If you’re a recent college grad, landing your first job and making a favorable impression is an important step towards establishing yourself in the business world. The way you carry yourself during the start of your career can have lasting effects and should be approached with much thought and preparation. I’m sharing a few of the most common mistakes young professionals make in the workplace. Do yourself a favor by avoiding these pitfalls:
1. Pushing the lines of the company dress code. Avoid the temptation to dress like you are still attending college classes. Guys, invest in a package of inexpensive white t-shirts and wear them under your dress shirts. Women, if it’s too short, too low, too stretchy or too casual, it’s not work appropriate. If budget is a challenge, purchase a few key pieces in neutral colors until you’ve built up your professional wardrobe. Slow and steady is the key.
2. Abusing the company’s internet policy. Just because you have internet access at work doesn’t mean you should be Facebooking, tweeting and shopping on company time. You never know who may be looking over your shoulder (including the IT department monitoring and reporting to your supervisor). Yes, it does happen more often than you think.
3. Getting too close and personal at work. While there is nothing wrong with making friends at work, be careful not to divulge too much of your personal life too fast. Spend some time getting to know everyone before you decide to trust them with your confidences. Make every effort to keep your nose clean by staying out of the office gossip.
4. Not filling it back up. Whether it’s the last few sheets at the copier or the last few sheets of toilet paper, be a good colleague and take the extra few seconds it will take to restore and refresh the paper. Your efforts will not go unappreciated. On the same track, don’t drink the last cup of coffee or eat the last piece of cake and leave it for someone else to clean up behind you.
5. Personal phone calls. Don’t bring personal calls into the workplace unless absolutely necessary. At one time or another, everyone has an emergency but making calls at the office while everyone else is diligently working on their projects sets you up to fail. Stay off your cell phone and use your lunch hour to make your hair, nail and spa appointments.
6. Texting at your desk. Texting can be just as much of a disturbance (and just as unprofessional) as making personal calls at work. Not to mention the clicking sound your phone makes with each letter you text and the “ding” to alert notifying you of a new text. It’s not only distracting but disturbing to be in a meeting or out to lunch with someone who is looking down, instead of paying attention to the conversation.
7. Arriving late. Being late (even just a few minutes) on a regular basis creates a less-than-desirable image that can be hard to shake. Your morning commute should factor in traffic, weather, a stop at the coffee shop and an extra tap on the snooze button. There’s no excuse that will suffice when your boss notices that you are consistently late to work.
8. Dialing down your productivity in the late afternoon. When 4′ clock rolls around, some employees start checking out and checking in with the friends they are going to meet for dinner. Others start getting ready for the second job at the mall. If your work day goes until 5 o’clock, your productivity should go until then as well. Just because you’re anxious to meet your friends after work doesn’t mean you can spend the last hour and a half planning your night, emailing friends to confirm or otherwise not doing your job.
9. Interrupting. This is something that plagues professionals of all ages. Interrupting is a sure sign you’re not fully listening. Rather than completing someone else’s sentence or breaking into an existing conversation with your own thoughts, wait until the other person pauses to inject your own opinion. Standing at the office door of someone who is on the telephone is another form of interruption. Be respectful of your fellow colleagues and give them an opportunity to speak – as well as their privacy.
10. Expecting too much, too soon. We all know you won’t stay in your first job forever. You may even be over-qualified for the position you currently hold. But, don’t expect a promotion before your 90-day review. Hard work pays off, but not overnight. Show your boss what you can do, and how you are not afraid to roll your sleeves up and do what is necessary to be part of the team. Climbing the ladder is a matter of hard work and perseverance.
Every opportunity that’s been afforded to you is a step closer to your long-term career goals. Learn as much as you every day and give every task your best effort. You won’t be disappointed!