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Professionalism is key to graduates’ first job success

By Libby Durst
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As graduates transition from enrollment to employment, they face challenges in the workplace that can leave them asking, “Now what?”

Leslie Corey, a Mississippi State University human resources professional, said learning does not stop once the caps and gowns are issued.

Samantha Jones enjoys a sunny afternoon with young students at the Child Development and Family Studies Center at Mississippi State University.
A graduate celebrates at the Mississippi State University spring commencement ceremony in May at the Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss. (Photo by MSU Office of Public Affairs/ Russ Houston)

“One of the best things you can do for your job is continue to learn,” Corey said. “A willingness to learn helps you be professional, which is essential for your success.”

Corey said that professionalism in the workplace begins with preparing for the position. Research the company’s background, attend employee orientations, and read the policies and procedures manual.

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed at your new job,” Corey said. “Preparing yourself with information will start your day with confidence and help you understand your responsibilities and expectations, which will give you direction with your work.”

Then, focus on improving job performance by seeking feedback from supervisors and consulting with other professionals.

“Your supervisor will appreciate your willingness to accept a critique and your initiative for improvement when you ask for feedback,” Corey said. “I also recommend joining professional organizations. It’s a great way to network and stay up-to-date within your profession.”

Another aspect of professionalism is conduct. Corey suggested new employees identify a mentor who can help them adopt the company culture and follow policies and procedures.

“A mentor can teach you about the day-to-day routines and special activities,” Corey said. “For example, the company culture may include celebrating birthdays at the end of each month. You want to participate so that you establish yourself as a member of the team.”

Charles Freeman, assistant professor in the MSU School of Human Sciences, said establishing a professional image is also important.

“Dressing professionally is more than just following the dress code,” Freeman said. “You are crafting your professional image, which should reflect your career goals and your personal style.”

Freeman said employees should dress for the position they want, even if that means dressing differently from co-workers.

“At first, you may feel uncomfortable being dressed more professionally, but your peers and supervisors will get accustomed to seeing you that way,” Freeman said. “That is when you reap the benefits.”

Freeman said he believes maintaining a professional image garners more respect and opens the door for opportunities.

“If your supervisor needs someone to represent the company at a meeting or event, they may call you because they know you will present yourself professionally,” Freeman said. “It’s giving you an opportunity to show that you are capable of doing more, which can help you reach your ultimate career goal.”

Freeman said he believes employees can express their personal style and creativity through their appearance.

“Your professional dress doesn’t have to be plain or boring,” Freeman said. “You can follow the dress code and still incorporate little details that show your personality. An example would be distinctive cuff links for men and purses for women.”

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Released: June 9, 2014
Contact: Leslie Corey, 662-325-3713; or Dr. Charles Freeman, 662-325-1293

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