All the right moves
Keep these tips in mind when beginning a new job
Your college days are finished. No need for “real-world” cliches or directives about “big-boy pants.” You know your life has changed. That new job reinforces it every day. And it’s not just the job. It’s the office politics and office gossip and office romance — you get the idea. “That first job can be a real eyeopener,” says Travis Newman, a career coach in Oakland, California. “You feel like focusing on the job is enough work on its own, but then you have to deal with a new set of workplace issues that require a little strategy.”
Newman offers up a few tips for firsttime full-timers, hoping they’ll help navigate those first few months on the new job.
1. Be socially cautious: Don’t be afraid to ask about the lives of your co-workers and get involved with the post-work events as many relationships are created outside of regular working hours. Although it’s nice to get along with others, don’t feel like you have to create a collection of new BFFs. “You don’t have to create a new inner-circle of best friends. You just need to have people you work with who you trust and know,” Newman says. “It’s a lot easier to go to work every day if you enjoy spending time with your co-workers, but you don’t have to become lifelong buddies.”
2. Focus on your work: A lot of bad habits are created during the first month on the job. “New employees learn what is expected of them and soon realize the hours of the day that they can spend focusing on something else,” Newman says. “Whether it’s fantasy football or emails to friends, you’ll set a bad precedent when you fill a chunk of your day with tasks that have nothing to do with work.” While Newman acknowledges that no one is expected to focus on their work from the very moment they enter the office to the time they leave, he says that if you start spending an hour or more checking on statuses of your Facebook friends, your work will begin to suffer.
3. Develop a healthy relationship
with technology: Use the latest apps and devices to your benefit but don’t become too reliant on them. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to use the latest technology at work but don’t let that become a hinderance to what you need to accomplish. “It’s OK to leave your cell phone behind every once in awhile when heading to a meeting or head over to a co-worker’s desk to talk about a project instead of communicating via only email,” Newman says. “Use technology to enhance your relationships and your productivity. Don’t let it take over.”
4. Show up early: While many employees start their first few weeks by showing up 30 minutes ahead before their workday begins, it’s usually one of the first good habit that fades into memory, especially when those employees realize they’re the only people walking into the office at 8 a.m. “Getting into the office early can have a profound effect on your day. Not only will you have some time get caught up on your emails and to finish those small tasks, you’ll actually get to gather your thoughts and map out a game plan for the day ahead,” Newman says. “You might be surprised how effective it can be to simply type out a potential schedule for the day once you see all of your work in front of you.”
5. Don’t engage in office gossip. “It’s toxic and it can begin to affect you in ways you may not even realize,” Newman says. “You may not care that John Smith is getting a free pass on some of his work like your co-workers do but if you start to compare your workload to his, and then notice how many trips he takes to the manager’s office, how they often go out for lunch together — really trivial stuff like that — it can become something that consumes you. And then if you start talking about it with others, you’re going to rub someone the wrong way. No one likes the office gossip hound, especially the one who has only been on the job for a few months.”