In my last post, I wrote about good things new grads from college have in common with entrepreneurs. Today, I’d like to point out some of the areas that I think new grads could use some help as they enter companies in today’s environment. I will focus on new grads entering jobs that are most similar to an entrepreneur’s job, and those are the high-touch, customer facing jobs like sales and account management.
Here are some opportunities to help new grads improve.
1. Learning to listen.
A huge missing area for new grads in my experience. They can listen and repeat, but listening to process and learn is another story. Active listening means asking the right questions and then actually hearing the answers. I think this is in general an area of weakness.
2. Learning to be a natural professional speaker.
This doesn’t mean public speaking, although public speaking skills can dramatically help this. It means how you carry on a conversation in the office, on the phone, or at a trade show booth. How do you establish rhythm in the conversation learning when to speak and when to listen.
3. Connecting the dots between speaking and listening.
By far the hardest thing to do. In my experience new grads entering sales and account management roles are good at memorizing questions, collecting the data from the answers, and even regurgitating scripts and responses with information about the company or the transaction. The weakness lies in the finesse of putting it all together. Getting the timing just right with the right factoids, knowing when to just let them keep talking vs. when to redirect the conversation. Some call this classic selling skills… others have gone as far as to say that these are the same skills a good Improv Comedian must use.
4. Creating and leveraging a close professional network.
There is tremendous value to a good professional network. This isn’t a network of fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, not classmates, not old friends, not family, and not even co-workers. It may be clients. It may be counterparts at similar companies, maybe even competitive companies. Entrepreneurs and successful sales people thrive by creating the right network around them then knowing when and how to leverage it when needed. New grads haven’t yet developed this network. Perhaps some of those classmates and friends can become professional contacts, but not until you do some work to make the transition.
5. Learning to how to act in social settings through the eyes of their hosts.
Knowing how to cut your steak and sit at a formal dinner is handy and a good foundation, but to thrive and leverage social settings for professional benefit takes a different set of skills. New grads can benefit from knowing not just how to BE at a party, but how to THROW a party. This helps them understand WHO you sit beside, across from, away from . . . it helps them understand the reason behind the timing of events in an evening party . . . more than anything it teaches them how to put yourself in the user’s experience as you design the user’s experience. Having the ability to embrace this perspective can benefit anyone! From leading a conference call, a staff meeting, a tradeshow booth, or even a company picnic or happy hour.
6. Learning to be likable across demographics.
Another area of weakness for new grads can be simply becoming likable when around different types of people. Generational differences are the top of the list, but there are also gender difference issues, cultural issues and more than generally new grads are oblivious to! For instance, knowing that picking up your cell phone to text a buddy during a one-on-one face-to-face conversation may be ok with some, but horrific act to others. Offending the person on the other side of the table can have long-lasting negative consequences for a new grad attempting to make a mark, earn a promotion, or close a deal. Embracing this need to educate themselves on these matters is key.
If you haven’t detected it yet, I am excited about this opportunity to help young people entering the workforce bridge these gaps and accelerate themselves faster than their cohorts. Stay tuned for my ideas or drop me a note if you are excited about this as well. (johnsoncook at gmail dot com).