Early Career: 3 Tips for Transitioning from Classroom to Conference Room


Are you transitioning from classroom to conference room or a few years into your career?

Mastering the technical elements of your position with high performance is a must. Yet, other aspects of acclimating to the company and your role are essential.

Successfully transition from the classroom to the conference room by engaging these tips:

Be Aware of the V-Impact

You will likely experience a temporary downturn in attitude and personal performance when change happens. Harold Hook, the founder of Main Event Management Corporation’s Model-Netics, defined the V-Impact as the Change Curve.

Why Care About the V-Impact? 

It’s crucial to proactively recognize and manage thoughts and behaviors that surface during this downturn.

You may second guess the extent of your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Moreover, you may question your decision to accept the role, especially when performance is not as you desire or the position is not as expected. 

When this happens, be patient with yourself. Don’t draw conclusions or make hasty decisions that could change your employment status.  Instead, talk with your manager to confirm, refine and execute the learning and onboarding plans to help navigate you through this initial transition to your role. 

Engage a mentor or coach to walk with you through this critical time as you learn lessons and lay the building blocks for your future.

Establish Business Relationships

It is tempting to get bogged down in learning the details of the position without focusing on building business relationships.  The truth is both are important.  Paying attention to the following relationships early in your transition is a worthwhile investment:


  • Get to know your manager and what is important to him professionally and, to a degree, personally. 
  • Know your manager’s top priorities and goals for the year and how these relate to company strategy and initiatives.
  • Ask about and offer ways to contribute to helping your manager achieve these goals. 
  • Determine your manager’s communication preferences, e.g., in-person, email, phone, or text. 
  • Build a professional relationship with your manager and your manager’s manager.
  • Develop a board of mentors who have strengths in various professional specialties and competencies. While your immediate manager is likely the obvious choice to mentor and coach you, she is not the only choice. 


Peer support is critical to career success.  

An often-voiced complaint is the lack of engagement a new employee demonstrates during the onboarding process. So, it is vital to honor the time peers spend training and sharing information with you. 

A simple way to honor the time is to take written notes to minimize repeat questions and information sharing. It signals you believe their time and information are beneficial.  Even if you have a photographic memory, take written notes!

Direct Reports

You may manage staff members with more experience and time at the company.  If so, lead from a position of humility. 

  • Get to know your staff members (what is important to them personally and professionally).
  • Value their knowledge, skills, abilities, and contributions.
  • Establish a presence of integrity early – say what you will do, do what you say.
  • Be slow to offer ways to do something differently before building a rapport with your staff.

Adapt to the New Normal

While in school, you may have enjoyed flexible start times each day, relaxed attire, and written and oral communications that were quite casual.  However, it may be different with the transition to the conference room.

Whether on-site or working remotely, consider the following –

  • Be ready to engage at the beginning and throughout the day.
  • Be attired appropriately for the work environment.
  • Adopt speech and written communication styles reflective of the most professional level in the office.

Over time, the company’s culture and business group’s work environment will signal if there is room for flexibility. Yet, keep in focus your desired career progression.

Think, speak, and act as though you are already in your future position.

The Unspoken

Be attentive to the unspoken rules.

  • Beware of sporting high-profile, luxury brand attire, even though you can afford it.  Attire that is more high-end fashionable than your direct manager (or peers) can prove challenging in building relationships. 
  • Similarly, too relaxed clothing will not necessarily create a favorable impression. 
  • Some may call it code-switching, yet there may be times to flex communication styles, aligning with the audience and situation.
If unsure of expectations, observe others who are at or above the next level position you seek to advance to in the future. Ask your mentors, coach, or other trusted advisor for guidance. Don't lose your identity and style, however, be alert to the company's culture.

You don’t have to navigate your early career alone. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Check out additional career-building tips:

What Does It Take to Get Promoted?

Four Tips for Creating a Stand Out Professional Image

More Than Meets the Eye

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.