Monday, February 6, 2017

3 Things Corporate America Expected Me to Know Out of College

College: My senior year of college was a blissful year. I had locked down a full time job by December and by spring quarter I was out at happy hours and going out with my friends every weekend (and Wednesdays…and Thursdays). My blissful times ended as I graduated, relocated to Southern California, and started my career with a PepsiCo. 

Real World: My first year working full time was a rough transition from college to the real world. I ended up leaving PepsiCo to work for the Boeing Company and my second year working full time was a little bit better, but I definitely still had my challenges. Now I’m on my third year out of school and I think I’m starting to get a handle on things (well at least I think so). 

The lessons I learned my first year and second year working full time could be two different 5 Part Series, but today I’ll be sharing 3 different things Corporate America expected me and my peers to know out of college. Whether you may have learned these 3 things in college, or you may have not, I found these three things essential to a smooth transition into all of my roles so far in Corporate America.

Who is this post for? 
This is for any new grads out there who might be getting ready to enter to the “real world”.
This is also for anyone out there new to Corporate America – if you feel like you’re drowning at any point, you aren’t alone. 

These three things I’m sharing today will hopefully bring you some awareness and help to these items.

1.       How to Manage Emails: I had interned for the Boeing Company in college but out of college I went to work for PepsiCo. I learned that different companies have very different expectations when it comes to email etiquette. Here are 3 things to be aware of when it comes to email etiquette:
a.       Timeliness to Responses: From my experiences at Boeing, it seems like its okay to respond to an email by either the end of the day or within 24 hours. Of course if there is a super urgent issue happening, the expectation is respond as soon as you know the answer or completed the work.

But at my first job at PepsiCo, I was pulled aside by an assigned mentor who wanted to talk about my communication problems. She brought to my attention that the email expectations is to respond as quickly as you can when you receive an email. She informed me that I always should act with a sense of urgency and I should constantly be checking my emails and phone. I used to drive around from store to store selling Gatorade and Quaker Oats and didn’t realize that I should be putting that heightened attention to emails.

b.      Formality: I always am more formal in emails than I need to (I always err on the side of caution). Pay attention to the language used in your emails. Using shorten works like “u” for “you” isn’t professional and shouldn’t be used when writing a business email. 

c.       Length of Emails: During my first finance job at Boeing, I had to reach out to the engineering director to approve a list of projects. The first email I sent him was too lengthy… He ended up reaching out to my lead to help coach me write an email to directors. This is the main thing I learned from the experience:

-          Use Bullet Points to keep your emails short: Why? Managers, Directors & Executives read their emails on their phone most of the time. It’s difficult to scroll through paragraphs and paragraphs… and much easier to read bullet points.

2.       How to Give Presentations
During my second finance rotation at Boeing, my co-worker and I had to present our projects that we had been working on to our manager. Coming from business school, I’ve had plenty of practice giving presentations. However my co-worker studied economics and hadn’t had much experience giving presentations.
                My co-worker struggled to talk through the heavy amounts of data in his power point. He floundered to communicate what the importance details were and failed to explain how to read the slide. My manager at the time grew frustrated with him. I felt really bad as my co-worker struggled that I stopped the meeting to give him some peer to peer coaching.

I could write an entire blog posts series on how to give an effective power point presentation but for now here are some tips to help you give presentations:
a.       At the beginning and end of each slide, explicitly say the purpose/punchline of the slide You have to tell your audience where you are going, then tell them the details, and finally remind them of what they learned. This is one the things I coached my co-worker on.
Example: “The purpose of chart you are viewing is to show how much time/money was spent this month…. Now that we’ve learned how much time/money was spend this month, we’ll move onto…”

b.      Graphics speak louder than words – Instead of listing out rows and rows of numbers, consider moving your numbers into tables or charts. Or instead of using rows and rows of words, consider using pictures to send your message. Remember your power point presentation is your visual aid and you are the one presenting the presentation.

c.       Practice in front of a friend or mentor – Before you present out to management or any directors, I highly recommend running through the presentation with a friend or mentor. Be open to getting coaching before your actual presentation. You’ll learn whether you need to speak up, slow down, or explain something more in depth.

3.       How to Dress for Work:
I know there are plenty of work environments out there that are casual, but at the two companies I’ve worked for business casual to business formal are more of the norm.

For women: Business Casual is slacks, skirts, heels (open toe or closed), flats, and usually a cardigan, vest or blazer for a third piece. Jeans are not business casual – but are appropriate for casual Friday. Skirts and dresses that are above fingertip length are not appropriate.
To elevate a look for business formal, wear suit pants/skirts with a matching jacket.
For men: Business Casual is slacks, khakis, dress shoes or loafers, fitted sweaters and collared shirts can be short sleeve (polos) or long sleeve.
To elevate a look for business formal – add a tie and a jacket/blazer.

Now that we’ve discussed email etiquette, reviewed a few tips on how to give presentations, and how to dress for work, I hope you feel either a little more prepared to enter the working world or Corporate America. I also recommend asking your manager or a co-worker about these expectations to these three things to help your transition into your new role.

Thank you for reading!

Photos: Holly Phan  


  1. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing

  2. Seriously amazing advice!! I will keep this bookmarked for sure.

  3. These are great tips that can be transferred to adulthood in general, not just work!