Whether you're stepping foot into your first real job after school, or simply kicking things off in a new position, a few things will likely be true: you'll be nervous, you'll be stressed, and you won't have any idea what's going on. And, due to all of that swirling around in your head, you might make a few mistakes when starting a new job. And you might even miss out on a few great opportunities. But you know what? That's totally OK.
"The first year of work is a learning experience," Janet Lamwatthananon, a career advice expert at ZipRecruiter, tells Bustle. So don't assume you're a failure if you have to ask a million questions, or if a chance to take on more work comes up and you're not quite ready to take it.
Do, however, recognize the ways new employees can hold themselves back. And if you catch yourself make a mistake or two, allow yourself to move on quickly. "Acknowledge your blunder and then apply any constructive feedback in the future to avoid making the same mistake twice," Lamwatthananon says. "Everyone’s been there, so don’t beat yourself up. Just take it as a valuable learning moment."
Below, a few mistakes that are easy to make during your first year in a new job, so you'll know just what to avoid.
Keeping All Your Questions To Yourself
In a similar vein, it's OK to ask questions and get clarification for your projects. And it's also OK to ask seemingly obvious questions, such as the best way to load paper into that clunky old fax machine. As Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group tells Bustle, "No one expects you to know it all when you start a job. Requesting clarification when you’re in the dark lets your boss and colleagues know you’re eager to learn and get things right."
Failing To "Check In" With Your New Boss
There are lots of reasons why you might hesitate to pop into your boss' office for a chat or a check in. (It's nerve-wracking, you don't know them well, you don't want to look like a suck up — the list goes on an on.) But sitting down regularly to talk about your goals, your strengths, and your weaknesses will earn you all sorts of respect. "These type of regular 'check-ins' will not only illustrate your overall commitment to growth and learning to your manager, but will also helps strengthen your overall relationship," says Lamwatthananon.
Coming In Early And Staying Super Late
If you've just landed a dream job, you might be tempted to show you're committed by coming in early, staying late, and working extra hard. But this strategy can backfire. "It’s great to be excited and to show dedication when you’re new to a job, but coming in early and staying late all the time can become the expectation," Maura Mann, vice president of The Nagler Group, a BANKW Staffing company, tells Bustle. "We also see candidates get burned out." And that's not something you want to do to yourself, especially in the first year.
Getting A Little Too Comfortable
On the flip side, you don't want to get too comfortable during your first year, either. "[Some people] settle into a new position and forget to keep the energy and the momentum moving forwards," Amber-Lee Schneider, founder of The Chakra Girl Collective tells Bustle. Resist bad habits, like waltzing into work super late, or kicking back at your desk to scroll through Instagram. Set a standard you can maintain, while being the best employee you can be.
Befriending The Wrong People
When you're the new person at work, it can be tempting to cling to whoever shows you the first bit of attention. Or, you might feel the opposite way, and avoid making any friends at all. There is, however, a happy middle ground.
"Another mistake we see people make in their first year is buddying up too quickly, and with the wrong people, and then they can’t shake the association," says Mann. "Or, they try to keep their work-life distance so much so that they don’t connect and end up the odd [person] out." Go ahead and have a work BFF, but remember to keep things professional.
Keeping Your Successes To Yourself
It can be tough to speak up and call attention to your work. But if you hope to keep your momentum going after the first year, you'll kind of have to. "Plenty of people work hard in obscurity, only to get passed over for promotions and raises because they didn't know how to advocate for themselves and their contributions," Cangie says.
This means speaking up in meetings, talking open about your work with your boss and colleagues, and sharing new ideas, should you have them. It can feel scary at first, especially if you're working somewhere that feels difficult to break into, but you owe it to yourself (and your career) to try.
Waiting For Approval On Everything
While you don't want to plunge forth into areas that are outside your scope, or do things that are against the rules, you should feel comfortable calling a few shots on your own. "You'll often find that your manager isn't your teacher and that sometimes you need to trust your instincts career expert Emily Liou tells Bustle. "If you're worried you really don't know the answer and you've exhausted all of your resources or its time sensitive, then I would ask your manager for direction."
Taking Criticism Personally
"I know that when you're in a new job, criticism can feel like an indictment but it's not," Andrea Samacicia Mullan, founder of Victory Public Relations, tells Bustle. "It's the best way most people know to help you become a fully functional part of the team." So if your boss offers a critique, take it with grace, add it to your notes, and keep it in mind for the future.
Skipping Out On Networking Events
Since you already landed the job, it might feel like your work is done. But if you see an opportunity to network, or rub elbows with people in positions you'd like to have some day, go ahead and take it.
"It can be hard to think about networking and meeting everyone beyond the scope of your daily tasks, but it's very important to make these connections early and strengthen them during the first year," Valerie Streif, a career advisor with thementat.com, tells Bustle. "It will make it a lot easier to secure a promotion and make important connections for future positions."
Feeling Like You're Above A Certain Task
No matter where you are in your career, it's important to keep an open mind. "New professionals need to be open to performing all types of work," career coach Jamie Terran, BS, CCRC tells Bustle. "People who help out and who step out from their job title to make sure things get done are universally liked and viewed as team players. They are part of the solutions."
And being a team player can mean making an excellent first impression, while also opening doors to better things down the road. You might be nervous during your first year, and you might make mistakes, but it's all a normal part of the process of furthering your career.