Ask Matt: I was a success in college, but at work? Not so much

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE
  • Updated: December 30, 2013 - 9:57 AM

Dear Matt: I graduated in 2012 with an IT degree. I was an honors student, but I’ve had two jobs since graduation and feel that my academic success is not translating into workplace success. Also, I’m from India, and I’m struggling to fit in. What should I do?

Matt says: The main reason people don’t succeed in a job is typically a lack of fit — a mismatch between their values and interests and the organizational culture, says Raghav Singh, a Minneapolis-based Senior Director of Global Staffing for The A-List (www.thealist.biz), a company that conducts staffing and search work in over 40 countries.

“Few employers make any effort to find out how well new hires match their culture, preferring to focus on skills only,” says Singh. “In these situations an employee is unlikely to succeed because they are uncomfortable in the environment and find it difficult to make friends or build alliances with others.”

For example, if an employer has a culture that is very social (lots of events, pot lucks, picnics) and an employee is not social by nature, they may avoid these activities and effectively alienate themselves from others.

If the culture is hard-charging and performance-oriented, then someone who prefers a slower pace may find it difficult to be successful.

A recent US News & World Report article outlined five easy ways to monitor and learn about a company’s corporate culture, including via Twitter, Facebook, Google Alerts, informational interviews and third-party review sites (careerbliss.com).

For this specific reader, Singh added: “Your being from India may not have much to do with your lack of success, but you may want to consider employers that have a more diverse workforce or do global business.”

Even if you are an introvert, it’s important to make an active effort to get to know people.

“One of the best ways to succeed is to have social alliances with others [who] can show you what you need to do to succeed and steer you away from making mistakes,” says Singh.

Also, consider finding a mentor; some employers have formal mentorship programs to help new employees succeed. If not, ask the hiring manager or someone in HR to help you find one.

Next, consider hiring a career coach to help you learn how to navigate the culture and focus on what you need to do to succeed. They can also act as counselors and as a sounding board for your ideas and plans.

It’s not unusual for entry-level job seekers to take the first job that comes their way without researching or understanding company culture, says Singh. So don’t get discouraged if you haven’t found the right fit early in your career. Just put a plan in place to focus on what you want in the future — and go for it.

Contact Matt at jobslink@startribune.com.

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