We’ve all been down the road of uncertainty that follows one of life’s milestones: college graduation. The intimidation around securing a job and deciding what to do with the rest of your life can be daunting. As someone in this category, I understand the anxiety. I also have felt the excitement of receiving that first offer letter. More than likely the young hire is arriving at your company with a basic knowledge of communications and much curiosity. I’m generalizing, but I feel new college graduates are adaptable, careful listeners and hungry to learn everything they can about your company.
To help you and your new hire adjust to each other, it’s important to know what that young, probably nervous, person who’s joined your team is thinking.
1. “I know I can do this job well and deserve to be here. I’m nervous because making mistakes is inevitable. Will my boss embrace the learning curve as much as I do?”
Your young hire stepped out of a world of drafting press releases about fictional world meetings, using celebrities’ social media platforms to form a crisis communications strategy and crafting compelling speeches for presidential or senatorial candidates. There is no doubt that we are ready to complete these tasks in the real world, but much hinges on the first few days in the office. Entering an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by new faces and unknown challenges, can be scary. It also can be unimaginably exciting.
Being comfortable is key. After four years of studying with the same people and improving our writing skills in the same set of computer labs or classrooms, a new office environment can be a shock to the system. Take some time to walk around the office to introduce your new hires to co-workers. Help them become familiar with the setting. Sit them down and explain that you understand there is an adjustment period. All of us have felt pressured when writing a last-minute press release. Think about what you would have wanted your supervisor to say in a situation like that and say it.
2. “What personality quirks do I need to know about?”
Every supervisor has preferences that a new hire needs to learn. These could be as simple as wanting to receive documents in PDF or wanting PowerPoints saved in a folder that lives deep in the shared communications drive. Some bosses want new hires to submit several drafts of press releases and speeches; others want just one version.
Many supervisors prefer to take the trial-and-error route. Others embrace a more straightforward approach (i.e. they provide a list or discuss their preferences). I’ve been fortunate to work in environments that align with the latter; however, many aren’t as lucky. Some of these quirks might not register at all with you, a senior executive, because the employee you supervised previously knew the routine. Try to remember that things get lost during a transition. What now is second nature to you and your staff is brand new information to the young hire.
3. “What’s the balance between being proactive versus being bothersome?”
“I’m wary of asking too many questions,” says Sydney Baldwin, a recent American University graduate and newly minted publicity coordinator in New York City. “I imagine this thinking stems from the job insecurity in the communications industry that many hires feel. They want to be perceived as independent and informed, so the line dividing the proactive from the bothersome is blurry.” I couldn’t agree more.
There’s little need to tell you that communications is fast-paced, deadline-oriented and coffee-fueled. In our minds, this leaves little room for the Q&As we desperately need as we begin our careers. That is not to say the environment is this way in reality, but the pressure new hires put on themselves to succeed and impress overshadows that. No matter how busy you are, remember the freshly graduated, nervous new hires want to learn from the seasoned communication pros surrounding them. They want to get to know you and the team they will spend the majority of their days with. Most of all, they want to know that even during the busiest times, asking questions and being curious will be encouraged, not discouraged.
4. “What skills should I be improving?”
Even if you are hiring someone with a top-notch communications degree, it doesn’t mean they will have mastered every skill you expect from them. As a senior executive, speaking in front of audiences or performing sophisticated research might seem easy. To a new hire they can be very intimidating. The key to help them improve their writing, research and presentation skills is to offer critiques.
Receiving negative feedback from a supervisor isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to grow as an employee. Take the skills that led you to hire them, address the skills you need them to master and meld the two. Maybe your new hire is a phenomenal storyteller but doesn’t know how to write persuasively. Perhaps they can create captivating presentations, but sweat profusely every time they stand in front of a room. No matter the skill, my advice to senior executives is to find the balance of praise and criticism. Offer them critiques that let them know what they should be practicing at home after work. At the same time, let them know that you admire their courage for taking criticism and doing something with it.
In the end, new hires are just people trying to become you someday. You know how you got to where you are. Share that.
This content appeared originally in PR News Pro, October, 3, 2016. For subscription information, please visit: https://www.prnewsonline.com/about/info