Congratulations to the many college graduates out there celebrating their academic accomplishments and framing those hard-earned diplomas!  My niece just graduated this past weekend, and seeing the river of graduates flowing through campus in their caps and gowns, some dressed so beautifully underneath to commemorate the formality of the occasion, and some, clearly more focused on an upcoming beach vacation, made me think:  How are these young adults preparing for their debut into their professional career? Are they equipped with the knowledge to maximize their professional wardrobe options within budget?  Do they know their business etiquette?  Are they confident walking into a professional setting as the new employee?

I’ve no doubt their college education has prepared them well in terms of technical skills and the motivation to learn “on your feet” adjusting as needed to tackle projects and acclimate to the team successfully.

But I do wonder if graduates leave college feeling confident about their professional image:

Do they look professional in their industry in terms of clothing, shoes, hosiery, jewelry and personal grooming?

Do they feel confident when they enter a meeting or greet a client for the first time?

Is the message they are send non-verbally supporting the message they articulate verbally?

In other words, is the talented, motivated and very capable college graduate on the inside reflecting a professional, confident and trust worthy employee on the outside?

More so than your technical or academic skills, your “soft skills” or interpersonal skills set you apart from your peers.  Here are 3 tips for graduates keen to “get it right” and step off on that very important “right foot” at work.

1).  Put your phone away when you arrive at the office.  You are the new employee.  There is nothing more important than connecting with your boss, your team and your responsibilities to each. By putting your phone down, you put your eyes up and engage people with genuine interest. You will make them feel important and be heard.  You will also not miss any points made, big or small.  You will appear trustworthy, the most coveted quality of any team member.

2).  Ask, ask, ask when you don’t know, aren’t sure, are uncomfortable or need support.  By virtue of asking, you will gain clear direction, establish a clear goal, note any obstacles or limitations, know where to find appropriate resources and be ready to take action steps to achieve that goal.  Just remember to listen actively and fully in exchange!

3).  When in doubt, dress conservatively.  It’s all in the details and your first 7 seconds is when new people are trying to get a “read” on you.  Get your professional wardrobe squared away so you keep the door open to communicate and earn the respect of others.  Get it wrong, and you’ll end up distracting vs engaging and your boss will think twice before putting you at the head of the line.

You are representing your company every minute you are at work.  Your Human Resource specialist should supply you with the organization’s dress code policy.  Get to know it, right down to acceptable hair lengths, jewelry and personal art e.g. tattoos.  Your boss is another great resource and can help you with the nuances of what “casual Friday” means for your office.

Remember – it’s all in the details. Observe and learn your company culture.  Talk with your peers and spend double the time listening than talking. Put yourself in a strong position and set the example from Day One.  Your boss will notice!

Stay tuned for more tips as I continue my College Graduate series blogs this summer.  Congratulations!  Go forth, and conquer!