AFTER the graduation mortar boards have been thrown, closing a chapter in life, fresh graduates move on to a whole new stage - the working world.

Like anything new, it can be an unsettling experience for some, even overwhelming, but the key to success is preparation, say human resource and consulting experts.

It is important to start on the right footing and create a good first impression from day one, said Ms Linda Teo, country manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore.

This includes being familiar with the organisation and your responsibilities beforehand.

Other practical tips include a good night's rest, planning your work attire and even making sure you take along a notebook and pen.

She added: "Some people may have difficulties sleeping because of anxiety. Hence, you may want to try some breathing exercises to help induce sleep."

Mr Chakravarthy Kunalan, managing director of consulting solutions firm Priority Consultants, said: "When graduates leave school, many enter the workforce believing that they are going to conquer the world and change it in nanoseconds."

He believes graduates need to get into the learning mode again, to master basic working-life skills that will help in the job.

At his company, new employees are taught how things work: "Everything from office, business and communication - e-mail, telephone, face-to-face - etiquette, to managing one's schedules and organising data, work and time," said Mr Kunalan.

Mr Chris Mead, regional director of Hays in Singapore, advised new employees to be proactive in the first few weeks and ask the supervisor for another task if there is nothing to do.

He added: "After a month or two, we suggest that you develop a 'career map'. Career mapping is about determining where you are now in your career and where you want to be."

He suggested writing down the job title, salary and benefits, key responsibilities, existing skills, future prospects and potential for skills development on this map, and add at least five goals and a date by which to achieve each one.

"Make sure each goal is specific, challenging, realistically achievable, actionable and measurable. Then you can create a detailed action plan," said Mr Mead.

There are also different things to look out for when working for a local small or medium-sized enterprise or a multinational.

Ms Teo noted: "Many local businesses are still owned and managed by close-knit families. Unlike international corporations, the culture may be more family-oriented. Work processes may be also less structured and less defined."

This usually means employees must be very hands-on and flexible enough to take on additional responsibilities, she said, but it provides good training ground for fresh graduates to learn the trade of the business.

Mr Mead added that work culture in Singapore was traditionally one of a high-power distance, "which means there are clear authority structures, and social status is defined by your position in the society and workplace".

But these days, companies here are adopting the Western, more modern style of working, he noted, with managers in local firms encouraging graduates to work creatively as Singapore tries to become more innovative in order to compete in international markets.

Ms Teo noted that with international corporations and bigger organisations, job roles are generally more clearly defined.

She said: "Ultimately, local companies and international corporations have their unique strengths and limitations. In order to do well in these organisations, there must be a personality and cultural fit."

Employees may find it useful to find a senior colleague or friend who can guide them in the new environment, said Mr Kunalan.

Fresh graduates will also have to learn to manage their emotional intelligence, said Ms Teo, and patience and the willingness to learn will go a long way.

"Unlike university life, the daily interaction in the corporate world is vastly different and more complex," she said.

"It might take some time before fresh graduates grasp the finer points of working within a multi-generational workforce and, in cases of international corporations, a multicultural one as well."