Graduate Advice – Preparing to start your graduate job

Jane Sunley CEO of PurpleCubed and author of 'It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer' gives some valuable graduate advice on preparing to start your graduate job

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It makes sense to get yourself into the best possible state of mind and state of readiness before you start a new role. It will set you up to make a good start and to ‘be the best you can be’ at this particular time.

If circumstances allow, take a break between jobs; even if it’s only a few days. This will provide an opportunity to clear your head, let go any ‘baggage’ from the old job and think about the new one. It might sound cheesy but visualising things going well has a lot going for it. Back to good old Henry Ford: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”.

Before you start, check out the new company / department on line – find out as much as you can about:

  • Culture
  • People
  • Products and services
  • Clients and associations
  • Anything else you can find

If necessary, take the opportunity to brush up on your skills and do some reading…

If you’re joining a service organisation, check out their offering yourself, if feasible check out their competitors. Being in the know will help you on your way to being successful. Ask your networks what they know and who they know – they might have a good contact for you. Keep it low key – no one wants a high maintenance new ‘friend’ or someone who turns up on day one as a bit of a know-it-all – store the information for use at the appropriate time in an appropriate way.

You could offer to go into the work place for an hour or so to meet people before you start. My company offers new starters the option to do this and it certainly breaks the ice; making things easier on day one – especially if it’s possible to meet people beforehand in a social context. They might not want you to do this, but there’s no harm in suggesting it via email, explaining why you suggested it.

If you need to, organise reliable childcare and / or make sure you and your partner have worked out who’s doing what so you’re not left panicking. This will help you to separate out your work time with your home life, unless you find a company who will provide childcare facilities or allow children at work and they are in the minority.

Eat healthily and get enough sleep. New job; new start on the exercise front? Well, it’s a thought…

Make sure you know when, where and who to report to on day one.

Check out transport options and if possible test out your journey at the time you’ll be travelling to work. Arrive early – 9am start means arrive at 8.50 so as to get organised and ready for the day. Remember you’re trying to make a good impression. And if you’re going to be late – call them and say so: put the numbers in your phone so you have them to hand.

Make sure you take the following with you on day one:

  •  Notebook (hard-backed and professional looking) and pen (smart and definitely unchewed!) or other means of recording key points and looking as though you’re serious and want to learn / do well.
  • Your bank details
  • Work permit / copy of passport if required
  • National insurance / social security number
  • If the company is switched on and has sent out your terms and conditions and / or other info take that too – preferably in a tidy file or folder i.e. not scrunched up in the bottom of your bag (it happens!)

Remember – first impressions count…

Make sure you’re equipped with appropriate work wear; you can always ‘trade down’ by removing a tie / jacket or rolling up your sleeves – it’s very difficult to trade up though. So, if in doubt go for the smart look. Decide what you’re going to wear the night before, make sure it’s clean and pressed and lay it out ready to step into in the morning. Clean your shoes. This all helps to keep things moving calmly along rather than having a mini-crisis because a button is missing from your favourite shirt.

Less really is more – avoid strong aftershave or perfume, heavy make-up including false eyelashes, blingy nails, keep accessories and jewellery simple and classic.

Pack your bag ready to go. Make it easy on yourself that way you can put your energy into getting there and thinking about what the day has in store for you.

Stay off the garlic, curry, alcohol, beans the night before – anything that will make your tummy rumble or taint your breath. And if you’re a smoker stock up on mints – some workplaces are really anti-smoking so be careful not to go in there wearing ‘Eau de Ashtray’.

Go to bed early!
Have a good breakfast – preferably including protein and slow release carbs to give you energy. Breakfast is not for wimps – many studies prove that those who eat a good breakfast are:

Less:                    More:
Tired                     Energetic with more stamina
Irritable                  Positive
Restless                Able to solve problems

About nerves:
Nerves or excitement? It’s the same physical reaction – you’ll need to choose to allow your nervous energy to work for you not against you. Remember they picked you – go out and show them they made the right choice.

On the way to work, read the newspaper so you’re informed. Reading is an excellent way to broaden the mind and the thinking process so use the journey time to improve your knowledge – unless you’re driving of course; in which case listen to the news on the radio.

By now you might be feeling like a first grade boy-scout – very virtuous. Remember you owe it to yourself to be the best ‘you’ you can be and to make the best effort to impress on day one.

If you only do three things:

1.    Do your homework – get informed, stay informed
2.    Be as prepared as possible – make it easy on yourself
3.    Feel good about yourself and your new challenge; use your nervous energy to work for you.

And finally Good luck..

About the author
Jane Sunley is an experienced employment expert who works with universities, charities, schools and corporates here in the UK to help people find the jobs they love and keep them. Her latest book is essential reading for anyone in the beginning, middle and even the end of their careers as it is never too late to affirm good habits for employability even in a difficult jobs market. It’s genuinely inspirational

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