Getting your first job is a big deal, and it also sets a precedent for your future jobs, too, even though you may not even realize it at the time. And, a large part of excelling at them is developing good work habits. After all, the impression that you leave with your coworkers there can lead to promotions, a supervisor taking you along to another company, and so forth. So what are the habits that people successful at their first jobs practice?
“Habits are settled or regular tendencies, practices, or rhythms of how you perform basic, daily activities,” Christie Lindor, a 16-year veteran in management consulting and author of the new book The MECE Muse, tells Bustle. “Habits are pretty powerful and become ingrained into your brain, wired into your nervous system, and the manifested results are the outcome of every aspect of your professional and personal life. When you think about how this translates to a first job — how you spend your free time, who you decide to be around, and what type of information you consume — it can mean the difference in the first impressions you create in your first 30 days. Over time, they can affect promotions, plum project assignments, or career sponsorship.”
Like Lindor says, habits are powerful, and habits that people successful at their first jobs practice are ones you may want to try out, too.
1They’re Always On Time
A habit that people successful at their first jobs practice is being on time — always. It’s one thing to run late when meeting your friends for coffee, but another to run late for the weekly meeting at your job… your first job. When you think about it, there’s no excuse to be late for work or work meetings — apart from the subway breaking down, getting a flat tire, or something legitimate, but not from something like sleeping in. “Executing basic habits remarkably well in the beginning of a first job will create first impressions that you take your new role seriously,” Lindor says. “For instance, consistently showing up to work and meetings on time is a great habit to start with.”
2They Act As Though Their Boss Is Watching Them — Even If They’re Not
OK, so you have your first job and your very own office — or at least your very own cubicle. Though it may be easy to sneak a quick peek at Facebook or Instagram, your main focus should be work, of course. So, another habit that people successful at their first jobs practice is pretending their boss is watching them, even if that’s not actually the case. This way, they practice accountability. “Even in private, act how you would if your boss was standing over your shoulder,” Teague Simoncic, Career Coach with Ama La Vida, tells Bustle. “This means not scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, limiting personal calls and texts, and limiting the time you socialize with colleagues about non-work related topics.”
Being proactive is another essential habit that people successful at their first jobs practice. For instance, I think you can often tell people in the office apart — those who are go-getters and those who are not. In other words, you can usually notice the difference between those who take initiative and those who passively sit by, waiting for work to be assigned to them. “Be proactive,” Simoncic says. “Just because you’re new to the workforce doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to add value to your team. Have dreams of being a data analyst, but stuck in a role where you’re mainly doing data entry? Talk with your supervisor about how you can expand on your duties — and come prepared with options for doing so (like participating in a free webinar on statistical software to get the skills needed to conduct a preliminary analysis). When having that conversation, it’s best to have a firm plan for how you can be helpful and a clear explanation of how this will contribute positively to your team’s work.”
Lindor agrees. “Take initiative on the job, either when asked or voluntarily,” she says. “Starting this with your first job is the perfect opportunity to create the right, new habits from the very beginning.”
4They Prioritize What’s Important
Prioritizing tasks is also a necessary habit that people successful at their first jobs practice. Though you may have a very long to-do list, do you have it categorized to differentiate the important tasks from the urgent ones? Furthermore, do you have each task accounted for on your calendar, so you give yourself a reasonable amount of time to do each one? “Make sure you prioritize what’s important,” Simoncic says. “It’s easy to focus on tasks that can be done quickly and without much effort — it feels so good to cross them off our to-do lists! Make sure, though, that you’re not losing sight of big-picture tasks that require long-term coordination and several steps to complete. If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work on your plate, ask your supervisor to help you prioritize what must happen ASAP and what can be tabled momentarily. They’ll be glad you asked instead of letting potentially crucial responsibilities fall by the wayside.”
5They Follow-Through On Tasks
There’s nothing like starting your first job and getting asked to do 101 things — all by Friday. Though your to-do list may seem impossibly long, you’ll get it done, as long as you have good time management skills, know how to prioritize, and complete everything in a timely manner. Following through on tasks is a critical habit that people successful at their first jobs practice. “Making sure you understand tasks and have follow-through is important,” Lindor says. “Performing simple tasks extremely well and consistently over time will create a narrative of the type of employee you are, as will completing activities in a thorough and well-thought-out matter.”
6They Are Comfortable Asking For Help
Though you may have too much pride to ask for help, people successful at their first jobs do it, and it’s a great habit to get into the practice of doing. Even if you think you have your to-do list and job tasks under control, if you have doubts about something — such as the direction you’re supposed to go with a project — don’t hesitate to ask your supervisor. “Get comfortable asking for help,” Simoncic says. “In your first job, you won’t have all the answers — and any good boss knows that. When in doubt, always ask questions if you’re not clear on something. However, make sure to do your research ahead of time so you’re not using your supervisor as your personal Google search bar.”
Networking, too, is a habit that people successful at their first jobs practice. Perhaps you are more of an introvert who prefers to network online, via sites such as LinkedIn. However, networking in person is crucial, and the sooner you can master it — starting with that very first job — the better. Plus, it’s not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. “Take advantage of the opportunity to network,” Simoncic says. “Typically, your first job also comes with your first real chance to be around other people in your career field. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and get to know your colleagues. A great way to do this is by eating lunch in your break room or lunch area instead of holing up in your cubicle. Casual, non-work-related conversations tend to happen in these settings, and you’ll have the opportunity to interact in a more relaxed environment. Strengthening your professional connections can help you as you move forward in your career.”
8They Practice Self-Care
Whether you go for a run every morning to clear your head or meditate before bed to relax, people who are successful at their first jobs make taking care of themselves a priority.
“Make sure to take good care of yourself outside of work,” Simoncic says. “In your first job, you have the opportunity to set the foundation for good work-life balance that will pay off tremendously as life continues to get more complicated. ...Getting into a good sleep routine and making time for personal growth will help you find fulfillment outside of the workplace — leading to a happier and more balanced professional self.”
9They Practice Good Coping Mechanisms
Another habit that people successful at their first jobs do is to practice good coping mechanisms. Similar to taking care of yourself on a daily basis, you also want to be ready for when stress hits, especially out of the blue. To reduce anxiety, maybe you can sneak outside for a 10-minute walk or go off for a few minutes and do a short meditation like the one mentioned above. Point being, have some destressors ready for when the going gets tough.
“Find good ways to cope with stress at work,” Simoncic says. “During jam-packed work days, it can be easy to let stress build and get out of hand, leading to decreased productivity and increased likelihood of being a bit too snarky when interacting with others. When you sense this happening, taking time to re-center is key. Taking several slow, deep breaths — in through your nose and out through your mouth — is an easy technique that can quickly get you back in the zone. Another is taking a short walk to change up your surroundings — even just a lap around the office floor can do the trick.”
As you can see, there are several habits that people successful at their first jobs practice. Hopefully, you now have a better awareness of how important it is to form good habits at that first job, and ones that will stick with you job after job. Even if you’re no longer at your first job, it’s never too late to begin practicing the aforementioned habits, and practice will make perfect, whatever perfect means to you.