The Fortune 500 Insider Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Robyn Price Stonehill, chief human resources officer at Assurant, has answered the question: What three big things does every person starting their first job struggle with?
Each generation brings its own challenges to the job market, and millennials are no different. It is true that some want a greater voice in decision-making processes when they take on new roles, but that’s true of most anyone starting out and wanting to make a mark. These are the most common challenges new college graduates face when they first enter the workforce:
Understanding the corporate work environment
Success in any organization requires understanding and adapting to the company culture and, yes, even learning the floor plan. From finding the conference rooms and supplies to understanding the corporate organizational structure, mission, vision, and values, it’s important to get the lay of the land. This includes learning how to interact with fellow employees with diverse perspectives and differing backgrounds. Make an impression by actively listening, building rapport, and collaborating. In a world that’s in constant flux, having a flexible mindset and resilience in the face of continuous change is a must. On a fundamental level, success also requires understanding the job role, responsibilities, and performance expectations.
Company orientation training programs can be invaluable in helping new hires get their bearings. We provide such programs at Assurant (AIZ), and they offer foundational information to ensure new hires have the foothold they need to be successful.
Many new employees only socialize with colleagues within their departments and, in some cases, their own age groups where they feel most comfortable. When I meet with new employees in our office, one of the first things I tell them is to not hide behind email, but to get out of their cubes, walk around, meet people, and be curious. Seek out a diverse group of co-workers who have institutional knowledge to share and can serve as resources. Don’t just focus on those with impressive titles, as there will be lots of hidden gems throughout the company. Extend your network beyond the four walls of the company to include colleagues in the industry and neighbors in your community.
Many seasoned professionals struggle with understanding what assignment to tackle first, and the problem is often exacerbated for those who are new to the workforce. The tendency is to focus on the easiest assignment first in the hopes of getting through a long list of to-dos. Instead, the first priority should be to ensure that there is a shared understanding of what is a priority and—perhaps even more importantly—what is not. When in doubt, always touch base with your supervisor to ensure you both agree on what assignment needs to be tackled first.
It is important for new employees to own their careers and take advantage of the numerous opportunities before them. It also important for companies to continue to bring along new and diverse talent entering the workforce.