You’ve got a new job! Reach for the stars-but get the lay of the land in your new workplace first. It’ll impress everyone if you blend in fast and make yourself valuable, and you can by dodging the gaffes below. They may sound like good ideas, but keep reading to find out why they aren’t.
Newbie no-no #1: Bringing in a batch of your famous cookies. Everyone who tastes your choco-pecan fudgernutters loves them, so how could it be wrong to wow your new coworkers with them too? Unfortunately, baked goods won’t help you rise in the workplace. “If the boss talks about your great cookies instead of your great ideas, then your raises and promotions can take a hit,” warns career expert Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations LLC.
Instead: Act however the higher-ups do. If your boss is a banana-bread-baking fiend, sure, bring in treats once in a while, but not often. It’s better to be known for your work than your goodies.
Newbie no-no #2: Recommending changes right away. But they said they look forward to your new ideas! “Even when people say they want change, they don’t want it overnight,” explains Kathleen Brady, a certified career coach and founder of CareerPlanners LLC in New York City. Breathing new life into everything around you could make colleagues think you’re an egomaniac.
Instead: Ask polite questions about procedures. Say to coworkers, “I notice you create reports using process X-can you explain why?” If you still see room for improvement, offer up suggestions rather than speaking in absolutes: “In the past, I’ve seen process Z get reports done faster; has it been tried here before?”
Newbie no-no #3: Befriending the welcome-wagon folks. Being too open with colleagues before you know them well can backfire. If they’re not trustworthy, “your personal life quickly can become office gossip, and even the simplest comment can be used against you,” says Houston career counselor Gaye Weintraub. “I’ve heard supervisors select employees to let go over others based on an assumption of wealth.”
Instead: Stick to small talk. The weather, sports and that zombie show are safe topics.
Newbie no-no #4: Acting super-confident. Nobody likes a cowering coworker, but don’t “name-drop about where you went to school or who you worked with before,” says Brady.
Instead: Do more asking than telling. Find out how people wound up in their jobs and what they like about their positions. If they help you learn the ropes, thank them profusely, and share their efforts with the higher-ups. You’ll be seen as a team player-and the team will have your back.
Newbie no-no #5: Accepting projects without asking questions. It’s natural to want to look like you get it. But agreeing to fill out a TPS report-when you don’t know what a TPS report is-can lead to big mistakes. This will make your boss feel you’ve wasted time, says executive recruiter John Paul Engel of Knowledge Capital Recruiting, in Sioux City, IA.
Instead: Research what you can; then, think through the project’s steps. Google key terms and examples. Next, visualize the desired end result of your task and come up with a general plan of attack. “After that, ask your boss to help you fill in blanks,” suggests Engel. “You’ll show you’re a self-starter but also not afraid to ask questions.”
Newbie no-no #6: Saying repeatedly how much better your new employer is than your old one. Your coworkers will lap up tales of your last company’s faults. Then, they’ll focus on yours. “If you’re badmouthing your last place, what will you eventually say about them?” Brady asks.
Instead: Only say how much you like the new place. People will feel you’re grateful for the current opportunity, not grousing about what came before.
Newbie no-no #7: Trying too hard to stand out. Often, new hires land in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, says Lida Citroen of LIDA360, a personal-branding and reputation management firm in Denver. “Dressing flashier than your coworkers may distance you from them, for example,” she points out. So will taking on projects that aren’t part of your job, which can make you seem like a suck-up to peers and go ignored by higher-ups.
Instead: Respect the official and unofficial dress codes-don’t test how well jeggings will go over if everyone else wears slacks. When the “who wants to take on…?” begins at a meeting, resist raising your hand, at least for your first few weeks on the job. “In time, the job will grow with you,” says Brady.
Newbie no-no #8: Making yourself available at all hours. Setting boundaries early is crucial, says Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich, co-founder of Masthead Media Company, which connects editorial talent with writing opportunities. “If you set a precedent that you’re available via email 24/7, you’ll be expected to be available always,” she cautions.
Instead: Take several weeks to understand your workplace’s rhythms; then, set reasonable limits. “If you don’t answer emails after 8 PM and before 8 AM and while you’re on vacation, people will respect that if you stick to it,” says Ilkovich.
Newbie no-no #9: Staying at your desk at all times. Are you manning a cannon? If not, remaining glued in your seat through lunch is silly. You’ll miss chances to network and seem standoffish. Plus, people will soon expect you to willingly forgo your midday break.
Instead: Go to lunch sometimes; invite out coworkers and exchange useful information. It’s also fine to run the occasional personal errand.
Newbie no-no #10: Going online during your spare time because your coworkers do.Your days will probably have lulls as you get up and running. It’s tempting to use those quiet times to hop on social media (oh, hey, Grumpy Cat), but just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should.
Instead: Ask your manager if she needs anything done, or ask colleagues about their roles and responsibilities, recommends Ryan Kahn, career coach and founder of The Hired Group. Or surf your company’s internal social media network, if it has one, to see who’s who-you’ll learn more than you will from your Facebook friends’ latest jokes.
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