Talk your way out of a box?

Communicating with managers is the key to getting the most out of a new job

Stuffing envelopes wasn't your intended vocation when you left university and took on your seemingly shiny new career. You know you're ready and willing to take up the challenges the position has to offer, but does your manager? Unfortunately, many graduates view the "dogsbody" role as an initiation, and unless you get vocal, you may well end up putting the kettle on for longer than you would like.

Stuffing envelopes wasn't your intended vocation when you left university and took on your seemingly shiny new career. You know you're ready and willing to take up the challenges the position has to offer, but does your manager? Unfortunately, many graduates view the "dogsbody" role as an initiation, and unless you get vocal, you may well end up putting the kettle on for longer than you would like.

Recent research shows that workers have less job satisfaction when they have little to do. And while managers are wise to ensure their graduate recruits are being given work that develops them, without your communication they might assume everything is fine. It's inevitable that you have to start at the beginning, but Liz Hagger, e-Graduate Manager for online graduate careers service Prospects (www.prospects.ac.uk) says, "While new recruits must make sure their expectations are reasonable, passivity is a no-no. Graduates must take responsibility for themselves."

Developing assertiveness skills and learning how to seize opportunities are crucial in making the leap from pushing the tea trolley to presenting at meetings. Joanna Ham is a graduate trainee of Accelerate, a programme run by global communications group Omnicom. She cannot emphasise enough how proactive new starters need to be and how regular reviews with a senior manager should be sought to provide structure. "You have to make your position known," says Joanna. "If a role hasn't been specifically created for you then you have to carve it for yourself. Use appraisals to your best advantage and take progress reports to meetings to plan your role and identify gaps."

One benefit of entering a graduate-training programme is having access to a structured mentoring scheme. It is a medium through which objectives can be clarified and development issues discussed. Helen Rosenthorn, a senior manager and graduate mentor at recruitment communications group Bernard Hodes, believes difficulties arise when there is a mismatch of expectations through a lack of communication. "Better to have your manager tempering your enthusiasm but giving you a clear path forward," says Helen, "than to have one who does not understand where you want to go."

A mentor can help steer the way for you, but what of the numerous graduates who are left swimming in the corporate ocean with no help? Hagger points out, "Only a small percentage of graduates go into a training programme. Those who don't must identify for themselves and with their line manager what skills they want to develop and what training they need through effective interaction."

Blaire Palmer can advise on approaching managers with suggestions for creating more challenging work. Her role as leadership developer at Optimum Coaching (www.optimum-coaching.com) includes counselling others on how to seek the most from their careers.

"Firstly, make sure you are doing the menial tasks with gusto. The manager wants to know that whatever you do, you do it with energy and commitment.

"Choose the right moment. Having a discussion in the corridor when they're on the way to a meeting is not appropriate. Make your suggestions specific. Don't waffle. Look for the people in your organisation who've done this successfully. How did they do it?"

What it boils down to is not tea making but well-developed communication skills. Keep realistic about what you need to learn, but only by making sure that your manager knows what you want, and by you showing competency, can you expect to be rewarded with the most interesting jobs.

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