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Advice for Graduates: Don’t Neglect Customer Service and Leadership

Dear Graduates:

Have you picked out your cap and gown?

Have you stenciled your amazing message on your mortar board?

Are you ready to take that big walk across the stage?

Before you accept that new job and head into work for the first day, here are some tips that will help you get ahead with your Guests (and your supervisors) as you transition from your University experience to the work world.  I don’t say real world, as you have been living there all along, and I am not one of those lunatics who says college isn’t hard.  It’s hard and competitive, and has the added worry of finding meaningful employment after graduation.

But here are five things you can do to really excel:

GET READY TO WORK HARD AND COMPLETE WORK ON TIME:  I am not saying that you haven’t been working hard, but its been a different kind of work.  The deadlines you are about to face are real and often imperative to keeping your Customers happy.  Remember that you are now part of a larger machine and all must work in lockstep with respect to timing if you are to win Customer loyalty.  Also, as a graduate you may find yourself working against the perception that you have been goofing off in college for the last four years.  The best way to combat that is to dazzle your colleagues with a tremendous work ethic.  Nothing shuts up nay-sayers like quality work done on time.

YOU LIKELY WILL NOT BE STARTING IN YOUR DREAM JOB:  I know its easy to watch reruns of Mad Men on Netflix and dream of the corner office, assistant, and great paycheck.  Chances are this isn’t going to be your life right away.  I’m a firm believer that great people move up quickly and those that excel at the job they have are more likely to get the job they want.  Don’t belittle the job you get right out of college and use it as your springboard to learn and grow – everyone has to start somewhere.  Some will find a niche in a dream position, while others will start in the perverbial “mail room.” That said, I started my career in an entry level retail job with lots of weekends and late night hours – but it didn’t last forever.  Don’t complain.  Don’t start jockeying for your next job the day you start.  And definitely don’t bore your Customers with a diatribe about how you deserve better.  No one cares.  Work hard and show your worth – then make sure you do communicate your wins with your boss when the time is right.  Chances are if you are with the right organization they will have already noticed.  It’s absolutely fine to make sure you market yourself, just do so humbly and without blowing your horn too loudly.

CUSTOMER SERVICE IS NOT BENEATH YOU:  Guests and Customers are the reason for any company to be in business.  The old joke goes, “My job would be amazing if it weren’t for those darned customers!” The problem with that statement is obvious, but often folks right out of college want to focus on their trade and neglect the service aspect.  It’s vital that you embrace the basics of Customer service and take fantastic care of your Guests.  Being too cool for the room might have served you well while you attended classes, but warmth and deference need to be your battle cries now.  There is no shame in smiling, welcoming your Customers warmly, and doing everything you can to exceed their expectations.  It isn’t menial at all – it can set you apart from your colleagues who may not be willing to do what is necessary to delight and be of service.  Trust me when I tell you that being nice and treating Customers well will absolutely help you get ahead.

YOU CAN BE A LEADER AT ANY LEVEL: Even though you may not be starting off as an Executive Vice President, you can absolutely be a leader.  You can learn your job, perfect your craft, and set a great example.  There is a true lack of real live capital “L” leaders out there in the world, and it is never too early for you to influence your organization positively.  Be a sponge.  Read all you can. Study great leaders. Find mentors at work you can emulate.  Once you start to adopt your own leadership style, use it for good.  Use it to influence your colleagues and peers to do the right thing and treat your Customers well.  Set a great example and help everyone around you win.  You will soon see that you can definitely help make your work world a more positive place and as long as you do so tactfully, you can even lead up and impact your supervisor.  Don’t assume that just because you haven’t been given formal authority that you can’t lead – people are always looking for leaders.  And if you can lead without formal authority, you are poised to do great things when you are tasked to lead a team.

WHILE YOU ARE WORKING HARD, DON’T LOSE TRACK OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS: There will be many challenges, late nights, and big successes ahead for you.  It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of your new job that you will be tempted to immerse yourself in your work.  That is a good instinct – and maybe even one you’ll need to adopt for a few months or a year, but don’t stay in that mode too long.  Keep in touch with your college room mate and make time to learn to brew beer, take a cooking class, or learn to weave ponchos.  Don’t lose yourself in your work and definitely keep friends and family a big part of your life.  There is much talk about balance, and that is great, but what you really need to find is what makes you happy.  Some people like to work more than others, some need more sleep, and others like to cut loose on the weekends – find your sweet spot and enjoy it.  That will keep you fresh at work and ready to deliver great Customer service for your Guests.

Now I understand that this may sound like a lecture from high atop the soap box, but I hope you’ll take at least some of this to heart as you graduate.  This is an exciting time full of the promise of an entire life to come.  Take it seriously and be ready to earn your way.  It won’t be handed to you; it won’t be easy; but it sure will be rewarding.

Best wishes to you, and I invite you to reach out to me directly at my email below if I can assist you in any way.

Tony Johnson Customer Service Expert | Author | Trainer | Speaker

Check out my FREE Resources and Training Tools: Web: YouTube: Twitter:

Check out my new book: RECIPE FOR SERVICE Now Available on

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