Guest Blog: Workplace Guide for New Graduates

Four tips for business grads:

Present effectively

Form connections and alliances

Put people at ease in meetings

Monitor and adjust work behavior

Fuse | Getty Images

All across the land freshly minted MBAs and business school undergrads are walking across the stage, and heading out into corporate America to see what they can do and hopefully make a nice living for themselves and their families. Their heads are full of the latest and best thinking, and they have been given all of the tangible tools to be successful. Maybe you’re one of them, and if you are, let me begin by saying “congratulations.”

But here’s an important little piece of irony: most successful leaders -- those who are powerful, sustainable, and promotable -- are known for their extraordinary use of intangible skills, skills that are probably not learned in business school.

As they move from one level of responsibility to the next, finding success becomes less dependent on their tangible resume content and more dependent on their intangible skills and leadership savvy, which include: Presenting themselves to effectively influence others, connecting and forming alliances with others, engaging in a way that puts others at ease
and monitoring behavior as a way to adjust to needs of others.

Without these intangible skills, their careers typically stall somewhere along the way. Most people don’t know how important it is to focus on these non-cognitive factors – even though everyone from employers to colleagues and customers spend most of their time evaluating them, either formally or informally.

I’ll admit that it’s easier in some ways to fall back on the old formula for success: adding to the resume, going back to get an MBA, joining new industry groups and piling up more years of experience.

But those things aren’t really helping them get any closer to sustainable success. They are essentially blocked from reaching their full potential because they don’t have the critical intangible skills and/or don’t know how to properly use them. I’ve found that once one masters these skills, they reach greater success – and the companies they work for reap the benefits of their enhanced value.

So, how do you do this? My work over the years working with high potential individuals has helped me put together a to-do list that works:

Hone Your Relationship Skills

The way we interact with others has a direct impact on our ability to influence behavior, ultimately impacting results…for them, for us, and for the business.

Stand Out by Fitting In

Learn the rules of engagement and “play the game” to win. Save the renegade approach for solutions, products and ideas, not behavior.

Practice Agility and Embrace Uncertainty

Even if it runs counter to your methodical and systematic profile, play the role of ninja leader--the one who can change on a dime, redirect plans and push through regardless of setbacks or unexpected challenges.

Pay Close Attention to Your Personal Brand

That’s right, you have one. Not sure what your brand is? It’s been largely defined by the people working around you. They have formulated their perceptions of your brand based on all of the experiences you’ve given them. Think about the way they would describe your skills and talents, as well as your ability to lead, communicate and interact with others. If that honest assessment doesn’t match the way you’d ideally like to be perceived by your colleagues, make some changes to close any gaps. Enhancing the perceptions of your personal brand can make a huge difference in enhancing your value to an employer.

Prepare to communicate your value proposition

Today, it is no longer about competing, but rather about differentiating. Sure, you might have an impressive list of credentials, advanced degrees and experience. But if you can’t articulate your value in a way that helps others to clearly see the benefits of working with you, the lengthy resume won’t matter. Show people that having you on their team will help them get the “win.”

--Author Sara Canaday is a leadership expert, corporate speaker and owner of Sara Canaday & Associates, a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas.( Her new book, “You – According to Them: Uncovering the Blind Spots that Impact your Reputation and Your Career,” will be published in August 2012.