What Not to Do During Your First Days at a New Job
Transitioning into a new job brings back those old feelings of starting at a new school, or walking into a party or event where you don’t know anyone. It can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. How you handle those first few days and weeks, though, can help shape what’s to come, so it’s important that you make a favorable impression.
Your goal: to avoid being labeled as “that weird new guy” or “that odd new girl.” Of course, there are worse labels, like having others wonder how you got the job in the first place, or not being noticed at all.
To stand out (in a good way!) during your first days on the job, you’ll want to be friendly, observant, enthusiastic and a fast learner. As for what not to do? If you avoid all of the following behaviors, you should be able to make it through your first days on the job disaster-free.
Don’t Talk Excessively About Your “Ex”
Just like you shouldn’t obsess over an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend on a first date, new colleagues don’t want to hear how great (or how awful) your old office was. Or your old boss. Or your old work cafeteria.
You’re in a new position now, so stop looking to the past and take in and explore your new surroundings with an open mind. Don’t let a negative experience bring you down as you begin a new opportunity. And don’t let nostalgia for a great job you once had cause you to compare every aspect of your new gig to it. Live in the now, and look ahead to the future potential of your new job.
Don’t Hide in Your Cubicle
It can be tempting to keep your head down and sit at your desk for lunch when you don’t know anyone, especially if you’re more of an introvert. But you have to come out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to your office mates. Ask a new colleague if you can join him or her in the lunchroom, or strike up a conversation at the coffee counter. You might think being glued to your computer will make you seem like a hard worker, but it’s counterproductive when it comes to building a rapport with colleagues. In fact, it might even make you seem aloof.
Don’t Share Your Life Story, Though
Building relationships is important, but it’s something that should happen over time. Start off by erring on the side of being professional versus getting too personal in the early days of a new job. Eventually, you might get to know some of your colleagues in a more social way, but until then, keep those deep, dark TMI secrets to yourself.
Don’t Talk About Controversial Topics
No matter how passionate you feel about an issue, it’s probably best to avoid jumping into a debate with people you barely know on controversies, political views and other hot button topics that could cause a rift. Even if someone asks you directly about your opinion, try not to take the bait. Say something to lighten the mood, like “I’m not sure how to feel about that, but how ‘bout them Sox?”
Don’t Take Calls on Speakerphone
This is one of those obnoxious habits that will only serve to annoy your new co-workers. It might have been the norm at your old place of business, or maybe you were used to being in an office with a closed door, but don’t assume that being loud will fly in your new workplace. The same goes for playing music, or clicking your pen, or whatever other noisy habits you may have. And although it should be a no-brainer, refrain from foul language. Be respectful of the office culture, especially if there’s an open layout.
Don’t Funk Up the Office Microwave
Don’t be the guy who warms up pungent food for lunch, or who burns popcorn in the microwave. Or worse, splatter your food and leave it for someone else to clean up. You actually don’t ever want to do these things, but especially not when you’re the new person.
Related tip: Don’t leave expired food to rot in moldy containers in the refrigerator. Or in your desk drawers.
Don’t Act Like a Know It All During Job Training
No matter how much experience you have from previous positions, training programs are carefully designed to get you up to speed with the company’s specific procedures. Even if you feel that what you’re learning is redundant, pay close attention to processes that might be slightly different, and ask thoughtful, more advanced questions. This will help you to stay engaged with the material, and show in a subtle way that you “get it” and are ready to move on to more advanced topics.
Don’t Send Bad Body Language Signals
There are some body language habits that could be perceived as you slacking off or not being interested in learning the ropes, even if that’s not how you feel at all. For instance, if you’re not making eye contact, or if you’re checking your watch or phone for texts, or you’re slouching at a meeting, you’ll look like you have something better to do.
Instead, sit up straight, keep your eyes on the speaker, temporarily shut off your watch and phone notifications and take notes. For more on this topic, check out our our story on body language mistakes.
As for your office interactions, you don’t want to be a “close talker,” sneak up on someone who is facing their computer, or hover over anyone’s workspace. Respect personal space, and give a little knock on the cubicle wall before you approach someone.
Don’t Break the Social Media Rules
Check the new company’s policy when it comes to being on social media during and outside of work hours. Some have hard and fast rules about staying off these platforms, while others encourage you to share company news and industry commentary on LinkedIn, Twitter and other networks.
And even during your off hours, find out if you need to place a disclaimer about your opinions not being reflective of your company’s. Many employees have found themselves in hot water because they didn’t follow their company's policy, even if their activity had nothing to do with work.
Don’t Ask for Time off or to Leave Early
Even if the new job is laid back when it comes to work schedules, you don’t want to look like you’re pushing it when you’re a newbie when it comes to taking time off. Try not to ask to come in late or leave early for at least the first couple of weeks, unless you had a previous engagement from before you were hired (in which case, you should disclose that right away).
Don’t Be Late
Don’t go strolling in 15 minutes past the start of the day or even on time. It’s best to arrive early and get settled so you’re ready to dive right in at start time. In the same way, don’t run out the door exactly at closing time. Stay a few minutes to straighten your work area, and get organized for the next day.
Don’t Neglect to Set Boundaries
While you don’t want to run out the door at 5 p.m. on the dot, you also don’t want to set a precedent that results in others taking advantage of you later on. Set some boundaries if you feel like new colleagues are trying to lighten their load by pushing work off on you, or if you find that the boss is texting you way past office hours. Yes, it’s OK to help out in a pinch, but everyone deserves to enjoy their home life without interruption. Try mentioning casually to your colleagues that you turn off your work notifications after 8 p.m., for instance.
Don’t Wait Around for Someone to Tell You What to Do Next
Some companies are better at onboarding than others. You might have a very specific set of tasks to get you started, or you might not. In any case, if you finish up and find yourself with nothing to do, be proactive and tell your supervisor or someone on your team that you’re ready for more work. If there’s downtime, you might see if you can shadow someone to learn some other aspect of the job, or do a tutorial for software programs you might be working with. The idea is that you want to show that you’re being productive, and are eager to keep things moving along.
Don’t Miss the Dress Code Cues
If there’s no official dress code, don’t just assume that your idea of casual style is the same as the company’s. Look around at how others are dressed and groomed. And when in doubt, just ask if jeans are appropriate before you show up wearing them. If you enjoy funky hair colors and styles or are into piercings, that might also be the sort of thing that you’ll want to tone down during the work week depending on the company vibe.
Don’t Try to Wing It
Yes, employers love people who take initiative to learn new things, but when you’re brand new at a job, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask lots of questions. If you’re not sure how to fill out your timesheet or are having trouble creating a login for a work platform, it’s better to ask then to waste hours on it or get it totally wrong. The key is that when you do get clarification on how to do something, jot it down somewhere so that you don’t ask the same questions again in a week.