Career Center Blog

December 20, 2012

New job? 9 things not to do your first week


You just landed a job -- finally! -- and you've got the jitters. Of course you do. It's not easy being a newbie. All those traumatic first-day-of-school memories come flooding back. What to do? I mean, beyond working really hard?

I find it really helpful to think in terms of what not to do: 

1. Don't be late. Being late is always bad, but being late during your first week is very, very bad. It brands you. Even if you're on time every day for the next year, that first impression of you as a tardy person may stick.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions. No one expects you to know everything the first day. So ask. And write down the answers.

3. Don't talk too much. Just like at a job interview, spend more time listening than talking. People love good listeners.

4. Don't criticize "the way things are done." For some crazy reason, people do not love a person coming in and telling them that everything they're doing is wrong. Be diplomatic.

5. Don't eat lunch alone. Now is the time to get to know as many people as possible. You will learn a lot.

6. Don't turn down offers of help. You want to impress everyone with your amazingness. You may even think you don't need help. But if help is offered, say, "Sure, thanks."

7. Don't establish alliances. While you are being all gregarious and accommodating, keep in mind that sometimes the first person you meet on a new job is a person who's looking for recruits in whatever craziness he or she has going on. Be wary of the overly friendly co-worker! It's too early to become besties with anybody.

8. Don't behave as if small tasks are beneath you. Every job involves a certain amount of scut work. For some reason, a lot of it seems to pop up during that first week.

9. Don't appear to be overwhelmed, even if you are. Think about this from your employers' point of view. They have spent time and money hiring you. They want to feel that it was effort well spent. Yes, ask questions (#2), and yes, accept help (#6), but aim at cultivating an overall air of competence and confidence. Acting "as if" often makes it true.
The bottom line? Your mom was right: First impressions really are lasting impressions.  Don't miss this golden opportunity to create really super ones.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

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Along with #4. Learn how to do the job their way. Even if you think you might have a more efficient way of performing the task wait a few weeks or months and then introduce your ideas to your manager. People are used to doing things a certain way and if you try to change that right out of the gate you will upset a lot of people.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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