5 Things You Should Never Do When Starting a New Job — And 5 Things to Do Right Away
There can be numerous upsides to starting a new job: a fresh culture, new relationships and colleagues, and (hopefully) exciting pay and benefits. There are plenty of things to do on your first day at a new job to set yourself up for success, too. However, it’s important to remember that new beginnings require a fresh perspective, too.
For instance, you may have formed bad habits at your previous job. Maybe you got too comfortable, or maybe you started getting lazy towards the end of it because your morale was low. Whatever the case, a new position is a perfect opportunity to do away with those habits and have a fresh start.
What Should You Avoid When Starting a New Job?
There are several obvious things you shouldn’t do in a new job — like complaining about your old job, gossip, coming in late and other faux pas. But there are also some not-so-obvious behaviors you should avoid, too. Avoiding the following five behaviors will help set you up for success earlier on in your new job.
1. Acting on impulse.
Landing a new job is exciting, but sometimes it can embolden us to make poor, impulsive decisions. You may, for instance, feel tempted to announce your new job immediately. However, it’s better to wait on these announcements, especially in contract positions. After all, you might receive a counteroffer, or you may realize the new position isn’t what you expected.
If you’re wondering if you should give notice before leaving, the answer is a resounding yes. Why? Well, if you don’t, you’re kissing that professional reference goodbye. Secondly, proper notice promotes stability for your coworkers and manager. Burning bridges, however tempting, isn’t the answer. Plus, you may need those bridges in the future.
2. Forming immediate relationships.
Professional friendships are undoubtedly important, and workplaces with strong communities are thought to be more productive and engaged. So, you may be ready to become friends with people on the first day at your new job.
Don’t—at least, not yet. Work should be your highest priority when starting a new job, because those first few weeks will really prove whether or not you’re a good fit. The compromise? Meet your colleagues, show you’re a diligent worker, and let friendships form organically.
This is also good advice for workplaces with a political nature. After all, you never know what politics are at play when you start a new job. Be polite, and spend time learning about everyone’s roles. You’ll naturally find your flow in the company culture.
3. Not asking for help.
Asking for help feels uncomfortable, but it is crucial in any position. Although we’re eager to show our expertise, there’s nothing wrong with vulnerability. You’ll never know everything about a new position, so why pretend?
Asking for help will allow you to form relationships with your team built on understanding and trust. If you don’t know who to consult, or if you have specific goals in mind, consider finding a mentor. Allow yourself to grow your existing skillsets as well as new ones.
Even if you’re an open book with friends, you shouldn’t be quite so candid at work, especially with your boss or bosses. You want your leaders to look at you professionally. If you’re constantly bringing personal issues to the office, however, your managers may feel you can’t adequately handle responsibility. There are just some things you shouldn’t share about yourself at work.
On the other hand, if you’re managing employees, it’s important to remember they are working for you, instead of looking for a friend. By all means, listen to your employees and give them advice, but as a manager, you have a responsibility to avoid oversharing. Even if your words seem harmless, consider first if they could be perceived in a negative way. Remember, your employees are trusting you to treat them with dignity and respect.
5. Ignoring norms.
Every workplace has its own culture — there’s a morning routine, there’s a lunch ritual, and there is a social scene. While some of the aspects of your work culture may be explained to you, like, say, what time you need to come into the office, others will not be. Be sure to pay attention to social norms and mimic those of people around you, at least until your reputation is set.
What Should You Do When Starting a New Job?
Now that you know what not to do on the job, here are seven ways to start things off on the right foot:
1. Get clarity.
Now is the time to ask questions. In your first 90 days, seek clarity on everything — from a process you don’t understand to the nitty-gritty details of your boss’s expectations of you. Be candid in your questions. It’s OK to say that you don’t understand something, or that you need to understand how much time something will take each week. Having clear information from your manager, and letting them know where you stand in your onboarding process, will help everyone set reasonable expectations and boundaries for your contributions to the team in your first year.
2. Set healthy boundaries.
Speaking of boundaries, at the start of any new job, you should come in with healthy boundaries in place. Don’t work an unreasonable amount of overtime just to look like you’re working hard. Don’t volunteer for a million projects just to prove you’re eager. And start learning right away about cultural norms so you can take PTO when needed, and put in the correct amount of effort for your role. Setting boundaries now will paint a clear picture for others as to what they can expect from you and what you won’t stand for. This keeps you from being a doormat later.
3. Take your time building relationships.
As discussed above, there’s no need to rush into relationships. Instead, set aside some time each week in your first 90 days for a quick meeting with someone new. Once you’ve met all of the important folks, set up follow-up time with the ones you clicked with or who will be useful in your new role, and let those relationships develop naturally. And remember: There’s no need to spill all the details about how you’re feeling or what your personal life is like to people you’ve only known for a few weeks.
4. Ask for feedback.
Now is the time to understand how you are performing all of the parts of your new role. Each time you take on a new task, it’s OK to ask your manager for feedback if they don’t provide it on their own. This will help you learn quickly and avoid any unseen criticisms in your 90-day review.
5. Soak it all in.
Now is the time to sit back and focus on learning. Pay attention to how things work, both technically and socially. The most successful person is the one who can use their surroundings to get things done. That requires learning about your surroundings first!
The Bottom Line
You may feel you’ve made mistakes in previous positions. We’ve all done things we could have done differently, but mistakes do allow us to revise and go into the next job with a renewed sense of self. If you’re about to start a new job, take the lessons you’ve learned and the tips we’ve discussed today, and apply them to your new position. Start your dream job on the right foot.