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Career Counselor
From College to Job: Small Fish in a Big Pond?

May 2006 Tom is a recent graduate from a leading accounting school. After graduating at the top of his class, he is now starting a new job as a staff accountant at a large public accounting firm. After his first few days in the role, Tom quickly realized that professional success might not be as easily achievable as his academic success had been.

If you find yourself in a situation where you're uncertain how to kickoff your career, the following insights will help you make a successful transition from "college mode" to "job mode."

Let go of the past. The quickest way to rub your new colleagues the wrong way is to appear overly self-confident. Don't assume that just because you went to a good college and maintained decent grades, you have all the requisite skills. Be confident in your knowledge and abilities, but remain open to new ideas and approaches to business challenges.  

Listen and ask questions. To move up the ranks, you need to learn from your supervisor and colleagues – and serve as a resource for them as well. If you're uncertain about an assignment, request clarification or further information to avoid doing something incorrectly. While you may have an outstanding academic background, your "real world" experience is likely not as extensive as that of others in the organization. 

Dress appropriately. Your appearance is an indication of your professionalism. A recent survey by our company found that 81 percent of employees polled said a person's work attire affects his or her professional image. Even if you're a top performer, inappropriate clothing may detract from the level of respect your achievements merit. If you're unsure about what to wear, follow the old rule that advises dressing for the position to which you aspire: observe how your manager and his or her colleagues dress. 
Find a mentor. As an entry-level professional learning the ropes, team with a more seasoned colleague who can help you develop your skills. An experienced coworker with a similar background as yours will be able to help you learn more quickly about office procedures and department initiatives.

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ACCOUNTEMPS is a specialized temporary staffing service for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps provides support throughout an accounting department. Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., Accountemps and has more than 270 offices in North America, Europe and Australia. Accountemps' Career Counselor column, a SmartPros staple for over four years, is refreshed twice a month.

2006 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved.

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