Stay On Top: How to Avoid Common Professional Downfalls

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

First day on the job? Getting situated in the office can be stressful. Here are common pitfalls to avoid at work to get off to a good start.

Starting a new job is stressful, even for those who have done it many times. Not only do you need to learn all of your job functions, but you're worried about fitting in socially, getting along with your boss and a host of other concerns. To avoid making mistakes that are hard to recover from, it's important to observe the corporate culture carefully during your first few days. This will give you plenty of clues on how to get along well at work.

1. Dress for Success

Regardless of the job you were hired for, dress like you already have one at least one level above you. Dressing professionally ensures that others take you seriously from the start. While you don't have to wear a three-piece suit or your best dress every day, you don't want to dress like you're hanging out with friends either. Even if you’re new company has a formal dress code, aim to consistently look better than is required of you.

Related Article: Dress for the Job You Want: Why Looking the Part Matters

2. Be a Team Player

In today's corporate culture, employees are expected to take on duties beyond their original job description. When others ask for your help or input on a project, do your best to show that you're a team player. If your current duties don't allow you to help when you're asked, let your co-workers know when you are available. That way it doesn't seem like you are just shutting them down and saying no.

3. Interact with Everyone

Even if you're naturally reserved, force yourself to strike up a conversation with co-workers in the lunchroom or join in social activities outside of work. The last thing you want is for people to assume that you are standoffish and don't want to associate with them.

If you work with anyone who has a disability like hearing loss, make sure that you include them as well. Take the time to learn about the person's challenges so you can accommodate them, but you never want to come across as condescending. For example, look at someone with a hearing loss when you speak rather than shouting at him or her.

4. When in Doubt, Ask

There is so much new information to take in during your first few weeks on the job that you can't possible remember it all. Even so, you may hesitate to ask questions of your supervisor or co-workers because you want to appear competent. This can come back to haunt you if you make mistakes now that must be fixed later. If you need clarification on something, ask questions until you feel confident that you have the information you need to do the job right.

5. Own Up to Mistakes

A good manager understands that all employees make mistakes, whether they are brand new or seasoned veterans. This may not make it easier to admit when you did something wrong, but that is definitely the right thing to do.

In a 2011 survey conducted by ABC News, respondents were asked to name their top five pet peeves in the office. It may surprise you to learn that employees not taking responsibility for their errors was ranked number one. In fact, 78 percent of respondents selected this pet peeve before any others.

Related Article: What Preschoolers Can Teach Us About Company Culture

6. Be Proactive

Most companies only hold employee reviews once or twice a year, even for new workers. If you want to see how you're doing, don't be afraid to ask your supervisor to set aside a few minutes to discuss it. He or she will be impressed with your initiative, and you will have the opportunity to view your work from someone else's perspective.

7. Make Sure You Fit the Culture

While you don't have to give up your individuality when you take a new job, you should also work hard to assimilate to the culture of your new company. If the management is quite traditional, save the wild jewelry and loud clothes for your personal time. It helps things go smoothly when you don't deviate too much from the norm.

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