Professionalism is Habit-Forming: Preparing as an Undergrad

Posted by Jenny Dieterle on 3/31/15 9:00 AM

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BeyoncemugThe title of this blog post might seem silly. Why is anyone in college, other than to prepare for a professional career? True, college is the place to learn the background, skills, and specific techniques needed to successfully execute your chosen career. However, many aspects of professional life aren’t directly taught in the classroom, but rather encouraged and fostered as good habits. In this post, I want to highlight those secondary skills that can really help you succeed in the workplace, especially if put into action from Day 1.

Show up, and be present also.
Again, this might seem silly: if you don’t show up to work, you’ll get fired pretty quickly. But the consequences aren’t the same in all undergraduate classes. Professors for larger classes, like lectures, don’t have the time or ability to take attendance and make each student responsible for showing up. It’s very tempting to skip class until there is an exam or large assignment due, but try to stick to your schedule. If you can’t make it to your 9 am lecture, it might be a hard adjustment when you’re expected to show up to an office at that time instead.

When you’re in class, no matter how boring the subject may seem, try your best to pay attention. This habit will be important when you’re in a meeting with an important client and she mentions something in passing that turns out to be pivotal in your project.

Be proactive.
Office hours are a student’s secret weapon to getting a better grade in a course. Professors are often required to offer this time for students to chat about grades, progress in the course, or other relevant topics. Because it shows initiative on the student’s part, professors often take notice and make note of the desire to do well, sometimes rewarding you with extra credit or one-on-one counseling on how to do better on assignments. Being proactive in college can have a direct effect on your performance, but the experience itself can also help you understand that a leader (such as your future boss) is more apt to help you succeed when he or she can see your effort.

Manage your time wisely.
We’ve mentioned schedules and how important they are to stick to, but everyone has obligations. One common obligation, both in school and in work, is planning for a task or project. For example, how good can a research paper be without putting quality time into the actual research? When you’re given a task, it’s always a good idea to integrate planning time into your approach so that you can efficiently begin work. Throughout your career, you will have to work with others and plan around their availability. Make it habit to think ahead an anticipate roadblocks – everything will seem that much easier if it goes smoothly.

As you’re navigating undergraduate courses, it can seem like coursework is never-ending and that the end of the semester can’t come fast enough. Before you know it, you’ll be starting a new job and adjusting to the office environment. Prepare for that switch now by keeping these professionalism tips in mind. You’ll be glad you did!

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