The 5 Most Important Pieces of Advice I Got Before Starting My New Job

1. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

At the very least you will know you are dressed up and if you feel professional you will act more professional. First impressions still count--and you may meet new people any day. Look at what your superiors wear and that may be the level you want to emulate. Keep in mind your daily job though; if you work in the plant, make sure your clothes and shoes are appropriate for the manufacturing facility.

2. All those technical details you learned in school? You probably won't use them.

True, but the skills I developed in engineering school I use every day--like how to begin with a problem the likes of which I've never seen before.

There is a surprising number of people out there that when confronted with the unfamiliar will throw up their hands, give up and leave for a smoke. I am not often asked to calculate the optimal number of trays for a distillation column, but I am given difficult problems because people know I can solve them and get the job done.

3. Build up personal bank accounts.

Not monetary bank accounts - Goodwill accounts. Helping someone out now (though it may not be your responsibility) could pay off in the future when you need them to give your issue top priority. Being courteous and friendly goes a long way.

4. Just because someone is older than you doesn't mean that they know what they are talking about or that they have your best interests at heart.

It's hard to determine people's motivations when you begin working and you'd like to think the best of your coworkers but keep in mind that some peoplewill target you as easy to influence and manipulate being "the new kid", including people in other departments. If something doesn't feel right or sounds odd, talk to your boss. Learning the political web of your organization takes time--navigate carefully as you learn it.

5. Take responsibility.

We heard this from our mothers growing up and its still true. Take responsibility and take ownership of your tasks. Say you need information from someone and you sent them an email and they never replied. How silly would you sound when your boss asks you for the information and you said "well I emailed them and they never got back to me"? Find another way to get the information you need to do your job. Pick up your phone or better yet pick up your legs. Face time can go a long way in building good working relationships and you are likely to get the information you need.

Do you have any advice to add? What have your experiences been?

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Dr. Koehler's picture

I have people that come in to my business (an upscale medical office) and want to hand in a resume' for employment.... They will walk in wearing daisy duke shorts, or cut up jeans and a tank top, or pants sagging around the knees. First impressions mean so much! Your #1 point above is so important... If you fail at that, you likely won't have a second chance!

J. Lee's picture

I love #5, it's one I still struggle with after 4 years experience! But taking ownership of your project or tasks really means a lot- the better you are at it, the more responsibility you'll get.

There are so many people that have issues with #5. I see it almost everyday and its frustrating. But we have all been in the position where it would be so much easier if we didn't take responsibility or ownership of our tasks - it is very tempting.