12 First Job Do's and Don'ts

Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first one ever. There are so many questions.  Will you get along with your co-workers? Will you be successful? Will you like your boss? What’s the best lunch spot nearby? The first days are full of anxiety, nerves, and questions; mistakes inevitably happen.  And, that’s okay! Take a breath, check-in with yourself, and realize your new employer hired you for a reason.  They see potential in you, and first impressions are everything.  Here, we go over a few critical pieces of advice for a better first day and even some essential things NOT to do when starting a new job.  

Learn From Mistakes- and Move On

It’s completely normal to care about your work performance; you absolutely should! What’s not normal is to make it an obsession or an outlet for spiraling into self-negativity or doubt.  Mistakes will happen, especially at the beginning.  You may directly impact them, but chances are that multiple people will be involved when an issue arises, and if you have a good team, they’ll rally around to help you fix it too.  A mistake is merely a lesson in disguise if you learn from it and use that knowledge to avoid the same one in the future. 

Give Respect to Earn It

“Listen more, talk less” is a piece of valuable advice when starting a new job.  To earn respect from your colleagues and managers, you’ll need to prove that you respect and value their prior knowledge and experience and that you’re a team player.  That’s not to say that your opinions and ideas aren’t valuable from the start; it’s more about gaining mutual respect and trust.  Showing up to a new job as a stubborn, know-it-all is a sure way to get under people’s skin.  Learn to read the room, and you’ll earn your spot at the table in no time.  

Know What to Wear

If you got the job, you could assume that what you wore to the interview was acceptable enough to get you hired.  However, the everyday workplace dress code may be a little different.  If you received an employee handbook when hired, you can usually find specific officewear information there.  If not, it’s completely normal to reach out to H.R. or the hiring manager so that you’re dressed appropriately for your first day.  Worst case, wear layers or take an extra clothing option, just in case. 

Don’t Avoid Using Your PTO

Not all employers offer PTO, so if you’re lucky enough to earn it— use it! There’s usually a probationary period in the beginning, so this won’t be a primary concern on your first day.  But keep in mind, you earn that time and it’s there for you to use when you need a break, have an emergency, or just want some time off.  All of those reasons are acceptable and if you run into a boss that thinks otherwise, report it to H.R. immediately. 

Ask Questions and Listen to the Answer

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Most employers lose confidence in new hires who refrain from asking questions and speaking up when something doesn’t click.  You can’t be expected to know everything on day one or even day 100. However, you are expected to step up to ask essential questions and use the resources at your disposal to improve your skills over time.  

Don’t Get Involved in Workplace Drama

Gossiping is a slippery slope when it comes to getting involved in workplace drama.  Talking about co-workers with other colleagues is never a good idea.  Getting involved in other people’s personal lives is an equally bad idea, even more so when working together. Mind your business, stay in your lane and try to bring a sense of positivity to the workplace.  Others will notice and appreciate this quality.  

Keep it Real and Also Professional

They hired YOU, so be yourself. However, there’s a fine line between being casual and friendly and acting unprofessionally.  It’s a great idea to connect with your co-workers, but keep it light and don’t overshare.  In the beginning, it’s best to feel the vibe and, again, listen more than anything. 

Stay in the Know

Regularly check your new employer’s social media accounts.  Follow primary connects on LinkedIn and watch their work-related feed.  Look for updates to the website and often check out email newsletters and updates.  These are fundamental ways to make sure you know the ins and outs of the company you are a part of, and that you’re prepared for future questions or projects. 

Don’t Miss Out on Networking

Get to know your co-workers and your bosses.  If you’ve heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” there’s a lot of truth in that statement.  The more people you reach out to, the more knowledge you can consume from them.  Other people are one of the most incredible resources we have, so it’s in your best interest to learn from those willing to share the essentials. 

Prioritize Your Mental Health

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when making a career shift.  It’s okay to be committed to working hard and being dedicated to your team’s success.  It’s also extra important to make time for yourself, your passions, and your overall well-being. Making time for movement, choosing healthy lunch options, and checking in with your mental state are crucial for peak performance and workplace happiness.  Talking to your therapist before you’re feeling anxious or burnt-out is a significant first step to figuring out that work-life balance. 

Accept Feedback— and Use it For Growth 

Criticism is an essential aspect of life.  You will receive negative and positive feedback throughout your life.  You’ll receive constructive criticism and criticism that may or may not be helpful.  It’s vital to learn the difference, know whose opinions matter, and allow all types of feedback to be an opportunity to grow as an individual. No matter what, don’t allow yourself to become negative or self-doubting.  Taking criticism well shows maturity; applying it shows that you can learn from successes and failures. 

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind 

Everyone has goals, aspirations, and long-term ideas of where they would like to end up professionally. While your first job may not be your dream job, there are infinite lessons to be learned if you’ll pay attention.  Whether you’re starting an entry-level position in a new field or embarking on your first career position after college, take it one day at a time and commit to being teachable. You’re well on your way to a successful and healthy work-life balance.

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