New Grads Have No Idea How to Behave in the Office. Help Is on the Way.
Kanebridge News
Share Button

New Grads Have No Idea How to Behave in the Office. Help Is on the Way.

As the Class of 2023 enters the workforce, employers are seeing a lack of the skills necessary to navigate the office. The solution: instruction on how to send an email, the right way to buttonhole the boss and what not to wear.

By LINDSAY ELLIS
Mon, Jun 19, 2023 8:42amGrey Clock 5 min

Recent graduates might be great at accounting or coding, but they need a little help when it comes to dinner parties and dress codes.

Many members of the class of 2023 were freshmen in college in the spring of 2020, when campuses shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They spent the rest of their college years partially in virtual mode with hybrid internships and virtual classes. Students didn’t learn some of the so-called soft skills they might have in the past by osmosis on the job, from mentors and by practicing on campus.

To address deficiencies in everything from elevator chitchat to presentation skills, companies, universities and recruiters are coming up with ways to train new hires and give them clear advice. They are eating it up.

Recent graduate Joslynn Odom had her first hybrid internship after her junior year and found working in person to be draining thanks to wearing professional attire and staying energetic consistently. It made her realise that she needed to sharpen her communication and networking skills.

Programming arranged by her college, Miami University in Ohio, has since helped. Just before graduation she attended an etiquette dinner where she learned to follow the lead of more senior leaders over dinner: Eat at their pace, discuss neutral topics and avoid personal questions. When buttering bread, it is best to put a slab on one’s own bread plate before applying it to a roll, and when cutting food, holding the fork hump-side up is best, she said.

“Knowing that, I feel more confident,” she said.

William Lopez-Gudiel, 23 years old, interned last year for Warner Bros. Discovery and found a presentation on office dynamics especially helpful. It covered dress codes, navigating interpersonal relationships and what working in person is like, he said.

The company said it has offered similar guidance in the past. Some of it felt like common sense to Lopez-Gudiel, who graduated in December from George Mason University and is a self-described extrovert.

But Lopez-Gudiel ultimately appreciated the information, realising that the pandemic may have limited what soft skills he might have learned at past work experiences. He will be working at the company full time as a software developer.

Many soon-to-be graduates are itching to get rid of Zoom and work face-to-face with co-workers where their interpersonal skills will be quickly tested. In an April survey of about 700 Class of 2023 graduates from the virtual student-health company TimelyCare, 53% said they wanted a fully in-person work environment, while 21% said they wanted to be fully remote.

Graduates’ disrupted college experience might mean they struggle with the basics reading colleagues’ cues or navigating a meeting, said Heidi Brooks, a senior lecturer in organizational behavior at Yale University’s School of Management. In class, when students didn’t have cameras on, that was harder to determine.

New hires will need to learn “those nuances of, how do you actually create enough connection, visibility, ability to manoeuvre,” she said.

The missing piece for young professionals who have graduated since 2020, in fact, has been no real proximity to mentorship and leadership, recruiters say.

“This is so much more important today,” said Sandy Torchia, vice chair of talent and culture at KPMG, whose full-time hires this summer and fall will go to the firm’s training facility in Florida where they’ll get new presentation training.

They’ll practice scenarios involving conflict within teams, plus the basics of talking in person—as simple as how to introduce yourself to a client or colleague. Key tips include maintaining eye contact, taking pauses and avoiding jargon. It is also best to listen carefully to others, and to adjust your introduction to highlight pieces of your background that will be most interesting to them.

The company has found that some young professionals are stiff, talk too fast, or rely too much on filler words like “um,” as they presented. Some of the employees said they wanted to feel more comfortable, too.

Allan Rubio, 21 years old was a freshman at Dartmouth College in the spring of 2020. Online classes continued all through his sophomore year, which Rubio completed from his family’s home in Bangkok. Course sessions stretched to 11 p.m. or sometimes 2 a.m. local time, he said.

Professors were far more flexible on deadlines during the pandemic, amenable to extensions if students asked, he said. When Rubio had an in-person internship last summer, he realised his manager, team or client depended on him meeting deadlines.

Presentation skills are also something Rubio needs to learn better, he said. He had presented virtually in academic classes, and often kept a few thoughts and scripted language in a Notes file on screen—or on a separate device nearby. Once on a video call, he said, he blamed an internet delay while he stopped talking mid sentence and collected his thoughts.

None of those aids could help him through presenting in-person on stage at a hackathon on campus. It was more difficult than he expected, he said.

Since then Rubio, who graduated this month, has rehearsed extensively before live presentations. He lays out key points and slims a longer script into bullet points before memorising key areas.

Though new hires are digital natives, today’s graduates’ professional email skills need improvement, said Jialan Wang, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Many won’t acknowledge important messages but will expect a response from professors immediately, even over holidays, she said.

Michigan State University’s business-school career centre has urged companies to be explicit about what students should expect at work, to over-communicate details about how a first day will play out, what to wear and what people typically do for lunch.

The school last year began requiring many business students to take classes on soft skills in the workplace, after observing that students are more awkward and unsure when they network than they used to be, said Marla McGraw, director of career management.

The program goes step by step through an in-person networking conversation. In one handout, the centre instructs students to introduce themselves by their first and last name. “STOP! Let them tell you their name,” it reads.

Later it urges the students to share that they are interested in hearing about opportunities at the company and share that they follow the company closely, are familiar with its products or services or know someone who interned there, among other options.

“STOP! Pause for only a few seconds to see if they offer any questions or input on your above comments. They may ask you for your resume.”

Students should keep an eye out for signs that a person is trying to end a conversation, McGraw added. Someone might begin to gather their things, or look around the room, signalling they need to talk to another person. Often, one can facilitate a smooth exit by saying, “Well, thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure.”

Professional-services firms PricewaterhouseCoopers and Protiviti have had to tell some young workers what types of clothes are appropriate, including for client-site visits.

Many people are dressing less formally, said Scott Redfearn, Protiviti’s executive vice president of global human resources.

Now the company defines what it means by business casual—including slacks, tailored denim, sport jackets, dresses, skirts, collared shirts, blouses, sweaters and professional footwear—and explains why it’s important to maintain a serious professional image. The company also relays that when it is appropriate to wear bluejeans, darker hues without rips are best, he said.

The company has tried to be proactive when it shares broad guidance about attire, but when a worker shows up in athleisure or flip-flops, that is best handled with a one-on-one conversation.

“Working hybrid brings a lot more decisions to the individual employee,” Redfearn said.

During the pandemic, the firm extended its onboarding process to a series of small-group virtual meetings that took place over a full year. One topic includes making conversation as a social skill, he said. It includes an improv-based public-speaking workshop, where in one prompt, participants need to describe themselves in three words quickly, going with their first impulse. The company said the sessions help workers to find their authentic communication styles.

Protiviti hosts social gatherings around in-person meetings so that workers can practice.

Redfearn said he gives a pep talk to new graduates, urging them to introduce themselves around the office, stick their hand out and smile. Another tip: Have a prepared question ready to ask if needed.

—Ray A. Smith contributed to this article.



MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

Related Stories
Lifestyle
Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?
By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS 28/05/2024
Lifestyle
How an Ex-Teacher Turned a Tiny Pension Into a Giant-Killer
By MATT WIRZ 27/05/2024
Lifestyle
The Problem With Behavioural Nudges
By Evan Polman and Sam J. Maglio 27/05/2024
Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).

Postmortem

People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

Related Stories
Money
Boost for World Economy as U.S., Eurozone Accelerate in Tandem
By JOSHUA KIRBY 25/05/2024
Lifestyle
How an Ex-Teacher Turned a Tiny Pension Into a Giant-Killer
By MATT WIRZ 27/05/2024
Money
Young Australians cut back on essentials while Baby Boomers spend freely
By Bronwyn Allen 24/05/2024
0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop