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Build Your Career Get Ahead

5 Mistakes to Avoid at Your First 'Real' Job

5 Mistakes to Avoid at Your First 'Real' Job
Credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Starting any new job can be intimidating. You'll want to make a good impression on your employer and boost your career. However, if this is your first job in the corporate world, you might have a hard time adjusting to a professional atmosphere.

"We have all been the new kid on the block, at school or in the workplace," said Lawrence Miller, a Udemy instructor, author and leadership coach. "There are some very clear ways to make a good impression or to get off on the wrong foot. The most important thing is to know your principles and purpose."

Whether you just graduated and landed a full-time position or decided to leave your part-time gig to pursue a career, make sure you avoid these mistakes.

Even if your company doesn't require professional attire or strict hours, you shouldn't take advantage of the system by being overly casual, especially right away.

"When you're new on the job, you have to prove yourself; so approach everything at your highest level of performance," said Kelly Hoey, networking strategist and author. "Wearing a shirt that needs ironing or arriving 30 minutes later than the rest of the office is something you need to earn through continually producing great work."

You're not likely to start your dream career by doing exactly what you want and nothing more. Odds are you're going to be assigned tasks you don't enjoy. If you want to climb the ladder in your industry, you'll have to pay your dues. Having the mentality of "I wasn't hired to do this" will only hurt your chances of advancing to a position you truly love.

"Arrogance is the enemy of learning, and humility is the lubricant of learning," said Miller.

"For many graduates, the first job is in a small business or startup," added Hoey. "If that's you, know that doing whatever task is assigned to you is always part of your job description. Look for ways to help the company you're working for beyond what you thought you were hired to do."

Your first job is a steppingstone to your entire career, and you can't expect to skip over it without falling flat on your face. If you want to succeed in the industry of your choice, you'll need to treat your profession with respect.

"Excellence is not a place, but a process – a process of continuous lifelong learning and improvement," said Miller. "If you approach your new job with an understanding that you are on a lifelong journey, it relieves a lot of pressure to feel that you have to get somewhere quick."

The ability to work as a team is a major requirement for most companies. Many assignments call for multiple people collaborating with each other to get the job done. Your success depends on you being a great team member. As an employee, you should learn problem-solving skills to help your team succeed and support them along the way, said Miller.

"If you can do this, you will be demonstrating the most important leadership skill needed today – great team leadership," he added.

Keeping to yourself is beneficial to a certain extent. You avoid drama, get your work done and focus on your own success. However, isolating yourself might prevent you from forming connections and limit your opportunities within the company.

"Get to know other people at your job, even if it won't turn into long-term friendships or relationships," said Andrew Luttrell, Ph.D., professor of social psychology at the College of Wooster and a Udemy instructor. "Social connections are important contributors to happiness. The more we connect with people in our lives, the happier we are."

Luttrell noted that even small conversations with co-workers can boost your mood. If you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you might be surprised at the outcome.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela is a recent graduate of Rowan University, where she majored in writing arts and minored in journalism. She currently works as a Purch B2B staff writer while working on her first novel in her free time. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.