10 Faux Pas to Avoid When Starting a New Job

Don't try to be a know-it-all.

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Lindsay Olson
This time of year, the only turkey around should be the one you’re carving. If you’re starting a new job, here are 10 sure-fire ways to serve your own head on a platter.

1. The late bird gets in trouble. Being late occasionally is one thing, but chronic tardiness is another. Showing up perpetually late will put your new job at risk, so set your alarm earlier and get out the door on time.

[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]

2. Be a know-it-all. You may know everything there is to know about investment banking and then some. But, when you start that new job, you’re starting from scratch in some ways. Every company has different ways of doing business, so don’t assume you know it all. Open your ears and your mind, and be open to learning new things. Who knows? You just might learn something!

3. Be a Betty blabber. Gossiping can get you in trouble, and being new, you don’t yet know the office politics. At all costs, avoid getting involved in office wars. Resist the temptation to join in on other people’s gossip, and you’ll stay safe.

4. Be a negative Nelly. You’re the new kid on the block. Listen and learn, and avoid sending out a negative vibe. If your co-worker is late every day, avoid the temptation to tattle; it’s not your place. As a newbie in the office, avoid being negative about people, places, and procedures. Sit back, relax, and have a positive attitude.

[See In Pictures: 10 Surefire Ways to Annoy a Hiring Manager.]

5. Dress however you want. Even if you’d rather wear your slippers and daisy dukes to your new job, it could make you some enemies and put you on the black list immediately. Check out what everybody is wearing when you visit the office. A good rule of thumb is to dress more formally when you first start work. You can always dress down once you see that everyone is more casual. Also, pay attention to who dresses in what way. Managers may be dressier than their subordinates, so follow suit (pun intended). It never hurts to dress nicely!

6. Be a bragging Bart. While you may be tempted to toot your own horn about the work you’ve done in the past, let your current work speak for you, and let your manager see what you can do, rather than telling him.

7. Figure out the hard stuff on your own. Hate asking for help? Failing to do so could be detrimental to your paycheck if you make a big enough mistake. Don’t be a turkey—ask for help, ask questions. No one expects you to know everything early on, so it’s perfectly acceptable to ask once how to do something. Take notes to avoid having to ask the same question over and over.

[See 10 Workplace Myths Busted.]

8. Let your tasks stretch further than your job description. This one might not get you fired, but if you’re getting more and more work dumped on you that wasn’t mentioned in the interviews, you may be overloaded and want to quit. Make sure you fully understand the role. While many companies will want you to get your hands dirty and participate in duties that might not be “part of the job description,” you’ll have to approach the subject with your manager if you find yourself in a situation where you are given much more than one person can handle. 

9. Be who you think people want you to be. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward on a new job, but going overboard can make it hard for people to get to know the real you. Let your personality shine (quietly, if it’s a strong one). Never lie about your skills (or anything, really), and you’ll be on the fast track for success.

10. Be as antisocial as possible. Jealous of Milton from Office Space getting to work in the basement? Being antisocial won’t help your career any, and friends are good to have in the workplace. Even if you’re shy, put on a smile and say hello to people in the hall.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.