First-Year Job Advice
Initial impressions on a new job are important. Here are some guidelines: Get to work early.
You could come in ten minutes late and work one hour late, but you’ll
still leave a negative impression. Coming in early makes a much better
impression; ask any supervisor. Come to work every day.
Don’t call in sick, stranded, needed elsewhere or waiting for a fire
truck. Do not miss any work on account of illness ever, if possible,
but especially not during first year. Make dental, doctor, lawyer and
wedding-dress-fitting appointments after work or during lunch hour. Be
assured that should you ever need a reference or recommendation, the
first two questions asked will be about promptness and attendance. Be courteous, friendly and helpful.
Smile and say hello to everyone every time you see them, whether you
know them or not. Remember the names of those to whom you are
introduced; jot down names until you remember them. Open doors; help
finish reports; assist on projects; thank those who help you; and look
for opportunities to offer sincere praise to the boss, the secretary,
the custodian and everyone in between. Be friendly, but not friends.
Go to lunch with colleagues or your boss (remember that you should
never invite your boss out to lunch before he or she invites you), but
don’t make it a regular habit, and be especially careful not to become
identified with any cliques. Do not ever go drinking with them. Don’t
reveal your weaknesses. Once they realize what your weaknesses are,
your co-workers will begin to exploit them, whether consciously or
unconsciously. This is not cynicism, but a most painful truth. It
should go without saying, but never become romantically entangled with
anyone at your office, especially your boss. This can be suicide for
your career. Keep your personal life private.
You will be tempted to share personal information with friendly, warm
and well-meaning colleagues. Unless you want your private life
discussed by all your co-workers, don’t open up life to them. Be loyal to the absent.
Don’t gossip! Never talk about anyone in his or her absence, and when
you hear others gossiping or criticizing others behind their backs,
defend the victim. This will offend no one, and you will gain a
reputation as a person of integrity. Dress as well as or better than your co-workers.
Remember that you dressed up for the interview to create a favorable
impression. Consider a professional wardrobe as an investment rather
than an expense. Some people rebel against dressing for success. They
feel that “substance” should count for more than “image.” In the
perfect world, this may be true, but the workplace is far from a
perfect world. If you want to advance in your career, you must invest
the time, energy and money it takes to dress the part. Speak and laugh softly, seldom and when appropriate.
Never tell off-color, sexist or racist jokes; if exposed to them,
politely excuse yourself. Compulsive and/or loud talking or laughing
annoys others, wastes time and reveals insecurity. Pay attention to
your own talking and laughing habits, and take appropriate action. Don’t move too fast.
For the first month or two, say very little, ask a lot of questions,
but don’t offer suggestions or opinions unless asked. This is often the
most difficult thing for a recent graduate to do, because in the
academic environment you are taught to debate, offer suggestions and
find a quick solution to problems. The very thing that you have spent
years perfecting becomes the least valuable attribute to the new
employee. Listen and watch for clues as to which behaviors are valued
and which will get you into trouble. Ask for feedback.
As often as you feel it is appropriate, ask how you are doing. Ask your
co-workers and your supervisor for constructive criticism, then accept
it and use it. Don’t get defensive, offer explanations, get angry or
embarrassed. Being able to take criticism and suggestions for
improvement is the mark of a mature person and will go far to cementing
your place in the company. Be honest with yourself and others.
Telling lies, deliberately misrepresenting or hiding facts may be the
quickest way to the unemployment office. That goes without saying. But
there is another kind of lie that can get you into just as much
trouble, and that is the lie you tell when you make a promise that you
don’t keep. If you aren’t positive that you can deliver the goods as
promised, don’t make the promise. Identify potential conflict early.
If you start feeling stressed, angry, confused or resentful; if you
begin to drink heavily or rely on drugs; if you experience health
problems, especially headaches, stomach problems or back problems, seek
help from a therapist, a member of the clergy, or a trusted friend.
Most companies have either insurance coverage or an employee assistance
program, but even if they don’t, get help before you fall into a
pattern. Many lives are turned around by simple techniques for
communicating more effectively. On the other hand, chronic stress may
be a signal that your job is not the right match for you.