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10 Workplace Lessons I Wish I’d Learned When I Was Just Starting Work

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10 Workplace Lessons I Wish I’d Learned When I Was Just Starting Work

When you are starting working life, you have to be very careful to avoid making mistakes that could damage your career. Some experts say that the first three months are crucial because that is enough time to make or break you.

Here are the top ten new-to-the-workplace mistakes to avoid like the plague so you can get off to a great start. I know, I learned the hard way.

1. You think you know it all

Of course, you were the best candidate, but that does not mean that you are going to get the employee of the year award. Even if you know quite a few of the things that co-workers or managers are telling you, resist the urge to say ‘I know’ with impatience or rolling your eyes or other revealing body language.

2. You ignore the company culture and dress code

Look around you and see how people are dressed and conform to the pattern. You might look out for whether employees are showing off their latest tattoos or piercing, for example. Cover up if they are not!

3. You do not want to socialize

This is a huge mistake because one of the most effective ways of getting noticed in a new job is to use all the networking skills you have got. These are a great investment. That means chatting at the water cooler, accepting happy hours after work or simply inviting a colleague for coffee. Remembering people’s names and their roles is a great way to start. Also, look out for the people who are more influential in your section. Nobody is going to back a loner.

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4. You get involved in office politics

If you get involved immediately and are seen in certain cliques, this is not going to do you any good at all. Staying out of the gossip and political circles is a vital strategy in the first few months. Cultivate the art of sympathetic listening, without getting involved or committed. You can always rightly claim that you are still getting to know who’s who.

5. You are unaware of your body language

Time to educate yourself on the messages that you are sending. For example, when you stand with your arms folded as you listen to a co-worker explaining a new procedure, you are sending a closure signal. Maintaining eye contact is also important and avoid slouching when someone approaches you to tell you something.

The right body language goes hand in hand with what you are saying. It also helps in bonding, which is so important when you are starting out. Being aware of your voice pitch and its volume can also be a great help.

“We’re losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person’s mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community and living together.” – Vincent Nichols

6. You are unaware of the importance of emotional intelligence

If you think emotional intelligence (EQ) is just a new fad, think again! I never thought it was something to bother about because I am fairly empathic anyway. Observing colleagues was an eye opener and I could quickly see that those with high EQ were getting promotions faster.

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I remember a fellow worker who always said ‘yes.’ He went on to become a senior manager in no time at all, and yet he was not very well qualified. It was his emotional intelligence that really helped him to rocket to the top.

Basically, controlling your emotions and being acutely aware of their effect on your colleagues is key. Learning how to gauge and empathize with colleagues, clients, managers and stakeholders is extremely important.

No surprise to learn that psychologists estimate that IQ can account for a maximum of 25% in career success. The rest of the whopping 75% is mostly occupied by social skills and emotional intelligence.

“What matters is hard work, and emotional intelligence.” – Millard Drexler

7. You do not ask for feedback

If you think that your boss is going to notice what you are doing straightaway, don’t be so sure! He or she might not. Keep them in the loop by asking for a quick meeting so that you are both on the same page.

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It is a great chance to spell out what you are doing, what you have learned and any obstacles you are encountering. Telling your boss that you are able to stick to the deadline is also going to make a great impression.

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” – Bob Nelson

8. You think that taking notes is not trendy

If you have an impeccable memory, this is fine. If not, then join 95% of the working population. In a new job, if you do not take notes, you may well find that you have to ask colleagues to explain, clarify and remind you again. This is a great way to watch your popularity sink.

9. You forget to check what the media policy is

If you assume that it is legit to update your Facebook status at a slack time, you might be in for a shock. The same goes for texting, using laptops and iPhones in meetings and in the workplace generally. Just check out what people are doing, and then act accordingly once you realize how strict or lenient they are on media.

10. You are not a good listener

Being an active listener and not switching off is a great asset. Learning the art of listening is another investment that will stand you in good stead.

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Spending as much time in preparing to listen as you do when you speak is a great rule to follow. Showing that you are listening by using the right body language and offering feedback are other great skills you can acquire.

Once you are aware of these mistakes and how to avoid them, you will become successful in the corporate world. It’s not rocket science!

Featured photo credit: Amazon.com Welcome New Hires/ Will Merydith via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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