Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, January 31 edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
Early this month, my older daughter, Audie, began her first paying, post-college-graduation job. While she has had a number of paid and unpaid jobs during the summer or as a student assistant or an intern (more on those experiences shortly!), this is her first “real job.”
Although she has been on the job only for a few weeks, she is off to a great start, both in terms of her happiness and performance. While a great start does not always lead to longer-term success, it does increase the likelihood of such success and has a significant impact on employee retention. Therefore, it is in the best interest of both the employee and the employer to do things that promote a good start.
There are a number of things Audie did to prepare herself for her entry into the “real working world,” and it parallels with much of the advice and requirements we provide our students in the Hull College of Business.
At Hull, all of our students are required to work at an internship to graduate. While these internships can often lead to full-time employment with the internship company, the value goes well beyond that. Internships expose students to the “world of work.”
While it is important for students to develop competence and expertise during their internship, it is more important that they learn the expectations of a work environment. They learn to arrive at work on time and ready to perform. They learn how to comport themselves in the work environment and how to communicate professionally, both face-to-face and electronically. While we build such professional development into our programming at Hull, students experience it more realistically in the internship environment.
Audie is somewhat unique in that she has been preparing for her first job for a number of years. While still in high school, she worked unpaid internships each summer, to both gain experience in her potential field and learn how people work. She continued to do this throughout her college years as a student assistant and an intern.
While each workplace has its own nuances, she had built up a strong experience base of working in different environments with different people. While all new workers might not be able to gain the depth of experience that Audie garnered, it is essential to gain some prior experience to improve the likelihood of success when entering the work world. Internships, co-ops and volunteer work are a number of experiences that will enhance a new worker’s start.
While the new worker’s experience plays a significant role in early success, there are many things employers can do to promote a good start. I have been particularly impressed with a number of things Audie’s employer has done to allow her to hit the ground running.
The good things actually started during the job interview process. Before being offered her position, Audie was interviewed by three members of the employer team, each higher up in the management of the company. While they all were interested in her capabilities, she sensed that throughout the process, there was an increasing emphasis on how well she fit with the culture of the organization. Such an emphasis on cultural fit benefits both the employer and employee and increases the likelihood of both short- and long-term success.
Before Audie reported for her first day of work, her supervisor kept an open line of communication with her and provided regular updates on what to expect in her first weeks. Audie found out that she was going to be a member of a team that would first be going through training together and then would be working together.
There are a number of good things to unpack here. First, Audie’s mind was at ease in that she knew what was going to take place in the early going. This reduced her anxiety, making her better ready to perform. Next, she found out that she was going to be on a team with a group of others of similar age and experience. This also gave her relief that she was not going to begin this new adventure alone. Finally, starting off with training, related to both the skills related to her job and the norms of the organization, put her on the right track from day one.
Given the above preparation, Audie was ready to get to work, but because her job is in sales, there is additional pressure to perform. Again, her employer has put a number of things in place to help her succeed. In addition to her base salary, there are commissions and bonuses available. However, those commissions and bonuses are based not only on her individual performance but also on the performance of her team. This certainly encourages a nice blend of collaboration and competition.
Also, the metrics on which she is evaluated is not limited to just the sales she makes. She is also evaluated daily on her efforts (e.g., volume of incoming and outgoing calls and emails). Therefore, she is judged not just on her outcomes, but also on her inputs. This will encourage her to continue working hard even when the sales are not coming. But the more effort she puts in will ultimately lead to more sales.
Finally, her supervisor has been a consistently strong mentor to everyone on the team during these early weeks. He has consistently provided support and encouragement for all of the new workers.
While I am very proud of Audie and how well her new job has started, her early success has nothing to do with luck. Rather the combination of her preparation and her employer’s vested interest in her success has made it happen. Whether you are embarking on a new career or an employer hoping to retain your talent, I hope Audie’s story provides you insight into making good things happen for the employee and the company.