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Common job issues and solutions in College Student / Recent Graduate

The Shift From College to Career: Getting The Right Work Done


By Lea McLeod, M.A. , Founder & CEO, Degrees of Transition

Unlike college where all credit hours are created equally, tasks in your career will vary in value. High value work, your key priorities, generate more “workplace credit.” That’s where you want to most focus your time and attention.

"Time management and work prioritization was tough. There were always a lot of things pulling me in different directions, and I had to make sure I got them all done."

It’s not that hard. You just need to get clear on what your top priorities are. Then you need a self-managing process that ensures your most important work gets done; completely and on time.

Rather than “time management” think of it as “decision management.” I want you to learn to make good decisions about how you will apply the limited time in the work day that you have. Using the five steps that follow will help you develop a pattern for success in getting the right work done, and, start differentiating yourself as a top performer.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  –Steven R. Covey

1: Know your priorities

Get clear on the top three or four priorities your boss expects you to accomplish.

Clarify what a successful outcome looks like. Align on the due dates, and when s/he wants to see your progress.

Check in frequently (as in weekly) to be sure you are aligned on those priorities (things do change!) Advise her of your project status, and where you need clarification or support.

2: Get Organized

You can debate the “clean or messy workspace” question  all you want. Here’s my case for organization: Being organized will  help you work faster. Eliminate the time you’ll spend looking for stuff you already have, and make sure the things you need are in the right place before you begin.

Also, your professional obligation is to leave your work in such a state that if necessary, someone else could come in and pick up where you left off. Stuff happens. Volcanoes ground airplanes, hurricanes interrupt traffic. It’s possible someone will need to get something from your work area when you are not around. Make it easy for you, and them!

3: Make a Plan

Start with the final date for your deliverable. Make a list of all the people who possibly need to be involved. Determine what information you need to gather.

Create a plan by backing into your due date. What are all the things that need to be completed by the week prior to your due date? Two weeks? Three weeks? Map out each week, and what needs to be completed so you hit your target date.

Then, break all your work into weekly and daily tasks.

4: Schedule your priorities

Assign time on your calendar when you’ll focus on accomplishing each of the tasks you’ve broken down into weekly and daily actions. This gives your priorities first shot at your calendar, which is the way it should be.

If other people have access to your calendar, it’s important to do this so they see you are not available when you are focused on high priority work. Schedule other things around your key priorities.

5: Do the work you scheduled

Now it’s important to make the most of the time you’ve scheduled. This can be hard because there will be a zillion other distractions floating around the workplace.

  • Commit yourself to working in 15, 20, or 30 minute blocks; find a time frame that works for you.

  • Turn off distractions (texts, mobile, email, social media, music…anything) that will derail you.

  • Set the timer on your mobile and work for the minutes you’ve dedicated. Don’t look up. Don’t check email, don’t text a friend.

  • When your timer goes off, take a break. Get a treat that makes you happy. Then go another block of minutes.

  • Continue as needed until you’ve completed your project commitments for the time block, and your high priority tasks for the day. Bask in the accomplishment that you feel!

One of the most consistent messages I hear is how hard it is for many college grads to accommodate the need to work with long-term deadlines when they are starting out. These steps are a simple, repeatable process that can help you create a foundation for your career practices. Give it a try and let me know how it went!

What’s your experience in managing timelines and priorities?

{#/pub/images/LeaMcLeod.jpg}Written by Lea McLeod, M.A., Founder & CEO, Degrees of Transition 

Lea works extensively with new grads who are tackling the job search for the first time.  She is a guest speaker, as well as facilitator of the “Find a Job Faster” Job Search Program and “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop & Webinar series, bringing over 20 years of director level experience, most recently with Hewlett-Packard, managing, leading and serving worldwide employees. She holds a degree in Marketing from St. Bonaventure University, and a Master of Arts in Organization Development from Seattle University.


Do you have a question for Lea?  Post it here in our College Student/Recent Grad Community, she will be happy to help: Ask An Expert 


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ManagingAmericans.com is a community of Business Professionals & Expert Consultants sharing knowledge, success tips and solutions to common job issues.  Our objective is to mentor and develop professionals to be better leaders, managers, team players and individual contributors. Ultimately, helping people succeed in their careers.

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