 of the most common workplace misconceptions new grads tend to have. Which of these applies to you?

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1. I have a great GPA, so finding a job will be no problem.

Your GPA is only one factor employers will be looking for when considering you for a position. With so many experienced professionals looking for the same jobs new grads are applying for, it is going to take more than good grades to impress perspective employers. Grades are important, but make sure you bring plenty of experience to the table as well. Although you may not have much full-time work experience as a new graduate, make sure your resume shows you have taken part in activities that demonstrate your strength in teamwork, project planning, and time management. These qualities will serve you well in your first job.

2. I will no longer need to live like a poor college student.

One of the best things about landing your first job is earning a consistent paycheck. For many new grads, they will be making more money than they have made at any other point in their lives once they land that first job. While this stability may afford you a few luxuries that were out of reach during the college years, proper budgeting and money management are necessary to set you up for a secure financial future. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, but do this only after bills and debt payments are taken care of each month.

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3. My coworkers will be excited to have a new energetic team member on board.

While your coworkers may welcome you with open arms, remember that you are entering a dynamic that you are unfamiliar with. As you seek to add value and learn more about your role, be mindful of the norms already at play in your workplace. Learn who your advocates are. Learn which individuals to steer clear of. Unfortunately, you may run into some colleagues who, for some reason, are threatened by change and therefore will not accept you right away. Do not be surprised; simply do a good job and work on building relationships with those who are willing to reciprocate.

4. If I work hard, I will advance quickly.

In college, hard work yields somewhat immediate gratification. You study hard, you are rewarded with an A on your test. If you pursue an office in a club, there’s a vote, and you find out whether you won or lost. You spend hours writing a research paper, and within a few weeks, you find out that you scored a passing grade.

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In the workforce, feedback is not always so swift. Sometimes, you will work on projects that you feel demonstrate the best work you are capable of only to receive little if any accolades from your boss. There will be moments where you are expected to go above and beyond on a project, only to do it again next week with seemingly little reward. When you work as part of a team, you will be expected to bring your best each week, not because there’s a reward in it for you, but because that’s everyone’s job. Although your coworkers may not pat you on the back for every effort you make, it is not going unnoticed. Consistency is rewarded in the workplace. Do your best on everything you put your hand to, even if it seems like no one is watching.

5. I’ve got my degree(s), so I am done with the classroom.

Today, continuing education and lifelong learning are the keys to success in the workplace. You may be done with your full-time studies, but there will certainly be many opportunities for you to return to the classroom during your working years. Many young professionals choose to attend night classes to obtain a graduate degree that will help them advance in their professional lives. But even if you have already obtained all the degrees you need, you may want to earn a professional certification such as Project Management Professional (PMP) or another certification specific to your industry. In order to obtain these valuable designations, employees often attend classroom trainings or “bootcamps” in addition to studying many hours on their own.

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The classroom is a great place to learn practical skills, network with professional peers, and gain deeper knowledge of your job function. Do not shy away from the classroom after graduation. Always be searching for opportunities to further your education, whether it’s in pursuance of a degree or some other type of education.

Featured photo credit: Konstantin Chagin via media.lifehack.org

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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