New Grads: Tips for Starting Your First Job

If you're new to a job, follow this advice to make a good impression.

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Andrew G. Rosen
Graduation season is here, and that means all of you wide-eyed, fresh-faced students will be spilling into the full-time workforce.

I admire your eagerness. Your zeal. Your ambition. Truth be told, I'd much rather work alongside you than the curmudgeon lifers.

The influx of youth into the working world is a beautiful thing. It keeps ideas fresh, the corporate environment evolving, and every generation, if willing to play nice, gets to learn from each other.

So if you’re new to the workplace, or simply starting work at a new organization, let me lend a hand. Follow these tips to ensure you make a good first impression:

[See 10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship.]

Take it slow. It's easy for young workers to start a job with “guns blazing.” After all, the company will be grateful for your ideas, right? Slow down, killer! When starting a new job, it’s imperative to learn the culture and get to know the lay of the land before suggesting ideas or changes. Take several weeks to learn who the influencers are and how the place works before asserting yourself. An important part of building your career and advancing within an establishment comes down to relationships. You never get a second crack at a first impression, so it's wise not to sprint out of the gate. Respect the organization's hierarchy and show people what you are capable of in a natural way.

Avoid self-talk. It’s important to establish yourself early in a new position so people know who you are, what you're about, and how you should be treated. However, it's key not to build yourself up too quickly. One common complaint I hear about recent graduates is that they believe they have done it and seen it all, in part since they don’t know a world without rapid communication. Even if you were to help find the cure for cancer, people from other generations will be suspect. Work in references to your education, experience, and knowledge carefully, being certain to not talk about yourself too much.

[See How to Land a Promotion.]

Don’t make people feel old. Aging is the most difficult passage that human endure. While the process is full of amazing journeys and lessons, it also comes at a steep price. Be cognizant of your age, and do what you can, within reason, to not make others feel bad about being older. When it comes to new technology, be patient when explaining how to use social networks to older colleagues. Any smart business person understands that embracing technology is an integral part of success, but every organization adopts these measures at a different pace. The worst thing you can do is make your coworkers feel like outsiders. To that point...

Don’t join a work clique. Like-minded people who are close in age tend to sniff each other out. Without a soundboard or work friends, a job can become a cold and lonely place. However, work cliques are exclusionary, making a certain type of person left to feel, well, left out. As a young worker, you don’t want to alienate the folks who can play a role in your advancement. It's OK to have allies and confidants at work, but it’s not OK to shut everyone else out. Try your best to never eat lunch alone, but also work to communicate with everyone, regardless of age and rank.

[See 5 Non-Work Ways to Boost Your Career.]

Temper your expectations. It would be easy to tell you that in the world of work, your only ceiling is the one in your mind. But even the best careers often get off to slow starts. You’ll face boring meetings, political in-fighting, and more bureaucracy than you can shake a stick at. Don’t let it get you down, and don’t let it hold you back. Building a career is a journey and not a sprint. If you come out of the gate at a steady pace and speed up slowly over time, that’s success.

Do you have any tips for employees entering the workforce for the first time? Advice for folks starting new jobs?

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job and an established freelance blogger who is available for hire. Follow him on Twitter (@jobacle) or connect on LinkedIn.