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The unwritten rules for achieving success at work

As we continue to deal with the recession, post-secondary graduates will have their work cut out for them when it comes to transitioning from college and university into the workforce.

Not only will this year’s grads be competing for fewer jobs, they’ll face fierce competition from more experienced candidates who have been recently laid off. In addition, young grads will have to overcome tough stereotypes that often make employers skeptical of hiring them.

“Unfortunately, the very qualities that employers look for are the qualities they find lacking in many new graduates. Employers say new grads lack a handful of key skills, such as communication, writing, teamwork, presentation and interpersonal skills,” says Sandra Naiman, a corporate insider and author of the recently released book The High Achiever’s Secret Codebook.

The unwritten rules

In her book, Sandra Naiman reveals the unwritten rules for achieving success at work. The following tips outline how Naiman believes a young grad can get his or her career off to a strong start, particularly during tough times in the job market.

  • It’s who you know and what you know. Networking is critical to finding a job, but you must be able to speak to what is going on in any market or industry in general, and address how that impacts a company in particular. Graduates who can pinpoint how their skills are relevant to current needs have a definite edge.
  • It’s what you know and how you show it. While it is important to be competent in your field, employers are also looking for a strong work ethic and qualities such as communication, presentation and teamwork skills. Demonstrate these in the way you talk about yourself and conduct your job search.
  • Everything you do is a sample of your work and work ethic. Your resume, letters and e-mails should be perfect. Follow up in a timely fashion and keep all commitments. Demonstrate an attitude of collaboration and focus on how you can contribute, as opposed to what you want to gain.
  • Getting the job is only the beginning. The rules in the work world are quite different than those of an academic environment, and usually unspoken. Every company has its own culture and succeeding in a job will depend on how well you learn and conform to the unwritten rules.
  • Enter slowly and observe carefully. Begin your new job knowing that you have a lot to learn and avoid starting off in the wrong direction. Watch how people conduct themselves, communicate and behave at meetings. Ask questions and get feedback. Act as though you have yet to win your boss and co-workers over — because you do!
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