If this is your first job, you may not be prepared for some of the hurdles awaiting you. In fact, getting the job may turn out to be only half as hard as keeping your job. Of course you should celebrate successfully navigating your interviews and negotiations. When you’re done, however, please allow us to flag a few pitfalls that new employees all too often stumble into.
First, the basics:
While getting hired is exciting, you’ll need to keep your head. Your first few weeks on the job set the stage for your time at your new company. The last thing you want to do is make mistakes that leave a bad taste in your manager’s mouth.
This holds true even if you’re starting as an intern. Did you know over half of all interns get converted into full-time hires? This is good news if you’re one of the recent graduates with intern experience under their belt. While an internship may be no guarantee of a job, it is a step along the right path. And that’s a path we want to keep you on.
Job hunting is ghastly, exhausting, and depressing, so listen to us. Navigate your 90-day probation period like a ninja. Stay on your best behavior while those first impressions solidify and avoid committing any of the following 7 Deadly Sins for new employees.
Whether your boss says so or not, we’re betting your job description tacitly includes communicating with your colleagues. Today’s work frequently requires individuals and teams to keep each other in the loop. The tasks you’re responsible for depend upon the work of other people and vice versa.
When you have a question, ask it. When you have a concern, share it. If you make progress or a sale, make sure that information reaches those who would benefit from knowing.
Doing this shouldn’t be too formal or you risk coming off as socially-inept. Instead, keep conversation flowing by grabbing a coffee with your new workmates. If your office doesn’t already use an instant messaging service such as Slack or Google Hangouts, see if they’d be game to start. The more you all work together, the better the camaraderie and the easier it is to share in team successes.
Remaining speechless is a sin, and one that could get you fired.
Given that you’re a new employee, managers won’t expect you to know precisely how things work. However, it doesn’t mean you should wait for people to tell you what to do. Managers love employees who show initiative.
That means asking for assignments instead of waiting for them. That means coming up with your own ideas for improving processes and making progress—and then running those ideas past your employer.
Try creating a schedule of tasks to complete each week. Then go the extra mile by adding to it. Consider pulling in something that’s not due until the following week, or taking the weight off an over-burdened colleague.
The other option is just sitting back and just doing what you’re told. Problem is, what you’re told might be to pack up your desk. That’s the price of immobility.
Just as you need to keep your colleagues informed, you need to make certain your manager knows how and what you’re doing. Keeping up this communication is your job, not theirs.
You might be doing wonderfully, or you might be barely muddling through. In either case, if your manager isn’t clued in, they aren’t in a position to respond appropriately. Talking regularly with your supervisor will help you improve as an employee. It will give you a leg up on understanding the company’s larger-scale goals and expectations. It will also help head off any looming issues that might put you out of a job.
Regular weekly meetings with your manager are an ideal method of avoiding any murkiness. However, we understand that they aren’t always feasible. As a result, you should do what you can to keep your supervisor appraised of your progress and any challenges you’re encountering. If he or she does have time to meet with you, make sure you’re ready to make the most of the meeting.
Let’s face it: you screwed up.
If you’re wondering how we know, it’s because everybody screws up. Don’t try to hide it. Failing to own up to your mistakes doesn’t make you seem like the perfect employee—it makes you seem like you’re living in denial and can’t be trusted.
So what do you do when you make a blunder? The first rule is: never cover it up. As soon as you can, own up to the mistake and offer suggestions of what you might do to ameliorate any damage caused. If you can fix it yourself, excellent. If you can’t, remember to be grateful for the assistance your managers and colleagues provide you in cleaning up your mess. This is your chance to learn how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
Remember: it’s not making mistakes that gets new employees canned. It’s the denial.
New employees who fit in well don’t often get the sack.
As a newcomer, you’re bound to have a few days of awkwardness. That’s okay, just don’t let it stretch on too long. You might need a few days or a week to learn who’s who. You might even be new in town and struggle to find the best places to eat lunch.
Take a deep breath and don’t get overwhelmed. Settling in takes time and effort, and it’s important.
The solution isn’t complex. Be open to any office social events that come your way. You should also go out to lunch with those who invite you. If there’s a group gathering, don’t skip it, particularly during your first few months. You want people to get used to having you around. The alternative is a situation in which no one’s going to miss you, even if your work has been good.
Take the time to get to know your workmates. Ask for advice about the area and start conversations with your colleagues. Being one of the gang isn’t always easy (or instantaneous), but it’s much safer than being awkward.
Chances are you were hired for your experience doing something particular or for knowing something specialized. That’s good. Now try something new.
Flexibility is one important indicator of your potential for job success. This is true particularly in startup environments in which growth is rapid and change is frequent. If all you can offer is what you were hired to do, you may quickly find your existing set of skills outdated.
You should regularly pursue new skills to avoid being left behind. There are many ways to do this and many of them are painless. One path is to keep abreast of the direction your company is going in. Use that information to research and learn skills that you suspect will prove valuable. You can try using sites like Lynda.com or finding local adult education courses.
A few hours a week doing this can make a huge difference in your career. New employees who don’t learn end up stagnating, and they’ll eventually be the ones left behind.
One common mistake new employees make is assuming that they’re doing everything right. Younger employees may also mistakenly assume that the quality of work they’re producing is as good as expected. We recommend a little humility as the cure for this.
Ask your colleagues or manager for help. Whether you’ve hit a rough patch or just want to make sure you’re up to snuff, proactively asking for criticism and assistance shows that you care. It gives your team a chance to nudge you towards your most productive path. More importantly, it also avoids a situation in which everything blows up in your face and your boss is left wondering why you didn’t ask for help earlier.
Everyone will expect new employees to face a learning curve. As a result, you shouldn’t try to race up it on your own. Rather, ask for help early on and be grateful to get it. The tips and tricks your teammates share with you will not only help you get over the hump, they’ll be evidence that you’re committed and worth having around.
Starting a new job is exciting, daunting, and—we hope—lucrative. We’d like to do all we can to make sure you hang on to all you’ve gained.
Avoiding these 7 Deadly Sins is an excellent first step. Sure, there are other pitfalls that are particular to certain industries. However, once you’re aware of these common mistakes, you’ll survive your probation period with little trouble.
We hope that this piece will help you make it big! If you’re planning to work from home, feel free to read our 8 Simple Guidelines for Working from Home. If your employer’s going to send you on your first business trip, check out our guide to surviving business trips.
We’re also looking for awesome people to join our team. If you’re looking for a great career, check out our page on The Muse for open positions and employee interviews!