But if you're not careful, you could find yourself unknowingly making the kind of mistakes that will not only bug your co-workers and boss, but prompt them to label you as “annoying,” “clueless” or “worthless.”
If you want to avoid such monikers, consider these top 10 mistakes often made by newbies:
1. Saying “I know” too much.
You were hired for the job because the employer believes you to be intelligent enough to do it. But that doesn't mean your colleagues want to hear a smug “I know” or an eye-rolling, “I know” while they're trying to offer helpful advice. When advice is offered, offer a simple “thank you.” If it is advice that has been offered before and you're getting sick of hearing it, you can always say something like, “Thanks for the advice. Todd and Bridget mentioned the same thing so I can see this is an important issue.”
2. Dishing the dirt.
Even if you think it’s harmless gossip such as, “Did you see what Kim Kardashian wore the other day? Horrible!” you don’t want to give even a hint that you might be a gossip. While office politics and gossiping are part of any workplace, in the early days you've got to be careful not to give anyone any ammunition to use against you. When the new boss asks a colleague how you're doing, you want the colleague to mention how you're focused on work – not the latest issue of “People” or the fact that you gossip with another colleague during your break.
3. Failing to acknowledge the top dogs.
In some circles, this is known as “kissing up.” But paying your respects to leaders and top performers is much more than that. It means that you've done your research and are being respectful of their accomplishments. In other words, don't meet the top performer and say “Hi” without also noting, “I know you spearheaded that big project for XYZ Corp. last year. I look forward to watching and learning from you.”
4. Being rude with technology.
Yes, it’s true that everyone relies too much on their smartphone and spends too much time on Facebook at work. One day you may do the same. But in the first months of your job, don't even send one text during your work hours or even think of checking Facebook. It’s a double standard to be sure, but you'll be judged much more harshly in the beginning for such behavior. Explain to family and friends that you'll be offline except during breaks so you'll be less tempted to stray into behavior that will cause others to see you as immature and lazy.
5. Showing up with orange hair.
If you were hired with brown hair, that doesn't mean you can show up with neon-colored hair three weeks into your new job. It’s also smart to avoid new visible tattoos, piercings or clothes that drastically change your look. Bosses can get very unhappy very quickly when they discover a new hire has made changes that violate dress codes or the company culture. They want to spend their time coaching and training you in your new job, not telling you that your hairstyle is scaring customers.
6. Not writing things down.
I don’t know about you, but it bugs the heck out of me when I go to a restaurant with several people and the waiter doesn't write down even one order. Usually that means he delivers orders that are wrong and we all just shrug and eat what is in front of us because we don't want to hassle with it. But you can bet that poor performance may be reflected in the tip. Some people believe they have an uncanny memory for details, and maybe you are one of them. But if you don't want to drive your colleagues and boss crazy, take the time to write down the directions that you are given. It’s one thing to go back with questions to verify your notes, it’s another matter to say, “Uh….what did you say earlier today? I don't remember.” You've just created more work for that person who has to repeat instructions – and given yourself a reputation as a poor listener.
7. Not hitting your marks.
You should always strive to get to work 10 to 15 minutes early. That allows you to stow your stuff, get a cup of coffee and sit down to catch your breath before diving into your job. Nothing makes you look more unorganized than rushing in and jumping into your seat in the nick of time – or even late. When it comes time to leave, don’t bolt for the door the minute your time is up, but take the time to organize your workspace for the next day and ensure you're not leaving critical work unfinished. The same is true for lunch or other break times – take the time allotted but no more.
8. Turning down happy hour.
I’m not telling you to go get wasted with your colleagues, but when the invitation is issued to go to happy hour or lunch, don’t turn it down in the early days. Later you can plead other plans, but in the beginning you should graciously accept invitations to get to know colleagues better or you could be perceived as not being a team player. One word of caution: It’s OK to share a bit of your personal life during such situations, but try to spend more time asking questions and listening rather than sharing too much information about your personal situation that could become fodder for office gossips.
9. Talking too much about past successes.
It is important to establish yourself as a talented individual, but you have to walk a fine line when you’re the new employee. Too much gabbing about how you interned at Apple or started your own business when you were 15 are wonderful accomplishments, but can come off as bragging when others don’t know you well. Only use examples of how you accomplished a task if it directly applies to a situation, and save your stories about meeting Steve Jobs on the elevator until you’ve established a more solid rapport with others.
10. Failing to make eye contact and smile.
It’s such a little thing, but one that can really make or break a new worker from Day 1. Take the time every day to look someone in the eye, smile and say “Good morning” or make some friendly remark. That small gesture will pay off in big ways as you're seen as friendly, professional and mature.
What are some common goofs you see from new employees?