Unfortunately, on day one of the internship or job, nobody sits with you and gives you the low down on what it’s like to be the new guy. What do you say? What do you call people? How should you act? Do you bow when the partner comes into room? Do you have to ask before you get up to go to the bathroom? Being new to the professional world is a challenge as there is a new set of expectations, customs, and especially terminology. Below I break down the 5 classic “whoopsies” I see the new guys and gals making on the first day of work. Keep these in mind and you’ll be well on your way to a great first impression:
# 1. Be yourself
When someone is putting on a front and not truly being themselves… everyone can tell. The biggest mistake the new guys make on day one is being a robot in the office. Nobody wants to work with someone who doesn’t have a personality. Be yourself (within reason)! If you are a jokester, make some light jokes. If you are into sports, talk a little about sports. When you show a personality and connect with your colleagues on an individual level (rather than just doing work for them), that’s when your work relationships will thrive. Take the time to feel your colleagues out but try to be yourself as soon as possible.
#2. Stop apologizing
Nobody ever put it this way to me when I first started at my firm but I think this should help... When your superior explains a new concept to you that you didn’t know, don’t apologize for not knowing or wasting their time. THAT IS THEIR JOB. Look at it as if your job is to ask questions and your superior’s job is to answer them because that is true. If you made a silly mistake that your superior had to correct, do not apologize for that either. Simply say thank you and move on. By apologizing for little mistakes or a lack of knowledge, you are focusing everyone on the negatives and short comings. Also, doing so can start to get annoying for the superior. Instead, focus on the positives and thank your superior for taking the time explaining the new concept to you or identifying your mistake. Chances are they’ll feel good about helping you out instead of feeling sorry for you as you show a lack of confidence.
#3. Ask “why”
The easy route is to ask a question, get the quick answer, and move on. The longer, more difficult route is to start to understand the “why” behind the work you are doing. However, it is developing an understanding of the “why” where all the learning occurs. That way you can grasp the underlying concepts behind the work you are doing. Think about cooking. If you are making breaded chicken and you print an ingredients list and use it to cook, you will know how to make breaded chicken. However, if you understood why you needed that egg or flour in the breaded chicken, you could then apply that understanding to breaded fish if you decided to make that one day, without requiring a recipe. Mastering the why allows you to take concepts and apply them to future situations when they come up. Doing so is where you really differentiate yourself from your peers and it will help you excel in your career.
#4. Get to know your colleagues outside the office
When people are at the office, they tend to put up a wall where they are not fully themselves. Take every and any opportunity you can to get to know your colleagues outside the office. Go to happy hour, invite a colleague to lunch who you work with a lot. Doing so will allow you to have conversations above and beyond the day to day work you are doing together, traffic and the weather. Going beyond those topics facilitates developing stronger relationships, even friendships, instead of just work acquaintances. Your relationships with your colleagues can cause a night and day difference between loving and hating going to work.
#5. Fake it until you become it
On day one at your new job, you will not be confident about what you are doing. Developing confidence takes time and experience. Until then, fake it until you become it. Confidence is crucial to client interaction and working with your colleagues. If you don’t show confidence, your colleagues and clients will have trouble trusting you. Of course if you don’t understand something feel free to speak up but be sure to show confidence in who you are and that you deserve to be there. Check out an an interesting Ted Talk on the subject.