For the past three years, Sharon Hill—author, speaker, MBA, and former IBM manager—has come to talk with the students in my internship class. Sharon is the author of 35 Tips for College Students to Succeed in Corporate America, a book that I require all of my students to read. This book gives readers inside information on how to work with others, get ahead, and act like a true professional. The sections of the book can help you learn how to adapt to a new environment, handle problems that may arise, recognize and appreciate diversity, and display an understanding of professional etiquette. I strongly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a job, has recently accepted a job, or isn’t making good progress in a job, especially in a large corporation. Sharon also wrote a book of 24 Tips for Students to Succeed in College.
Two years ago, I had a conversation with Sharon where I pointed out that she was helping students succeed in college and at work, but that the world needed a book that would help students find their first professional job. Her response was to suggest that I write the book myself. . .and that’s the story of how I came to write Start Your Career: 5 Steps to Finding the Right Job after College.
When Sharon met with my students earlier this month, she talked about the tips in her book, but she also added a tip that I hadn’t heard from her before: Get a passport! Today, many college students have participated in a study abroad program, so they will have gotten a passport. But if you don’t have one, go ahead and get it now. The reason for this is that your new employer may have international connections, and you want to be available to travel to other countries—and this kind of opportunity can come up on the spur of the moment. If your employer is looking for a volunteer to travel for business, you don’t want to miss out because you don’t have a passport yet.
Here’s a real life example: Last spring, one of my undergraduate students worked as an intern for a nonprofit organization. Just as the semester was ending, the organization learned that they had won a significant award, and the award was to be presented at a gala event in London. The officers of the organization were unable to attend the event, so they asked the intern if she would like to go and accept the award on their behalf. Since she already had a passport, and the semester would be over by the time of the event, she was able to take advantage of this opportunity and get an expenses-paid trip to London as well as a chance to network with some extremely important people in the nonprofit world.
I would put the suggestion to get a passport under the heading of Being Prepared for Anything at Work—other suggestions along the same line are to
- familiarize yourself with any software that is likely to be used in your desired field,
- join relevant professional organizations (see Tip 26 in my book),
- broaden your network to include people who currently have jobs or who work in organizations that interest you (all the tips in Step 4 Create a network),
- and learn the “rules” of professional etiquette. (Sharon has another book that can help with this: Don’t Be the Ugly Duckling at the Peacock Party.)