Mastering the transition from undergrad to the workplace

By Mary Chestak 

Consultant, Risk Advisory

An undergraduate education is commonly considered a pre-requisite for a career in professional services. But shortly after your first day, you may find that the knowledge and skills you acquired during your undergrad will certainly be helpful, but for the best results you will need additional skills to transition smoothly. During my time at Deloitte, I have acquired some useful tips that should help you along the way.

Show team spirit
In university, students are programmed to work through coursework independently, but when you enter the workforce, it is crucial to focus on your team’s success as well as your own. If you can find a way to work collaboratively with others, it is more likely than not that your combined effort will be stronger. Remember to communicate frequently, maintain a positive attitude, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Be proactive
In university, assignments are given out on a rolling basis and time between assignments is considered “time off” to travel, visit family or friends, or rest. In a professional services environment, it is important to consider this time between projects as an opportunity to educate yourself on work-related topics, to help others and make connections within the firm. You may even want to use this time to get organized in advance of your next big deliverable. Your colleagues will be passionate, hard-working, and motivated. That’s why to stand out, you must take this opportunity to improve upon your knowledge gaps when you have the time to do so.

Listen first, talk second
In university, it is common to portray yourself as an extrovert to help you break into new social circles or to satisfy professors who are looking for strong in-class contributors. But in professional services, you will be surrounded by incredibly talented people who are willing to invest in your development and share with you their years of experience. Take this opportunity to learn and absorb all the knowledge they have to share. Especially in your first few months on the job, listening will help you learn more about firm culture, norms, and expectations; all of these can provide you with the tools you need to achieve your full potential.

Communicate professionally
In university, students are rewarded for overly complicated language and artistic sentence structures. In business communication, there is a much greater focus on efficiency. Keep emails brief by using bullets or lists, if applicable. If describing a complicated calculation, attach the file you are referring to as opposed to explaining the details in the body of the email. If attaching documents, enclose them as PDFs. This makes files easily accessible from mobile devices and ensures consistent formatting across operating systems and platforms.

Well there you have it, these are my tips to help you transition into your career in professional services. Good luck!

Mary is a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business majoring in Honours Business Administration with an Honours Specialization in Political Science. She is a Consultant for our Risk Advisory Practice in Toronto.

Mary Chestak - Consultant
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