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The View from the Ground Floor – Back to Work vs. Back to School

As the long Labor Day weekend beckons, many of us pause to reflect on our work, where we are in our careers, and how happy we are in our jobs.  I don’t know about you, but at this time of year I often experience vivid memories of what it was like to go back to school – new clothes, blank notebooks, endless possibilities for the year ahead.  In today’s post, our 0-1 year post college Marketing Specialists reflect on what it’s like to make the transition to the corporate environment for the first time.

Hello from the Ground Floor!

For the second installment in the series, we wanted to share some of our initial perspectives and first impressions of life in the working world.  We’re each going to take a paragraph or two to describe how the 9-5 life compares to our past experiences, and what we foresee for ourselves in the not-too-distant future.  And, as always, we want everyone to chime into the conversation.  If you’re just entering the workforce, what are your initial impressions?  What are you looking forward to?  What challenges do you expect?  And, if you’re more of a workforce veteran, what do you think of this influx of young new employees?  What do they need to work on, and what are they doing well?  As you’ll see in our perspectives below, anything is fair game.  Enjoy!

Jennifer Earls

Do you recall your first day at work after college?  I remember mine very well, because it was just a few days ago!  Sure, I have had part-time jobs and I have completed internships before, but this is not the same.  Starting my first job is actually a lot like when I studied abroad in Spain.  Once again, I’m the foreigner in a completely different world with its own set of norms and a new language.  Who wouldn’t be intimidated when their co-workers are carrying on full conversations solely in ambiguous acronyms, i.e., “FYI, I’ll need the RFP ASAP, preferably EOD, although the deadline is still TBD, OK?”  And, could somebody please translate the 401K plans into English?  Although entering the workplace has required many adjustments, e.g., going to bed at the same time as my parents again, I’m slowly getting acclimated to this new way of life.  And the smallest signs that I belong to this new place, such as wearing an office badge with my name and photo rather than the “temporary” one, receiving my first official business cards, and having fellow employees wave to me in the hallway thrill me because they remind me that I will find my place here.  I know that I have a lot to learn, but I also have plenty of room to grow.  As far as I can see, it is only up from here!

Kelley Kossakoski

When I entered college as a journalism major, I hoped that following the completion of my degree, I would become the next Natalie Jacobson (WCVB newscaster for 35 years and alumna of UNH – like me!) or Jackie MacMullan, (Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated columnist, and another UNH alum).   However, mid-way through my collegiate career, I realized that while I loved journalism, I did not want to actually be a journalist, and that instead, I wanted to work in marketing. Upon realizing this, I worried that I had made a critical mistake by choosing to specialize in something that I liked during college, and not specifically in a field that I wanted to enter following graduation.  I felt that I would be at a severe disadvantage by not having the words “marketing” on my diploma, and I wasn’t sure that employers were going to be interested in hiring someone who hadn’t taken classes that exclusively related to the responsibilities of a marketing job.

Happily, I have already found that having a major outside of your field doesn’t matter, so long as you have gained skills in college that are transferable, and that you have the capacity to gain experience and expertise successfully within a particular field.  Not only was I able to obtain a job in marketing, I am meeting people everyday in my department who, like me, did not major in marketing and also have worked in fields outside of marketing.  Within the marketing department here, there are former economists, sales representatives, writers, engineers, scientists, and financial analysts, and all of them have a greater base of knowledge and experience due to their varied educational backgrounds and previous jobs.  I’ve realized that you are not defined solely by what your title or major declares you to know, and instead, that it is what you learn along the way through your collegiate or professional journey and what you are passionate about, that defines what you do each day.

Greg Scott

Going from my first job (a company of 30 people) to my current job (a company of 3400 people) was, and still is, quite a culture shock.  Whether it’s wandering down the wrong cubicle aisle or finding out where the free coffee is, it seems that everyday there’s something different to learn about.  After a few weeks with the new job, here are few lessons that are helping me smooth out the job transition:
a)    Have a lot of conversations.  And by conversations, I mean listen.  I learned more about potential jobs from just listening than any website or job board.  Current and past employees can give you a point of view that you won’t get anywhere else.
b)    Be a people person.  You don’t have to be the life of the party (or meeting), but speak up when you can.  It can be hard to get involved at meetings and into the flow of conversation when you’re new, but at any company the employees are the most valuable resource for not only the bottom line but also for each other.  If you’re a little nervous or shy about speaking up (everyone is at times), ask a lot of questions and refer to back to the first suggestion.

What works for you?  Post a comment and let us know what you’ve done that has helped you enter the workforce or switch jobs early in your career.

Running on Empty

We’ve just published the results of our newest Harris Interactive survey.  In this poll of 1106 working adults, our goal was to understand how the current state of the economy is impacting the average worker.  Not surprisingly, many of these respondents indicated that they were cutting back on discretionary expenditures such as eating out and taking vacations in order to cope with the current state of the economy.  Given falling real estate prices, rising food costs, and continuing recessionary pressures, what was surprising to us was how predominantly the price of fuel emerged as a significant economic factor in people’s responses.

While fifty-nine percent of respondents indicated they were driving less overall, 68% of those who drive to and from work indicated that they weren’t changing their commuting habits.  Eighty percent of respondents indicated that their employers were not offering any special assistance to help them cope with rising fuel prices.  I discussed this topic in some detail with Mark Larson in an article for Workforce Management last Friday, including what employers can do to help.

Another interesting result of this survey was that people were no more or less likely to be looking for a new job than they have been in surveys we’ve conducted over the last few years.  So, while people may be feeling the stress of coping with rising costs, they’re not necessarily reacting by leaving to find a better job.  While this may be logical in a down economy, we likewise don’t see an increase in people hunkering down with their current employer to ride out the storm.

Take the poll on our home page and let us know how you’re managing through the current economy.

The B Side of Working from Home

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Sue Shellenberger explores the expanding use of monitoring technologies that allow employers to electronically snoop on their at home employees. Many employees are accepting this level of inspection (some would say intrusion) as a tradeoff for avoiding long commutes and high fuel costs while enjoying the freedom to work in their jammies. At one of my former employers, we had a large (1200+ employee) virtual workforce who worked from home essentially performing quality assurance work. They were paid for speed and quality, and were electronically monitored and audited to calculate what they were owed. As you might imagine, the highly productive workers welcomed this system, while the low performers didn’t. The company benefited from being able to pay very precisely for productivity.

This summer, my 20 year-old daughter has been working from home in an electronically monitored environment. The following are her thoughts about working on an electronic leash:

While I can understand a company’s desire to keep track of just how its virtual employees are spending their paid hours, the surveillance practices mentioned in the blog (some of which my employers use to track myself and other at-home workers) certainly don’t encourage a feeling of trust between employers and employees. Ensuring there is as little background noise as possible on a phone call is important; tracking key strokes to ensure everyone is being the busiest little bee they can stresses employees and reduces them to the quantity of their typing. While there are certainly workers who might need to be tracked, if responsible virtual workers don’t feel they can be trusted to do their work, they won’t trust their employers and they most likely won’t choose to truly commit to that position or, if they are temporary workers, to return. Perhaps these surveillance methods might be better utilized if they were targeted at workers who already seem to be underperforming, whose productivity is below-average or non-existent. Targeting all workers indiscriminately subjects them all to the indifferent eye of Big Brother.

Now excuse me, I have to schedule a bathroom break.

What’s your perspective on this trend? Is it a reasonable tradeoff for the freedom of working from home or is it overly intrusive?