Being your own publicist can help with promotions
By Dawn Sagario
Alexandra Levit hopes to help other young adults make the tough transition from college to the business world.
She wants other twenty-somethings to avoid making the same mistakes she made as a newly minted college grad trying to navigate the corporate world.
To that end, Levit, 28, used her own post-college workplace downfalls and triumphs as the foundation for her book, "They Don't Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something's Guide to the Business World" (Career Press, September 2004, $14.99).
In it, she offers up suggestions for everything from applying for jobs (she recommends using e-mail) to dealing with that person no one in the office can get along with. ("With difficult people, you have to confront the situation, be empathetic and try to make their life as easy as possible.")
After graduating from Northwestern University in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, Levit moved to New York, eager to get her career rolling.
"I thought I would skip right up the corporate ladder," said Levit, who was used to getting A's in school.
But six months into her job at a large public-relations agency, Levit said she couldn't understand why others continued to get promoted ahead of her.
"I found myself really hating the corporate world," said Levit. Many of her friends at the time were similarly frustrated and leaving the worker ranks for graduate schools.
Rather than abandon the business world, she stuck around, took notes and focused on changing herself. She focused on refining her human-relations and personal-development skills rather than trying to change the business environment around her.
The most common misperception that recent college graduates have of the "real world" workplace, Levit said, is that the boilerplate formula for success work hard, get good grades and everyone is happy will easily apply to the business environment.
"Suddenly, the tenets of success we were taught since kindergarten don't apply because getting ahead in the business world has nothing to do with intelligence or exceeding a set of defined expectations," she writes.
Instead, Levit said, success is determined by focusing on building business relationships and ensuring that those around you have a positive perception of you and the work you do.
"You just have to learn to adjust to circumstances that are beyond your control and adjust to them in the best way possible," Levit said.
She said one of the critical skills to corporate success that isn't covered in college classes is how to develop human-relations skills such as diplomacy, cooperation and networking.
Mastering these skills, Levit said, will lay the foundation for building business relationships that will advance your career.
"It's less about what you do than who knows what you do."
Think of yourself as being your own publicist, with the sole task of promoting yourself, Levit said. That starts by developing a "strong corporate persona" which means consistently projecting your best, mature, competent, corporate image and using that as a tool to succinctly tell others about your accomplishments in a nonbragging way.
Dawn Sagario writes for The Des Moines (Iowa) Register.