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What Should You Do When You Begin a New Job?

Updated on April 8, 2014
It's your first week.  Look busy and make a good impression.
It's your first week. Look busy and make a good impression. | Source

It’s a New Dawn. It’s a New Day. It’s a New Life. And You Feel Good.

Congratulations! You’ve landed that new job.

For some, it may be new to their first job. For many of us, given the job market over the last five years or so, it’s the next phase of our career. And whether you’re a new graduate, a veteran, or a seasoned professional, you have to remember that probably you’ll be in a place full of strangers who know almost nothing about you.

It's like that first day of school all over again. There are new people, new rules, and new ways of behaving.

Everyone gets to be “new” at least once. And if you’re new to the workforce, you should know that the average person changes careers at least three times in his or her life. “New” is a matter of perspective.

So, what do you do? If you’re lucky enough to have landed full time, permanent employment position (non-contract work), you’re probably going to be around for quite a long time. It is important you act properly and remember that new careers, like a new relationship, have their own set of rules.

Just to let you know that I know what I’m talking about and that this isn’t my first rodeo, I’ve had to start over a few times. After being with one Fortune 100 company for fifteen years and going through a reduction in force, I did contract work for eight years. Each contract was a new opportunity to be an asset and to make friends and contacts for a finite period of time. Each new start was exciting and each finish was the end of a chapter in my life.

While I know a newbie is excited to collect a new paycheck and make that all important business contribution, you might need to pace yourself a bit. Your dazzling office, linguistic, and technical skills need to be discovered rather than shown off at this point. Like a hot bath, it’s best to ease yourself into the water than make a large splashy mess.

Curb your enthusiasm.

Also, if you’re the type of person who likes to be a “rebel” or “party-girl”, table that behavior indefinitely or you’ll be unmasked faster than Martin Landau at the end of a Mission: Impossible episode.

Here are things that you absolutely must do to make your new career start as painless as possible.

Dress for success
Dress for success | Source

Dress Appropriately

The new trend with businesses is to dress in “Business Dress Casual”. Learn what that means.

Most of the time, it means no jeans, no sneakers, no T-shirts. To be safe, I would upgrade to “suit optional, tie optional, jacket optional” or, when you’re ready to push the envelope, “khaki pants, button down dress shirt, shoes”.

This is for corporate dress casual. Obviously, if you’re a blue collar worker who is required to wear either a uniform or appropriate dress for the environment, wear what they tell you to.

You are to dress to impress. You are not there to show everyone how you dress at home.

Each company has an image to maintain. When clients come to your office, there's a level of decorum and a level of professionalism. Avoid wearing that Black Sabbath concert tee shirt, ripped jeans (or ripped anything), or what you’d wear to a local pub.

Remember, the people in this new company don’t know you yet. It’s best that they get the right impression of you. Keep things professional and dress in a manner that doesn’t make the hiring manager regret his decision.

What attracts you to a new job?

See results

Arrive on time

Very much like going on an interview, it is critical to be punctual. One of the best pieces of advice regarding punctuality came when I was in the Reserved Officers Training Corp. “If you can’t be on time, be early.”

Much like having a firm handshake for the “halo effect”, you should avoid making a poor impression by being late on your first day. Punctuality shows an employer that you can plan and carry through with your plans.

While this should be a no brainer, it is critical to remember because you’ll need to know how long it’s going to take you to get to your office during a normal commute day. Chances are, you’ll begin working the first Monday after you’ve been hired. That being said, you’ll need to overestimate your ETA and account for traffic.

Always allow for extra time.

If you need to buy bus tickets or train tickets, buy them in advance. There is nothing worse than missing a bus or train because you’re in line at a ticket counter.

If you’re driving to work, fill your gas tank. If there’s enough time between your hiring day and your start date, take your car to the mechanic and get a tune up. After all, you’re going to be using your car on a regular basis now. Take “car trouble” out of the equation. I remember one interview on a cold December morning that I had scheduled in New York and I couldn’t start my car. Fortunately, I was able to use my wife’s. However, I remember panicking that morning.

Do's and Don't's

Do's
Don't's
Importance
Be on time
Leave work early
Moderate
Be professional
Use inappropriate language
Critical
Study up on your skills
Surf the Internet
Moderate to Critical
Meet your coworkers
Make personal calls
Moderate
Learn about your company
Update your Facebook status
Critical
Dress "Business Casual"
Wear jeans and sneakers
Critical

You are there to learn

You may be a seasoned professional with years of experience under your belt, but every company has their own way of doing things. You need to know their ropes before you go about making your own.

This is especially true if you’re changing industries. My experience with this goes to when I came from working within a brokerage firm and then went to work doing a similar role within a pharmaceutical firm. Things that were somewhat lax within the financial industry are strictly regulated within the pharmaceutical industry. My first two weeks of working at that latter job involved eighty hours of online training regarding FDA rules and procedures as well as the criticality of cyber security on the job.

I needed to know how and why things were done before I went about doing things my own way. Had I not focused on their procedures I may have made critical mistakes that would have cost me my job or my contract.

Quote

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

- Mark Twain

Silence is Golden

Mark Twain had once said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

That rule holds firm today. For the most part, you should be listening. If someone addresses you directly with a question, answer them. However, you should do your best to squash the urge to chime in with your opinion regarding their business. Remember, in these first days, you will be judged by your first impression. Be thought of as being thoughtful.

This also goes for the language you use. It is not professional to swear on the job. That includes swearing when you bang your thumb in a desk drawer. In everything you say and do from the hours of nine to five (and in some cases beyond that), you represent your work place.

If the language is loose within your department, resist the temptation to peer pressure. Until you get the feel for whom your coworkers are and the environment of the workplace, speak as if you were talking to your grandmother.

This includes email, texting, and phone conversations.

Source

You are on THEIR clock

The term “employee” literally means “to be used”. If your hours are 9: AM to 5: PM, you are on their time. They are paying you for your time. That being the case, you are only to do things that the company would have you do.

That means the following:

  • No personal calls
  • No Facebook
  • No Tweeting
  • No blogging
  • No surfing the Internet (unless it’s part of your job)
  • No personal emailing
  • No commenting on Internet boards
  • No cellphone pictures in the office

And, above everything else, do not use your company email account for personal business. People can be fired for that.

If you really have a need to update your Facebook status, make a personal call, tweet, or make a personal email, do it from your smartphone during your lunch hour. Keep your comments general and NEVER bad mouth your new workplace while using its company name. Those things are searchable and they can cost you your new job.

You are on their clock. Your time is theirs. They are paying for it.

Things to consider...

  • Depending on your economic situation, it is sometimes better to have time than money.
  • Benefits have value and should be considered in your acceptance or rejection of a new job.
  • The distance you have to commute to your job is a definite factor in your salary computations. If you spend half your day on the road, you need to ask yourself if you're working to live or living to work.
  • It's important to get along with your co-workers. Eight plus hours of your day will be spend with them - which is longer than most people spend with their family.

Look Busy and Be Productive

You are there to work.

If your direct manager has a job or assignment for you, do it. Understand what you can. If you have any critical questions, ask them. However, don’t ask stupid questions. The presumption is that you have the qualifications for the job you’re doing. If they tell you to take some data, make an Excel spreadsheet, and make some graphs, do that.

When you’re done, let them know. They may wish you to do something else.

However, chances are that they won’t start you doing anything mission critical. They’ll probably be introducing you to people you’re going to work with and who the people are that you’ll need for specific resources.

If they don’t give you anything, brush up on the skills they’re paying you for. If you’re doing stuff involving SQL databases, brush up on your SQL querying. If you haven’t used your JavaScript skills in a while, brush up on that.

If you aren’t doing your very best, be prepared to do your very best.

Final Words

Nothing I’ve said here is new. All of it should be common sense.

Scott Adams, author of Dilbert and The Dilbert Principle, said, “Companies use a lot of energy trying to increase employee satisfaction. That's very nice of them. But let's face it — work sucks. If people liked work they'd do it for free.”

It’s easy for me to sit here and say that in today’s market, you should be happy to have a job in a recovering economy. I know that there are certain liberties that I’m giving up during my work hours in order to continue to be employed. I know that my time on Facebook is going to go down, I also know that there are things I’m going to need to do on my privacy settings to insure that anything I’ve said in the past should not come back to haunt me.

As much as I advocate freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I also advise young people who are new to the work force that while people are free to do many of these things, you are also free to live in a cardboard box and be jobless. You should always be cognizant that the price for being employed is that you represent your employer. So, if you’re arrested for doing illegal drugs and that ends up in the news, don’t be surprised that it will also cost you your job.

Until you find your groove within the company, you should take it slow, do what you have to do, be a team player, and above all, don’t be an asshole. Remember what it was like for you on your first day of school. There were a lot of new faces, new rules, and new ways to behave. Starting your career at a new company is not that much different. Eventually, you’ll make friends, find your niche, and become an asset.

Until then, your job is to do your job and be a professional while doing it. Obey the rules, be polite, and learn the ropes. Once you’ve done that and establish yourself, the world will be your mollusk.

© 2014 Christopher Peruzzi

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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This is an excellent hub guide for employees beginning a new job, whether it's the individual's first out of high school, trade school or college, or a seasoned worker who's been promoted or even a new job for someone who's been unemployed due to layoffs. Whatever the reason he or she is starting a "first day", the tips you gave will be useful.

      Terrific last line, too. You get an A+ for this one in my book, cperruzi!

      Voted Up++ and shared

      Jaye

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Christopher, you have good tips work for standard office work, but there are many jobs where things like your definition of dress code don't fit. I worked as an office manager for a small machine company, for example, where the owner simply fired me for a "personality conflict." We had never had an argument, my mistakes were minor and few in the three-month probation, I was always on time, etc. However, I deduced the man would have been more comfortable if I had worn blue jeans and a T-shirt, similar to what other employees wore. So, "dress for success" doesn't always work. Sometimes uniforms are required, too. In short, you not only have to understand the needs of your employer, but his/her personality quirks as well and cater to them. This takes maturity.

      Another important point is whether one feels fulfilled as an employee in the type of work required. There is a great tendency to ignore core values when taking employment for pay.

      By the way, I'm one of those strange people who loves to work and is happy to contribute for the betterment of mankind regardless of whether I'm paid or not.

      Thank you for sharing and keep writing!

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      Marie, thanks for the feedback.

      A few things which I was trying to not address - if only for the reason that I get an eye twitch every time I think about it - about dress codes and dismissals. First off, you have my deepest sympathies regarding the "personality conflict". I hear you loud and clear. I live in New Jersey, which is an "at will" state - meaning an employer can fire someone for no particular reason, up to and including the rationale that "it's Thursday." It's cruel and it certainly does not give closure to anyone who has dedicated a large portion of their life to an organization. My wife was dismissed after nearly fifteen years of impeccable service on the grounds of "we feel it's time we go our separate ways" excuse. Although I can't definitely prove it, I'm sure it was for money reasons, but as New Jersey is an "at will" state, the employer did not require a reason. "Personality conflict" is up there with "go our separate ways". In my mind, the employer should have just said, "I'm an asswipe and you're not. So therefore, we don't mix."

      As far as dressing for success, you're right. It takes some time to figure out what their "uniform" might be. If the atmosphere to everyone is jeans and T-shirt, dress accordingly after the first week - or better yet, ask someone else who's been there for a bit what the standard dress is. They should give you the lay of the land.

      As far as job fulfillment is concerned, there are many variables. If you're doing it for the money (a last resort, I know), happiness is a luxury. You may not be doing your chosen profession, but you're paying the rent. If an employer is being abusive, keep your resume updated and get out as soon as possible.

      I will agree to disagree about doing work for nothing. I'll quote the Heath Ledger "Joker" on this one, "If you're good at something, you should be paid for it." It is the marriage of making your passion pay off. However, I'll define of doing something you love as a hobby and doing something you love for a living as a career.

      Jack Lemmon's father was a baker and had told his son (when he broke the news to him about going off to be an actor), "Do it. Because the moment I don't find romance in baking a loaf of break, I'd quit."

      Once again, thanks for your support.

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      Sorry, that's "loaf of bread" and "define the action of doing something you love for free as a hobby and doing something you love for a living as a career."

      (I was interrupted while making my response.)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I've had 20 jobs in the almost 40 years since graduating college (can you say Army Wife?) and my advice is to stay neutral in office politics for at least the first six months so you give yourself a chance to "find out where the bodies are buried." Most workplaces include some drama and it's best to stay out of it for as long as possible.

      I would say in my own defense, I've never been fired, but besides moving a lot, and chasing higher salaries while my kids were in college, I do have something of a short attention span. I'm in awe of anyone who can do the same work - even on a progressing career track - for an entire career. The one thing I have always done is writing, in one form or another. I guess that's my career.

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      Keep on writing. It will always be in demand. :)

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 3 years ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi Cperruzzi,

      This is an impressive hub as impressive as the first impression to be made on day one! Keep it up to date. It will always be read. Thank you and good success in all your hub!

      Miebakagh57

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      That's a great suggestion! As I hear of new, practical things (from real people and not business articles), I'll add updates to this in follow up articles.

      The pitfalls of a new employee are vast and it takes not only practical advice but new philosophies of the changing times to navigate them well.

      Thanks for the feedback.

    • Dbro profile image

      Dbro 3 years ago from Texas, USA

      This is such a great hub! It should be required reading for every young person entering the working world. In fact, I am sending this link to my son in college. As you say, much of this is common sense, but we all need reminders about what is proper behavior in stressful or unfamiliar circumstances.

      Thanks for this useful and inspiring information!

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 3 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      There's a lot of great advice in this hub for those starting on a new job. I'll be sure to reference it once I land that dream job of mine (something stable, consistent and substantial). Job seekers, like moi, can also use that time to brush up on rusty skills.

      Great hub. Voted up and very useful.

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      The thing about these circumstances is that anyone can be overwhelmed with their new position - even experienced worker bees. Psychologically, we all want to be accepted into our new fold. Why? Because making professional bonds and being amiable can help you get your work done. It's also good not to piss off people who can make your job more difficult.

      So, it's easy to fall into a state where you just don't think. You should always want to behave as a professional. After a time, when you get to know everyone, you can relax a bit. But until you thoroughly test the water, play it safe for a bit. If it feels wrong, err on the side of caution.

      Wait a month or so before you drink with your co-workers on your first Friday at "beer o'clock". Make an excuse and go home. You don't want to be known as the newbie who can't hold his liquor - or worse, the one who vomited on the boss.

      Do your job. Do it well. And don't act like a jerk. Some first impressions last forever.

    • uthmansy profile image

      shuaib 3 years ago from nigeria

      wow that is a very nice tip

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 3 years ago from USA

      Very good advice for seasoned professionals or young people just starting out. Congratulations on your Hub of the Day!

    • melrazo profile image

      Melissa 3 years ago

      Hi,

      I'm a little new to Hub Pages (only posted 2 of my own) and am just exploring and reading around right now. I came across your hub and it got me thinking. I think that it is really well written and detailed. Nonetheless, what you said about nothing you wrote being new is true. It's the same old advice we've heard from the generations before us for decades. Do you think perhaps that is why we have 2 generations of people in the work force right now (generation x and generation y) who are miserable with their lives and can't find a place where they fit?

      I mean, everything you said sounds good on the surface but underneath it is all about pretending to be what other people want you to be. I get that a business pays you to be on their time, but I really feel our society as a whole would be a better place if people could find working environments where they are accepted the way they are and for their talent. And that comes down to every individual striving for that instead of just giving in to corporate demands.

      I was a restaurant manager for nearly 8 years and hopped through 3 different corporately owned chains in that time. I am very good at that job. My restaurants were successful, and I had a boss that actually nearly cried when I gave my notice and another that responded with major anger and refused to give me a reference when I quit because he was so mad that I left after how successful I had made my location. Nonetheless, I couldn't stand working in that because of the demand that I give up my own personality to satisfy the company's idea of the image I should project. It was my personality and ability that made me successful, but after a certain period of time, corporate persons would step in and always demand I continue with the same upward sales trend while changing who I am.

      Sorry, I don't mean to unload on you. It just seems like their should be a better way to do business.

      You made the comment that companies spend a lot of time and money thinking about how to make their employees happy. I think that a decent business who treats their employees like humans instead of cloned automatons wouldn't have to be so creative in coming up with attractive "employee benefits". People would be happy there because they knew they were appreciated for the good work they do instead of pretending to be someone they aren't.

      I'll stop now. If you, the author, of this hub read through this whole response, let me just say thank you for taking the time. Do keep writing. There are a lot of people who want to be writers, but not a lot who can actually do it well.

      Melissa

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      In actuality, there are three groups doing business today: Gen X, Gen Y... and the Baby Boomers. Yup, they're still out there. And that's part of the reason why we have to behave how we do. There are old people with old values and they are most likely the ones that are entrenched in management today.

      When you think about older corporations, it takes a while to get up the corporate ladder and, not only survive, but thrive there. In doing that, you have to play the game. Yeah, that means being politically correct. If you have fantasies about being "the rebel corporate genius who somehow is indispensable despite his lack of hygiene and bad behavior problems", leave those thoughts to a good fiction writer.

      One of the first things I learned at my first big corporate job is... and read this carefully... NO ONE IS INDESPENSABLE. Really, it's true. The moment a corporation discovers someone who is "indispensable" they will fire him and hire five people to do what he did.

      The reality of the situation is that corporations, for the most part, are a stable living. If you want to be a rebel and play things your own way, you can always do your own gig. You can either be a consultant (you'll still need to play the game to a point) or strike out on your own and compete with your own business. Both options have some risk and reward to them, more the latter than the former - but if your priority is to not bend to corporate evil and their demands, go for it.

      There is always a price to pay. When you're your own boss, you'll find that you're a horrible taskmaster when you want to be successful. Every entrepreneur knows this. And yeah, it's hard.

      However, not to be all "doom and gloom", there are business models made by progressive young businesses that respect your work/life balance and allow people to make art from their mistakes. If you get a chance to actually read Scott Adam's book "The Dilbert Principle", his OA5 model is a piece of genius that takes a lot of the soul crushing butt wipes out of the equation. The first task of his business is to "eliminate the assholes". When you get people in your organization who do nothing but create pain, problems, and abuse to others, they're assholes - and they deserve to be gone. If I were to run my own business again, I'd certainly adopt many of his principles.

      I hope this lends a bit of wisdom to your issue and thanks for writing in.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      This is a wonderful hub with some good reminders when starting a new job. It is good to make them happy they hired you. I feel so thankful for my job, it seems it can be hard to find a good one sometimes. I appreciated your tips, and I am sure it will help people. Voted up and Useful.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Good hub of basic tips for those starting new jobs. I especially like the tip about staying silent as often as possible. Mark Twain was right!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 3 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on your HOTD. These are very useful tips. I think one common mistake that more experienced people make when switching jobs is trying to change things for the better, usually the way the old company did things, before really knowing why the new company does things differently. Even if the old company did do things better, it is probably best to wait to see the political landscape before making changes.

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I actually had to make that point today at work. Essentially, I made a point of what the department is doing well, now.

    • Author Cheryl profile image

      Cheryl 3 years ago

      It's funny how you have to say don't be on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest. In our younger days of no cell phones and no access the internet what on earth did we do without facebook. I know a lot of the younger people are on their phones constantly where I work and it is irritating to say the least. One of my coworkers has her phone set to sound like a horn every time she gets a new email. It's irritating but I don't say anything because she is mostly deaf and can barely hear a word you say so I just try to do my own work and ignore her phone.

    • Hui (蕙) profile image

      Hui (蕙) 3 years ago

      Even nothing all new, but still good suggestions and pertinent final words! Both for being an employee and being a boss! A key is the interaction. More importantly, learned from Mark Twain. All those inspirational words work on mind.

    • theBAT profile image

      theBAT 3 years ago

      Hi. Yes, its true. A new employee has to dress appropriately. Be on time and make a good impression. For a few months, it is very critical that newbies learn the ropes and get the "feel" of the work environment. Blend in and work smart. Thanks for this great hub.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 3 years ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      I agreed with all particularly @Cperuzzi. Any firm, company can go full stream online like ebay. What should the become of standard business ethnics? Miebakagh57

    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I'm not sure that business ethics plays here... in almost every way.

      What this article is about is how you should curb your more unprofessional side of your personality and play it safe until you test the water. This article serves as a primer to those who are new to the corporate world and a reminder to those who are returning to it. I could almost sum it up in three words: Don't be unprofessional.

      Be on time. Present yourself as neat and kempt. Don't food around. Do your job.

      Business ethics is more on the line of "Should I moonlight making money from another business during the business hours of a different business?" or "Is it okay to tell a competitor about our business policies?" The answers to these are common sense - and if you don't know them, you should have your professional compass recalibrated.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 3 years ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Thank you Cperuzzi. You are welcomed.

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