Entering the workforce can be a scary thing.
Nothing helped me realize this more than landing a job in my field before graduating. Except running into a former classmate of mine in my new place of work just a few months after I started there myself.
Despite only having a few months head start, I saw so much of myself in her and it showed me just how far I’d come in my own personal and professional growth. And while I was not yet an expert, I was able to empathize with the terror of beginning and offer her a few tips and tricks on what to avoid doing as a new professional.
So whether you’re a student, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed graduate, or no stranger to the 9-5 lifestyle, there are a few rookie mistakes we’ve all made at some point that should be avoided at all costs. Here they are.
I learned how negatively I talked about myself the hard way. During my training, I would often joke about my lack of luck, how likely I would be to fail at something, or laugh at how long it took me to understand things. While it was really just my way of handling the stress of adjusting and learning so many new things at once, it was a terrible self-perception, and more importantly, a series of terrible, and even untrue self-proclamations.
The way that you talk about yourself is directly correlated to how people perceive you. Use more positive words. If you don’t understand something that’s already been explained, ask for one more explanation, make notes, and then try it on your own. There’s no point getting down on yourself—or trying to make a joke of something as serious as your livelihood. It’s not cute or funny, just unnecessary and potentially damaging.
Being overly emotional
When a colleague of mine became (what I felt was) overly-critical of my work, I found myself deeply bothered by it. As weeks went on, I realized that I felt more anxious and on edge when he was around. But as I continued to apply his criticisms to my work, I realized that I was becoming better at what I did.
If someone is critical of you, allow yourself a moment to detach your emotions from the situation. This doesn’t mean you should let people walk all over you, but it does mean that you should take whatever advice and criticism you can get and apply it to your work without being emotionally affected by the situation.
Not building connections
One of the most important things you can do to maintain your network and your reputation is to build solid relationships. Get to know the people you work with. Ask them about their day, their weekend and their families if it’s not too invasive.
And don’t be fake about it either. Some of the most meaningful friendships can grow from people who work in the same environment as you because they understand the daily stresses you endure better than anyone. Don’t be afraid to make friends.
Not appearing confident
This goes hand in hand with number one, but the effect comes, and can be far-reaching before we even open our mouths.
Dress appropriately. Even if you work behind the scenes, dressing like you don’t care about your job can give the impression that you don’t. Look certain of yourself, look like you belong and most importantly, look comfortable in your space.
When you speak, speak objectively. Replace your question marks at the end of your sentences with periods. Phrase your questions before you ask them, sometimes you’ll find the answer without even asking it (and you save yourself from looking a little silly).
Not doing the work
It might seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe the shortcuts people take in the name of doing less work. But the thing about work is, we go there to do just that. We spend years of our lives and thousands of dollars to get good jobs, and when we do, we can’t be lazy.
So do the work. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Sooner or later your work ethic will begin to speak for itself and you will always have solid references to count on.