10 Things People Get Wrong In Their First Job

British young graduate getting ready for first day new job and starting career in legal profession London UK

We’ve all been there – in the heat of the excitement of landing your first job – things start going wrong and you’re not entirely certain why. It’s because there are set of simple mistakes that many of us make when we first enter the workforce because we haven’t got the experience to know any better. So here are 10 things people get wrong in their first job and what you can do about that:

You Don’t Ask Enough Questions


You want to make a good impression so you don’t ask questions that’s because you think asking questions will make you look weak or stupid. In reality, asking questions is the only way to develop understanding – if you don’t get something when it’s explained to you; ask until you do. Sure it might feel awkward but in the long run – it will help your colleagues come to respect you and give them the room they need to support you. Don’t forget; they were new once too. They remember what it was like.

You Don’t Pay Attention to The Basics


Sure, you’re young and healthy and you want to enjoy life but you can’t follow the end of every day with a night out and drinking until 2 p.m. You’re not a student any more and that means eating well, exercising and leaving the crazy life for the weekends now. If you’re not functioning at 100% because you’re run down; your work performance will suffer.

You Work Too Much


While many offices, to some extent, have a presenteeism culture; it is important to acknowledge that work isn’t the only thing in your life. Working 20 hours a day to impress the boss might seem like a good idea but in reality – it leads to burnout and often makes your colleagues (who simply can’t spend that much time in the office) resent you too. You need a work-life balance not just a life built around work.

You Forget to Ask for Feedback

dog welcome home on brown mat

When you do something for someone at work; it’s vital that you get their feedback on things. While some people may volunteer feedback when you hand work in – others won’t. They’ll sit on a pile of resentments until it all comes spewing forth at your first performance review. It’s much better to seek feedback during the work and then act on that feedback than have feedback come as a surprise negative torrent at the end of your probationary period.

You Try to Start Everything From The Beginning


If you’re asked to print some forms; you don’t need to go out and design paper and ink cartridges to get the job done. That might sound obvious but a lot of new entrants to the workplace try to discover how every step in a process might be reinvented. Don’t do that. Find out how to get the job done efficiently and use prior learning from within your business (back to asking questions) and other businesses (get on Google) to make things easier on yourself.

You Never Say No

No way

While, in the general course of things, it’s a good idea to please your new employers by doing the work you’re given; there comes a point when you end up with too much on your plate. Then you stop being able to do good work or you start letting people down. While you don’t want to be the person who refuses to step outside of their job description (everyone hates that person) – you do need to be able to say “no” sometimes when taking on more responsibility would simply mean doing bad work.

You Don’t Ask for Clarification


Before you start any task; you should know exactly why that task is being carried out. That means asking for clarification. This can save you a bunch of time when it turns out that the “research” needed is a few lines scratched in an e-mail rather than a 40 page report which takes 3 weeks to prepare. It’s vital that you know what the work will be used for so that you can decide, effectively, what should go into that work.

You Don’t Point Out Issues


While this might be perceived as arrogance in most cases it’s simply that new starters are often afraid to upset the apple cart by pointing out problems in the workplace. The trouble is that if you don’t point out problems – you’re unlikely to be able to solve those problems either. You need to talk to your boss and find out the most appropriate way of raising an issue without ruffling too many feathers when you do so. It’s a responsible way of approaching work that will, in the long run, help people come to respect your input and your intelligence.

You Make Things Too Complicated


People in the work place are busy and that means they really don’t want to deal with any additional input or work over and above what is absolutely necessary. Academia can be blamed for a lot of this but many new starters are overly thorough and go into way too much detail when they deliver work outputs (again clarifying expectations can help determine what the end product should look like). This, in turn, leads to a ton of resentment from other people who can’t spare the time to deal with the end result of your work.

You Don’t See the Big Picture


Corporate environments are complicated. Everyone has their own objectives. Not all of these are in line with company objectives. It can be very easy to get sucked into believing your work is important and must be carried out at any cost. This can lead to abrasive behavior when trying to get other people to pitch in or it can mean that the work gets done at the expense of more important goals and objectives. You need to work out what really matters and the office political system (which may be a PITA but you do have to deal with) to ensure that your efforts are seen as praiseworthy rather than a complete pain.


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