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Helping new college grads find success in the workplace

Susanne Beier, Pamela Gordon and Brett Gordon September 19, 2013



New college graduates approach the job market with feelings of excitement and anticipation. Weighing any possible job offers and accepting that first special position are just a couple of the first milestones new graduates face. Career counselors need to remind these “new employee” clients that their earned degree may have helped them in landing the job — but now, the next step is to keep the job and move up the career ladder.

While most companies provide new hires with an orientation and corporate training aligned with the company’s organizational practices, there are several general strategies that career counselors can use when coaching these clients. Understanding the following topics can provide counselors with the tools to arm new graduates with the confidence they need to successfully navigate their transition into the workforce.

 Make a lasting impression

First impressions count — and they last. In management circles, this is referred to as the “halo effect” or the “horn effect.” Counselors can coach clients to set the stage for future success by ensuring that they make a lasting, positive impression during their first six months on the job. If employers see a consistently stellar performance, this leads to the “halo effect,” which assumes that the employee is a solid performer and any later missteps are viewed as out of character. Unfortunately, the reverse, or the “horn effect,” is also true. If the employee makes a poor impression during the first several months on the job, this impression tends to last, and no matter how much the employee improves, the lingering impression remains a negative one.

Become a knowledge sponge

Coach clients to continue to be in student “learning mode” and become sponges that absorb knowledge. This means that recent graduates in a new job should be coached to learn all they can about industry trends, company policies and procedures, job processes and anything else that supports a budding reputation as a knowledgeable employee and a potential knowledge resource. Caution clients that, in their eagerness to make contributions, they don’t need to feel compelled to immediately change the system. Policies and procedures that have been in place for some time may carry political implications within the corporate structure, and it is best for the client to join the system and work within its constraints before trying to change it.

Network and build contacts

Just as college students built networks through sororities, fraternities and other student groups, as well as through student memberships in professional organizations, this type of networking should continue in the professional work environment. Counselors can help clients explore professional organizations, as well as familiarize themselves with the corporate hierarchical structure. Consider recommending that new hires study the corporate directory to match names and positions as a means of learning who’s who. Encourage new employees to set a goal of meeting a certain number of colleagues each week in order to build contacts and become known within the organization. In addition, suggest that clients frequently volunteer to serve on committees, be part of task forces and get involved in special projects. Each one of these opportunities allows employees to work with others and interact with a variety of company personnel.

 Secure a mentor

We all know that no one “goes it alone.” The best way to encourage new hire success is to recommend finding a mentor. This can be someone from within the company or within the industry who will act as a guide to the newly hired college graduate. The mentor shares personal experiences, secures introductions to others, acts as a sounding board for ideas and suggests resources for professional and personal growth and development.


Career counselors play a major role in workplace coaching. An emerging role is advising the newly hired college graduate. By focusing on the four key strategies mentioned above, career counselors can help promote a smooth transition for clients as they move from college to the professional work world and set the stage for their future success.

 Susanne Beier is a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and a diplomat in clinical forensic counseling. She has 10 years of teaching and educational administration experience at the high school level, as well as 15 years of clinical counseling and Fortune 500 industry experience. She has been featured in New Woman, Working Woman, SELF and Cosmopolitan magazines for her work with corporate relocation clients. Contact her at

Pamela Gordon earned her doctorate in business administration with a specialization in management from Northcentral University. She has 22 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including 17 in corporate management/leadership positions. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience and currently works for University of Phoenix, fostering faculty development. Her research interests are in the areas of management, organizational behavior, marketing and human resource management. Contact her at

Brett Gordon earned his doctoral degree in organization and management from Capella University in 2002 after spending 11 years in the pharmaceutical industry in the areas of sales and marketing and corporate training. He currently holds faculty positions at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, University of the Rockies, Keller Graduate School of Management, University of Phoenix and Northcentral University. Contact him at


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