Get Ready to Navigate the Office

Entering the real work world can be a startling experience for new college grads and for college students working an internship or part-time. They may have technical knowledge about their area, but are they confident going in to an office? Hiring companies look for not only technical skills and abilities, but also the softer skills needed to get along and build relationships.

Soft skills are commonly thought of as how to communicate, how to dress, how to act at meals, and how to network properly. While students have been social and probably done many group projects, there are still skills to be built to make sure they know the basics of getting along and being productive.

For today’s graduates, they were in college during COVID and they may have been remote or distance workers. Even as students, many had virtual classes where they didn’t need to relate personally to their counterparts, and subsequently have not built the skills needed to be part of, or lead, teams at work.

One basic needed skill is emailing. They need to recognize messages, and commit to time deadlines. (No paper extensions are given in the work world.) Another big topic is determining what to wear. (What actually is business casual?) Students need to learn how to formally address someone, not just write “hey, what’s up.”

Networking is another needed skill. Knowing how to mingle and make small talk can help build relationships in business. Another relationship building activity is the business meal. For too many students, manners and meal etiquette are often lacking. Knowing how to be at a business meal means knowing what to order (and not to order), how to contribute to the conversation, and how to watch for clues from business leaders.

The real world awaits. Go get it!

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: How comfortable do they feel entering a professional work environment? What are their top concerns and questions?
  2. Based on the topics posed by the students, divide students into teams and have teams address training for that topic.
  3. Example: Have students practice professional email skills by writing a memo to a boss and a project delay.
  4. Example: Have students determine a wardrobe of clothing that can be worn in an office or out to a business event.
  5. Example: Have students prepare and deliver a professional-level presentation.
  6. Example: Design a network event and have students mingle together as if at the event.
  7. Example: How to dress and travel for business.
  8. INSTRUCTORS: Talk with colleagues or career services on hosting networking and business dinners for students.

Source: Ellis, L. (16 June 2023). New grads have no idea how to behave in the office. Help is on the way. Wall Street Journal.

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