New to the business world? Here’s how to succeed—without trying too hard

June 2011: Eight ways for young professionals to stay on top of their game.

Question: I just landed my first job in a major corporation since graduating from college this year. Do you have any suggestions on how to succeed in the corporate world—without really trying? (I am a GenY, after all.)

Dr. Alice Waagen says: Use the following tried and true tips to ease the transition from college to corporate life:

It is all about personal management. Make smart decisions and choices. Think ahead and be proactive. Some critical areas to manage:

1. Manage your appearance. How to dress? Ignore published corporate dress codes and use your eyes. Dress to the level that you aspire, not the level that you occupy. Don’t wear jeans just because your fellow entry-level workers wear jeans. What does your boss and your boss’ peers wear? Match your attire to one level up the ladder.

2. Manage your communication. Listen, listen, listen. Keep a mental monitor on all interactions and make sure that you are speaking no more than 50% of the time. Use electronics only when you can’t talk face to face. And do not fall into the pit of email-only communication. Email severely limits the message, and takes away the nuances of expression and emotion. This opens your notes up to misinterpretation, so be cautious.

3. Manage politics. Find a mentor, someone who is considered successful in the organization who can guide you in navigating the political waters. Ask your mentor serious, thoughtful questions like:

• Who are the top power players who will help to advance my career?

• Who should I avoid?

• How should I begin to build alliances? Are their committees or task forces I should join that will further my internal network?

4. Manage your future. Don’t loose your outward focus. Build and maintain a professional network outside of your organization. This network will help you know when and how to move on. Have a plan – where do you want to be in 3, 5, and 10 years? Work your personal and professional development toward those goals

5. Manage your financials. Build and keep a budget. Don’t get trapped in a job you hate because you can’t afford to quit and move on.

6. Manage your time. You need to be alert and functioning every day for at least 8 hours. You can’t do that consistently on 3 hours of sleep. Tardiness and absenteeism are sure career killers.

7. Manage your health and fitness. For the past four years, you’ve been accustomed to sitting for 1 to 3 hours followed by hiking around a campus. You now may need to sit in a small windowless cube for 8 hours at a time. Work in regular fitness routines and eating healthy to avoid physical burnout at 30.

8. Be conscious of building your professional “brand.” The current tight employment picture will eventually turn around. When it is time for your next move, what messages do you want to go with you to your next position? Hopefully it will read something like this:

• Good, dependable worker

• Always delivers on time and of the highest quality

• Really strong interpersonally at building relationships

• A real asset to have on a team