Five Blunders to Avoid During Your First Week on the Job

Photo of a road sign that reads "oops."

It may sound a little bit cold, but during your first week on a new job, you have one person who needs your primary attention: you. And you have one project that matters more than any other: shaping the direction of your career. A new social environment means all kinds of new friends, new potential contacts, and new things to learn. But for the first week, keep a cool head. And before you make any move, consider its impact on your future. Watch out for these common first-week mistakes.

1. Be polite, but don’t open up too much

Be careful how much you share with your new workmates. Smile at everyone, and bring your conversational A-game to the office, but if you find yourself rambling on about your recent gall bladder surgery, your fear of clowns, or your boyfriend’s drinking habits, rein it in a little. Why? Because you don’t yet know who you’re talking to. You don’t know how your personal information will be received or used, and you aren’t aware of the complex politics and personalities at work all around you. New employees are often the target of intrigue, jealously, skepticism, and rumor, some of which might harm you if you’re too trusting.

2. Before you chime in, listen

Listen before you speak. This applies to social situations as well as meetings and team conversations. Nobody doubts that you’re eager to make a good impression and get noticed, but every situation and ongoing project has a backstory. Learn the details before you offer an opinion or make your first suggestions. And of course, be extremely careful with your first criticisms.

3. Let your old job go

During the first week in a new venue, most employees feel a strong urge to talk about their previous jobs. After all, your old job represents your most recent experience with this field, and it provides the context for every new thing you’re poised to learn. When you’re introduced to the new company’s data collection software, you may feel the urge to compare the system with your old one. When talking to your new boss, you may have all kinds of things to say about your old boss. But keep a lid on this tendency. These comparisons can sound negative, even when they aren’t. Your loyalties should be shifting to your current employer anyway. Leave the past behind.

4. If you recognize negative people, give them a wide berth

This rule can be difficult, especially if you’re naturally a warm and sociable person. But watch out for people who seem chronically unhappy and who others seem to avoid. Again, your first priority in a new workplace has to be your own future, and if you form strong early connections with negative people and bad apples, it may be hard to break these connections later or prevent yourself from being dragged down.

5. Don’t try to cash in on what you haven’t earned

You may have been a popular person or a proven superstar at your last office, and you may have earned the right to swagger a bit, pontificate, state opinions as if they were facts, or share your feelings on a subject without being asked. But when you left the old situation and stepped into a new one, you left your accumulated capital behind. You haven’t earned anything here. Since you’re starting from scratch, be calm, and move forward with caution and control.

To Gain Respect, Give Respect

For more tips on how to step smoothly into a new professional environment, visit LiveCareer. Explore the career-building resources on the site that can help you make a great impression and start strong on your very first day.

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