Your new hires: Channel their energy (and have a little empathy)

Nearing the end of the school year, students are generally excited about the start of summer. Most of my students are juniors or seniors, and as such many of them are focused on their internship or first job out of college. What do they bring to the workplace as they enter their new job?

Some are thrilled to be done with school; many are disheartened when they learn they must go through more training in their new role. Others are fine with the idea of undergoing more training because they know the training is directly related to the work they will be doing in the long term. I might suggest a transformation of materials that are presented in a fun way. For example, when I teach lift and drag, we give them a limited list of supplies and tell them that they can use three of the materials to make something that flies 50 feet or more – and something that they will have to provide an analysis for. That last bit really provides a challenge and makes the assignment much more interesting. They use a variety of tools, including YouTube, to find something that meets all of the criteria. Out of approximately 15 projects, usually only three or four make it the full 50 feet. This is an activity that encourages research, conceptual application, and problem-solving. It is also a good exercise in how to deal with failure and make the best of a situation. These are skills that are useful in the classroom, on the job and in life, and they provide a basis for students to move forward and accept a challenge.

For those working in industry, the best part of getting new graduates at your company is the fact that these new team members are very excited about their new adventure. What is your challenge as a hiring manager or new co-worker? Help them channel that excitement, and have a great deal of patience! As a former hiring manager, I can speak to that experience not only from the perspective of the new college graduate but also as someone who hired talent from pools of people laid off in the Great Recession. Anytime someone transitions from one job to another or from a time out of the workforce back into it, there is bound to be excitement and concern (and often, fear). Channeling that energy can positively influence the firm's culture and environment and even create changes that impact production and the quality of the final product.

Currently I’m dealing with students who are transitioning to new jobs, moving back into positions with companies at which they interned or co-oped before, or graduating without a position lined up. Many of my students are in the last throes of the interview process and are concerned that the end of the school year is nearing and they don’t have a means to support themselves. I’ve spent a semester or two getting to know about 150 students, working with them and encouraging them as they prepare to transition to the next thing in their life. They have a variety of needs; and some do well getting the answers and information they need on their own; others don’t want to ask; and a few don’t know what to ask. I consider our job – the job of all of us as professionals  – to be conscious of those around us and what they are going through. We can use it for the greater good!