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Mark Beal: ‘College Students Should Prioritize Getting Work Experience’

The PR executive, Rutgers professor and book author offers career advice to students and college grads for climbing the ladder and thriving in Corporate America.

Courtesy of Mark Beal

Students are leaving their summer days behind, and back-to-school season gives these young adults the chance to reorient themselves with college life. You know, those jovial days of caffeine-fueled group studies, frat/sorority parties and football tailgating. But there’s a future world outside campus, namely work, which requires a new set of ethics for thriving in a more serious, career-oriented environment.

Mark Beal, managing partner at New York-based Taylor, tells Thrive Global that college students should hone work-related behaviors and skills that will help them transition from academia to the corporate world. He’s also a communications professor at Rutgers University and author of the Amazon book 101 Lessons They Never Taught You In College.

Thrive Global: What advice would you give college students as they return to class?

Mark Beal: Aside from focusing on their course work, college students should prioritize getting work experience in whatever profession or industry they believe they want to pursue after graduation. Students who successfully make the transition from college to a career are masters at multitasking. Multitasking skills include managing their classes while also interning and expanding their professional network.

Thrive: Are students ever too young to think and plan for their future careers?

Beal: No. By their second semester at university, students should begin proactive outreach to secure a summer internship. And I believe that it should be mandatory for every college student to take a course in their sophomore year that is focused exclusively on planning and preparing for a successful transition from university to a career.

This type of career-facing course should be taught at every university in the United States and should teach students about preparing a resume, professional networking, conducting an interview, developing and communicating a personal brand narrative and ultimately, securing their first full-time job after receiving their diploma.

Thrive: What would you advise students or recent graduates who have trouble getting their foot in the door?

Beal: In the past few years, I’ve seen a growing trend of students accepting internships after graduation. The employer benefits by getting someone who has completed their coursework and who can intern full-time. For the graduate, it’s a great opportunity to get a full-time job which can be secured in as little as a month — as long as they approach the internship with the right mindset.

Thrive: How should new hires conduct themselves? For example, discuss behaviors that may not have been taught at school.

Beal: I don’t believe recent grads are taught how to conduct themselves (professionally) while they are in college. Recent grads who have entered the workforce need to fully immerse themselves in their new job, their company and their competitor set. They need to deliver high quality work with every task they are assigned. They should avoid office politics and gossip and instead focus their energies on their role in the organization. New hires also need to learn and understand the most effective way to communicate and collaborate with their managers and supervisors. This may take some time to develop but it will be critical to their growth and advancement.

In his book 101 Lessons They Never Taught You In College, Mark Beal offers similar advice. Lesson 15 says college grads should “work on your weaknesses” while Lesson 20 says “work hard and be nice.”

Thrive: What are common mistakes new hires make in the first couple of years of starting their careers?

Beal: While we are all eager to evolve, get promoted and receive a raise, new hires should focus on the task at hand. In other words, immerse themselves into their new job and block out all other distractions. They should not make the mistake of worrying about what their peers are doing or making (in terms of salary). Instead, new hires should focus on every assignment they receive and deliver great results no matter how basic the task may seem.

Thrive: Discuss other tips for working smarter.

Beal: There are common sense tips to working smarter such as showing up early and leaving late. New hires should not do this just to impress their managers. It will enable them to prepare for the day ahead and finish the day in a highly effective manner. New hires should also recognize that every communication they send whether in writing or verbally is being evaluated.

Young
adults may get a pass while at school. But at work, every email and document is
being reviewed so recent grads need to submit error-free work. Their
communication should be professional and smart in its delivery. If a new hire
feels they are lacking in certain areas of business such as presenting or
writing, they should seek help from professional experts who can transform
these weaknesses into strengths.

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