As new grads enter the workforce – Top 10 tips on how to stay hired

May 27, 2023

It’s graduation season, and soon, new talent from high school and college will flood the workforce. Schools do a great job of teaching people how to gain the skills to work, but not many teach them how to successfully go to work.

I believe so much in the power of teaching people how to be at work that I published the book “Stay Hired: Thriving & Surviving in the 21st Century Workforce.”

Here are my top 10 tips on how to be successful in the workplace:

1. Mindset matters. Lack of skill is the least likely reason people lose their jobs. Employees get fired for issues with attendance, attitude, insubordination, bullying/harassment/violence or lack of ethics. Learning the job will be the easy part. It’s how you approach the work that matters most. Employers want to work with people who are cooperative, flexible, respectful, resilient, self-motivated and who remain positive, engaged and open-minded.

2. Be on time for work. If your job starts at 8 a.m., you should not be driving into the parking lot at 8 o’clock or rolling out of bed at 7:59 for that 8 a.m. Zoom call. There is rarely a good excuse for being late to work. Be where you are supposed to be and be ready to work at your start time – every single day. On that rare occasion in which you are late due to traffic, an accident or sickness, call your manager immediately.

3. Virtual work is work. Remote work is designed to give flexibility to workers, but sometimes people take advantage and view it as vacation time. Ask about expectations on virtual days, and meet those commitments. Your employer might be fine with you powering down at 2 p.m. on a Friday if there are no pressing meetings, but don’t just assume that’s the case. Ask, and get permission first.

4. Leave the drama at home. Some people come to work and stir up negativity, toxicity and gossip. Don’t be one of those people. Don’t engage with those people. Avoid those people. They will latch on to anyone who will listen and engage with them. Don’t get caught up.

5. If you are harassed or discriminated against, tell someone. The workplace has predators and disgusting people who prey on new hires. I hate that. If this happens to you, immediately tell your manager, human resources or the CEO. People often don’t tell due to fear of retaliation, even though it is illegal. But the alternative is to stay in a hostile work environment, which is not good for your mental health. Also, don’t harass anyone, including talking about or discussing sex at work, making “that’s what she said” jokes or engaging in any conduct that is racist, homophobic, or derogatory toward someone’s disability, national origin, religion, age or other protected characteristics.

6. Don’t be offended by, literally, everything. Although you have a right to not be harassed or discriminated against, even the law doesn’t protect against petty slights, annoyances and isolated incidents. In college, you might have been provided with a safe space to protest your objection to your fellow student’s inconceivable stance on whatever it is you are passionate about. On the job, it doesn’t work that way. In a diverse work environment, people will have differing opinions and lifestyles that might not align with you or your political views. Let it go, and get back to work.

7. Dress and groom appropriately. Some people object to dress codes as not allowing them to be their authentic selves. If that’s you, don’t work at a place where you find the dress code objectionable. The exception is a religious or disability accommodation, or under Virginia law, employees cannot be discriminated against due to “traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks and twists.” And, if you can see up it, down it or through it, don’t wear it.

8. Follow the rules. Most employers offer an orientation in which you are provided with the company’s policies. Reading policies is like watching paint dry. But you need to know them like you need to know the speed limit on U.S. 460. Know what the rules are around attendance, dress, conduct, conflict of interest, outside employment, social media and all of it. Whatever the rules are, just follow them.

9. Your manager is not your friend. Your manager is not your enemy. Your manager succeeds when you succeed. The manager has a vested interest in your success. Don’t assume your manager hates you or is out to get you. Also, don’t be besties with your manager.

10. Leave on your terms. If you don’t like your current job, look for a new one while you have a job, but don’t leave your employer without notice or on bad terms. Don’t steal information or throw a social media tantrum on the way out. Work as hard on your last day as you did on your first. Industries are small, and everyone talks.

If you take this advice, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career. Congrats, grads!