5 simple success strategies for graduates

Success Strategies for new graduates

Lessons learned from the day I split my pants at work

If you have ever embarrassed yourself, you can get a head start on your career with five simple strategies outlined below and use your awkward moments to make career gold.

  1. Look the part
  2. Be a solution proposer
  3. Edit your gang members
  4. Rock embarrassment like J Law
  5. Network like your boss’ boss

One time at work, I split my pants.

A few years earlier, in my early 20s, I still hadn’t found my “thing”. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was a little lost. I had tried lots of different things but when I decided to study law I felt like I had finally found the missing piece and I was really excited to start studying (again).

I was 25 years old. My mates had finished their degrees. I was starting a new one. My friends were buying houses. I was working at a local pub. Girlfriends were going on holidays. I was going to the library.

back to study - Career Success Strategies for new graduates
back to study

It was a bit depressing… and I was a bit down about it.

I felt like the ‘weird mature age student’…

 

After two years of tough full time study, I was exhausted, second guessing my choice to study law and I was a bit lonely because I was studying alone and not going classes.

In the tail end of my second year, Deakin University offered a practical work and study program, where you complete an internship which counts towards your degree. I was pretty nervous but excited to get some real world training on legal matters.

After years of study, it was such a great feeling to get my hands on real legal work and (even better) after the internship finished, I was kept on so I was finally getting paid to do real legal work!

The day I split my pants…

The day I ripped my pants, I had been feeling pretty great and had organised a meeting with my boss (the General Counsel) and a department General Manager to discuss an ongoing dispute.

Perhaps my good mood contributed to the tear because I was going about my filing with great gusto and enthusiasm that morning. I energetically dropped down into a crouch position to file away a stack of leases and that’s when I heard a devastating sound…. ‘rrrrrrrrrrrip’.

Rrrrrrrrrrrip

Two people having a quiet conversation at a nearby desk looked over, confused. I could see the questions in their eyes. What was the noise they had just heard? Did that paralegal just pass wind in the office? Did she burp? Or was the sound something else? Seeing my panicked expression, they assumed I had passed wind in front of them, so they politely avoided eye contact.

embarrassed emoji samsung - Career Success Strategies for new graduates
#embarrassed

I scurried back to my desk, in a half-crouch the whole way, scuttling almost crab-like to the safety of my seat. A few more looks from nearby workers. Safely back at my desk, I could carefully survey the damage I had caused.

A large rip greeted me when I looked down to my lap. This ten inch hole ran from directly underneath the fly zipper of my pants ran down and continued up the seat of my pants almost to the waistband.

After the rip, it was probably more accurate to call them cowboy chaps than pants.

And was I wearing dark, full cover, discreet undergarments? Of course not. No, just as we are warned against doing in case of random bus hits, I was wearing some hideous bright blue thing I had barely looked at as I’d gotten dressed that morning.

Cowgirl - Career Success Strategies for new graduates
My fancy tailor made pants had turned into cowgirl chaps

My face went hot, I’m sure it was bright red. I was mortified. Here I am, trying to make a great impression at work with my professionalism when I split my pants and may end up inadvertently showing work mates my underwear.

My mind was in a spin… How could I get through the next 5 hours of work without giving my workmates an eyeful of blue underwear?

1. Look the part

The pants (chaps) in question were purchased a few years earlier when I was on a study tour in Beijing as part of my law degree. I definitely recommend a study tour for any mature age student as a great way to make new friends when you’re studying.

4 girls jumping in Beijing
Jumping for legal study tour joy in Beijing

I was thrilled to get some tailor made clothes on the cheap and felt extremely grown up to have a “proper” suit.

Fast forward a year or two and the pants had become a little snug… I pretended not to notice and wore them anyway, kidding myself that it didn’t matter and they still looked fine (I blamed the Chinese tailoring… not my lack of exercise).

Lo and behold, my attempt to ignore and gloss over my tightening attire came back to bite me in the arse.

Being honest is hard sometimes, especially to yourself. I wasn’t doing myself any favours by keeping the pants. It was time to let them go!

The lesson: Science says dress for success.

When you’re at work or an interview, you have to be relatively comfortable and able to move around. The old rule of ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ is an important one to keep with you whenever you are choosing work clothes.

This doesn’t mean dressing older than you are, but it does mean paying attention to what you wear.

If you’re ready for a bit of a makeover, I recently got some professional help and detailed my day here.

2. Be a solution proposer

So what could I do? I had a split in my pants, it was the middle of the work day and I had a meeting with senior members of my company.

I looked through the issues at hand and dot pointed them into a brief email summary.

Hello John,

I’ve had a little filing accident and managed to split my pants putting away the leases, I won’t be able to attend the meeting this afternoon but I’ve looked over where we are at and believe the below info is outstanding (I’ll ask [GM Franchising] and get back to you).

Will reschedule the meeting to a day when my pants don’t have a 10 inch rip 🙁

Thanks and apologies to rearrange your schedule

Let me know if you have any questions?

I will always remember the deep laughter that erupted from my boss’ office which signalled that he had read my email. He came over to my desk, barely able to keep from laughing at me out loud and said it was no problem to reschedule the meeting. In fact, he said I should have done the summary before the meeting anyway to clarify the discussion we needed to have.

The lesson: Propose resolutions, don’t merely cancel or be led to attend a pointless meeting

Tim Ferris in his powerhouse book The Four Hour Work Week briefly touches on a profound skill that will make you a valuable member of any team and friendship group.

Being a proposer can cut down on 30% of your emails, it’s that great!

Learn to propose and stop asking for opinions if someone asks you something. Don’t ever just ask a question, provide options for each possible answer

Some examples of great ways to propose solutions and options are:

  • Can I make a suggestion…
  • I’d like to propose…
  • Let’s try… and then try something else if that doesn’t work.

This is a great technique that can work for everything from meeting times to dinner suggestions to cut down on work at work!

The old slow way

Email 01: Should we take this course of action?

You: That depends, were we at fault?

Email 02: I don’t think so

You: Okay, in that case we should take action X

Email 03: Okay great, thanks!

 

The proposer way

Email 01: Should we take this course of action?

You: That depends, were we at fault? If not, we should do Y, if so we should take action X.

Email 02: Great, we don’t think we were at fault here so we’ll go with action X. Thanks!

 

The old slow way

You: What day suits you for a meeting?

Them: Wednesday

You: Oh Wed is no good for me, can you do Thur morning?

Them: No, I can’t in the morning, can you do afternoon?

You: Yep, thur afternoon suits. 3pm?

Them: Sure thing, lock in 3pm 🙂

You: Great, I’ll book a room.

 

The proposer way

You: What day suits you for a meeting? I’m free Thurs and Fri in the morning?

Them: Thursday afternoon works for me.

You: Great, I’ll book a room for 30 mins at 3pm and send through an agenda Thur morning .

 

Being a proposer can cut down on 30% of your emails, it’s that great! Not only that but it can speed up your social life, making you more helpful and assertive in your personal relationships.

3. Edit your gang members

I was luck to work under a very supportive lawyer who was patient and always available to answer questions.

Which 5 people do you hang out with the most? Career Success Strategies for new graduates
Which 5 people do you hang out with the most?

When I let her know about my pants problem, it went something like this….

Soooo…. I was doing some filing and I ripped my pants (!), can we move our meeting to tomorrow morning? Thanks!

…and she came straight over to my desk, smiling, with a cardigan to tie around my waist. What a legend!

I am still good friends with her today, but our relationship didn’t just happen, I worked hard to develop both the professional and personal relationship with her.

Have you heard the saying that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most?

Have you heard the saying that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most?

Lots of people vaguely remember hearing it somewhere but rarely is it attributed to the actual person who said it (Jim Rohn).

Who are the 5 people you hang out with the most? Actually have a think and write their names down.

Are they helping you on your career path or holding you back? Even if they don’t seem to hold you back, if you’re spending your time encouraging them to do better but getting very little in return, then it might be time for a friend re-fresh.

If you are hanging out with awesome positive people, millionaire benefactors and noble peace prize winners, then you’re probably doing fine!

Whos in your gang? Career Success Strategies for new graduates
Who’s in your gang?

But if you spend your time with complainers, procrastinators, or other negatively minded people, then they may be bringing you down… consider decreasing the time you spend with those negative people and instead seeking out people who make you feel positive and inspired.

It takes time and effort to grow relationships with mentors, you can’t just sit there trying to sponge up wisdom and knowledge without providing something in return.

The lesson: Find people you admire, hang out with them more and look for ways to add value.

But what do we have that we can offer to our mentors? What can we offer to the people we hang out with the most to add value?  Adding value is a wide topic and there’s lots of great information on it.

Here’s just a few easy ways to add value…

Say thank you with examples

Mentors love to back winners so if one of your mentors gives you (good) advice or feedback, listen to them, then send a short note thanking them for the advice and detailing how you have put it into practice.

Be a great guest

When invited to an event, you can easily add value by being a great guest. This means having a warm smile (even if you are nervous), contributing to the conversation and being prepared with a quick, interesting introduction. Once you know how to work a room like Susan RoAne, your mentors will feel they can invite you to any event.

Susan Roane - How to Work a Room poster - Career Success Strategies for new graduates
5 easy steps to work a room

Natural strengths

One great way to keep on your mentor’s radar is using your natural strengths – because of your age or interests – to use novel ways to help solve problems they encounter. For example…

Always have your ear out for problems you can solve to add value to those around you.

4. Turn the tables on awkwardness

First of all some good news, because embarrassment is a sign that you care about the way others see you and shows that you are human, an embarrassing event can make you more likable if you handle it the right way.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found in a 2011 study that people were more likely to trust someone who displayed embarrassment after being praised for an achievement than someone who responded with pride such as a confident smile.

Jennifer Lawrence Oscar Trip - Career Success Strategies for new graduates
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Jennifer Lawrence tripped up the stairs at the 2013 Oscars when going up to accept her Best Actress award for Silver Linings Playbook and the way she laughed it off made people like her even more.

You can’t stop embarrassing things from happening to you, so get used to it.

You are going to trip over when you walk into a room, you will tuck you skirt into your stockings or forget to do up your fly.

If something embarrassing happens, you have two options: Pretend nothing happened or confront it head on.

Ignoring the fact you just accidentally spat on your new boss amps up the tension even more.

The general advice is to own up to the embarrassment. Those around you will admire you for your courage and it diffuses the tension other have feeling sorry for you.

The lesson: Do a little prep & you can turn the tables on awkwardness

Use humour to diffuse the awkwardness and you’ll be remembered for the right reasons.

Comedians make it look easy but you don’t have to be Jimmy Carr to come up with one liners that can save the day. The easiest ones:

  1. Awkward (it’s obvious & that’s what helps)
  2. Nailed it! (especially good after falling over)

Once you’ve nailed the embarrassment recovery, you can then build up your story telling skills to harness the tale to build your network like a champion.

5. Network like your boss’ boss

“Networking” is really just forming relationships. When you stop thinking of networking as “networking” and start thinking about it as a chance to make new relationships then it becomes much more natural.

Meeting and talking at a table - Career Success Strategies for new graduates
“Networking” is just forming relationships

The key to building relationships in the business setting is creating a sense of understanding and building rapport with those around you.

Embarrassing stories make for amazing ice breakers.

Some of the most captivating stories I have been told have been the ones which at the time must have been mortifying. A girl friend farted in front of her new boyfriend for the first time in a packed hotel lobby during the peak check in period. A colleague mistakenly shut down Twitter in Australia for 45 minutes.

Motel - Career Success Strategies for new graduates
Please refrain from passing wind during check in.

These embarrassing stories are a fantastic way to build rapport if you are able to tell the tale in an engaging way. Although, perhaps leave out the farting stories at work events…

Every embarrassment is an amazing chance to build rapport later and shine as a story teller.

Margot Leitman (a storytelling champion) outlines the secrets to telling a great story in her book Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need.

One of her secrets is to tell people how you felt, not just what happened. The fact that something happened may be interesting, but outlining how that made you feel is what makes a good story a great story.

The Art of Charm guys are also masters at building rapport and making genuine connections. Do not be fooled by some of the blokey pick-up game posts – they definitely know their stuff! Check out their Toolbox podcast episodes on Rapport and Banter for in depth guidance.

The key is to capitalise on your embarrassing stories when they inevitably happen. Recognise them as bona fide opportunities to entertain others and be remembered.

Use stories to build rapport and you’ll not only be able to “network” and build relationships like a boss, but like your boss’ boss.

Get a head start on your career and turn those totes awks moments into career gold by:

  1. Looking the part
  2. Being a solution proposer
  3. Editing your gang members
  4. Rocking embarrassment like J Law
  5. Networking like your boss’ boss

Oh and the pants?

I made it through the day without getting out of my seat…. When most people had left, I tied a cardigan around my waist to hide the back rip (thanks to the awesome Corporate Counsel I worked with) and held my suit jacket at the front to cover the tear there.

Chaps post - Career Success Strategies for new graduates

Feeling extremely silly, I cautiously made my way home via public transport.

I was walking very stiffly to ensure my careful cover up didn’t move from its strategic location.

Despite my ongoing embarrassment, no one seemed to notice (or care) about my robot-style walking.

I made it home safely…. and have never trusted those pants ever again!

Have you ever embarrassed yourself at work or an important event… how did you handle it?

I’d love to hear your experiences!

Cheers Verity

 

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