"Ugh - this wasn't how I thought my working life would be." According to a skills survey made among IDA's members, new graduates often get disappointed when they encounter the reality of the workplace. Maybe you're one of them?
Sanne Mattebjerg, who is a career counselor at IDA with a special focus on the first two years of working life, can assure you that it is completely normal to feel this way.
She speaks to many recent graduates whose expectations of working life are not being met. One reason may be that they thought they were professionally equipped, but find they lack the social and personal skills they need to succeed in their job. Competences in which they have not been trained.
For some, uncertainty starts to set in: "Am I good enough?" "Am I a wrong fit for this workplace?" Unlike student life, where assignments and exams are constantly graded, recognition and evaluation are not formalised in the same way.
For others, boredom creeps in. Academically, they have been in the fast lane during their studies, acquiring new knowledge every semester and being constantly challenged. In contrast, the world of work is one of many routine tasks - and it might feel like there's a long way to go before you can expect to become more professionally skilled.
Sanne Mattebjerg believes that insecurity and boredom are the reasons why many feel a need for further education and skills development already in the first years of working life.
IDA's survey among recent graduates shows that it can seem really difficult to have a conversation with your manager about further training - and it is particularly difficult to talk about the development of personal skills such as networking, communication or presentation techniques. So how do you go about it?
Before you book your manager for a 1:1 or embark on researching courses and certifications, you need to know yourself. You need to find out where and when you see a need for skills development.
Specifically, Sanne Mattebjerg suggests making a list of both work tasks and your main collaborators at work, noting which you master and which energise you - and then the opposite: where you fall short and which situations drain your energy and job satisfaction.
The mapping can help you find out if you need a course to learn completely new skills, or if you've just got off to a bad start in your workplace. You should share this with your manager so that together you can talk about your tasks and what is expected of you at work.
And it shouldn't just be about your working life. Consider how continuing education fits into your general life. Do you have time - outside normal working hours - to read and write assignments? Or do you need to focus on social activities and relaxation when you're off work - or do you have family commitments to attend to?
Once you are aware of your needs to improve professionally or personally, it is time to have a conversation with your manager. Here, Sanne Mattebjerg has some tips for the conversation:
You will get to spend time and money on a course if it adds value to the company. That's why you need to base your proposal on the needs and opportunities of your workplace, for example, in terms of development or growth. That way you show you understand the business. Make a presentation showing the link between your skills development and the development of the department.
You may find it sensitive to talk about a lack of personal skills, e.g. communication, networking, presentation skills, because it feels like there is something wrong with you as a person. Here it is important to remember that these are skills that need to be learned and trained, just as professional skills are learned over years of study. Therefore, it is good to use the word "training" to describe your needs.
If you find yourself at a standstill and in need of a challenge during your first few years on the job, be honest about it with your manager. She knows that you won't thrive as an employee if you're bored, and that "boreout" is just as damaging as "burnout".
Be ready with information on a specific course or programme. When your manager knows the content, price, duration and timing, it's easier to make a decision about. Also, have a concrete proposal for how your tasks can be solved or postponed while you are away on the course. Be careful that in your eagerness to get further training, you don't put in the same amount of work at the same time, or you risk overloading yourself.
Before the interview, think through what you will do if your manager has a different vision for your development than you do, and may even suggest a specific course for you. Ask openly about the manager's plan and wishes, but think about what you really want yourself - and also ask for some time to reflect, when you talk again a week later. You can say "no" to, for example, further training as a project manager in the first few years of your working life and say that you would like to take it up again when you have gained more experience in the company.
Maybe you won't get the continuing education you hoped for after the first interview with your manager. Sanne Mattebjerg says that it is worth remembering that learning is much more than certification and course certificate, and you can also get competency development in everyday life.
"Your development comes naturally during your time on the job market, and you can describe it on your CV just as easily as you can write a course on it," says Sanne Mattebjerg, adding as alternatives to continuing education, "Smaller things can also give a boost to your development, such as business coaching, various presentations at different companies or webinars."
In conclusion, Sanne Mattebjerg stresses that the conversation about your competence development should be an ongoing dialogue with your daily manager and not just the one conversation where you aim to make an agreement on continuing education. It is this dialogue that is most important for your well-being and development at work.