Business Today

Off the Starting Block

Shamni Pande        Print Edition: Apr 15, 2012

This is the season when loads of students from engineering colleges and business schools gear up to join the corporate rat race. As is the tradition in this country, most of them have had one long, uninterrupted stretch of education, without any forays into employment.

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Shamni Pande
Shamni Pande
They are absolutely new to work environments - barring their mini sojourn as interns. Most companies have induction exercises for newbies, and also give them a good three to six months to settle down, during which they are put through their paces that often involve short stints in different departments.

"There are some amazing advantages to being a rookie that new employees should milk while they can," says J.D. Schramm, who teaches communications at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, in his Harvard Business Review blog. But before the blush fades, here are some handy tips to help you start off on a firm footing. They have been culled from conversations with several HR heads as well as rising stars within companies.

Vital Connections:
You will never have it this good later. Most colleagues will initially let their guard down to welcome you into the family. This is the best time for you to get to know the system and the real extent of each person's involvement in the work, as well as the mood of the core group. Never be afraid to ask questions of your seniors, especially the CEO or the Managing Director, and in case of family-owned businesses, the promoter. The shutters will come down soon enough later, and your colleagues may withhold key insights from you for competitive advantage. Besides, CEOs often seek change, but the system bogs them down in routine. You could be the vital element that enables the CEO to experiment with change.

Enthusiasm Is Infectious: Yes, everyone expects boundless enthusiasm from new employees. Use this to your advantage. Pick up threads of what is being sought, and suggest new ideas and projects. But not before you have done your bit of due diligence and homework. If you are simply impassioned, but are unwilling to put in what it takes, people may quickly get into the habit of dismissing your views. A sense of timing also helps.

No Smart Alecks, Please: You are allowed liberties for some time. People will make allowances too. But that does not mean that those around you do not have antennas of their own. Just as you are sizing them up, remember they are busy observing you closely as well.

Do Not Shrug off Dirty Jobs: Chances are high, that as a newcomer, you will be tested with some tough assignments. Be prepared to take them on. Says K. Ramkumar, Executive Director at ICICI Bank: "I avoid recruiting youngsters who behave like they are God's gift to mankind." He constantly seeks young talent that is ready to roll with the punches. Companies, even those from the US, are stretching themselves to increase their presence in the hinterland. Should you be sent there too, you should never display reluctance. Many great copy writers in agencies and even specialists have done the paces as coffee assistants and worse.

Following these broad guidelines should make your entry more meaningful and, hopefully, you will be able to use your lack of 'complete' knowledge to your advantage.

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