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How to leap from varsity to working world

When you start work, skills such as speaking well and growing your brand come into play

So you think you are ready for the workplace? You have a degree, a few sharp outfits in the wardrobe and a ton of confidence.

Good. But get this - what is important to employers is not your grades per se. What they are looking for is communication, teamwork and application skills.

Unlearn what you have learnt as you leap from the world of school to the world of work.

TALK TO PEOPLE

You are expected to articulate your ideas and plans clearly to your boss and colleagues. Do not hide behind e-mails.

Instead, speak to people about your thoughts, asking for clarification and feedback.

Listen and learn.

FIND A MENTOR

If your company does not have a buddy system, observe which seniors you can approach to be a mentor - a chat over coffee for this request is a good idea.

Over time, the mentor should be able to guide you into thinking through issues, understand more deeply any complexities involved and guide you towards critical thinking.

PLAY BALL

So, you aced tests in university and emerged valedictorian.

But day one on the job is when everything restarts. Your past on paper will not matter as much as your aptitude and attitude.

Employers frown upon a job seeker who sends out vibes like, "I know what I am doing, you don't". Rather, be that person who considers his colleagues' views when making a case for a matter.

KEEP ON LEARNING

Your degree becomes redundant over time. With a rapidly changing economy, the skills you have now could be outdated in a few years.

Learning must not end. Period.

Keep adapting and educating yourself on the job to develop in-demand skills to be employable for the long term.

DEVELOP A PERSONAL BRAND

Throughout your education, you have slogged towards earning a degree. Now, you are one of countless others who have one. What else can you offer?

Cultivate a personal brand that makes you stand out from others.

Ask your manager for assignments that will demonstrate the competencies you want as part of your brand.

Most managers welcome such a request, and you can use the experience to buff up your profile.

HAVE A PLAN B

And a plan C, D, E and beyond.

With few exceptions, most workers' first job will not be their last. Learn how to navigate change, get outside your comfort zone and have a plan B.

Today's professionals expect to work in as many as nine organisations throughout their career.

So just when you have everything figured out, you will likely have to start over again.

Just like at graduation.

This article was contributed by Right Management (www.rightmanagement.sg), the global career experts within United States-listed HR consulting firm, ManpowerGroup

Say it right

Right Management studies show that five elements of communication are as essential in doing well in an interview as on the job.

BE CONCISE

Let's say your senior colleague tells you to check on a complaint. Jot down a short summary of what happened and give your findings. Nothing is more off-putting than a meandering answer, which wastes the listener's time.

BE THOROUGH

Comb through the complaint - yes, each e-mail in the long conversation thread - before drawing conclusions. You don't want to have to backtrack after talking to your senior.

BE LOGICAL IN FLOW

In your verbal report, say how the complaint happened, what the customer or client is asking for or expects, and suggest a win-win solution.

MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT

It tells your senior that you respect him with undivided attention, increasing the sense of rapport.

However, good eye contact does not have to be constant as no one wants to feel stared at. But it should be interrupted only occasionally and briefly.

BE CLEAR

Do not mumble. It makes people think you don't care if they hear what you are saying, and they will soon stop trying.

If you lack confidence, remedy this. Record your speech on a smartphone and ask a friend or a family member to say where you were unclear. Note their points and rerecord.

Practice makes perfect and, over time, you will be clear, confident and natural in your communication.

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