Most people would relish the opportunity go back in time and correct mistakes, especially in the workplace…. The foot-in-the-mouth comment that causes major embarrassment in front of your boss. The bad attitude that creates a divide between yours and co-workers. The unprofessional outfit (or series of outfits) that shows your inexperience in a workplace.
Some rookie mistakes can be prevented, though, to enhance your work experience, even if you’re not thrilled with the job you’re in now. By taking a look at these five missteps identified by career coach and author Vicky Oliver, you could keep from damaging your reputation and can take steps to move up in your career.
1. Being too passive and mousy.
Even in your first job out of college, you have to find your voice and speak up, whether you have questions or great ideas. As Oliver notes: “You’re in the real world now and, frankly, it feels intimidating. Everyone seems to know more than you do.” She recommends asking questions, noting that your boss and co-workers will expect them, and you will show that you want to learn and are curious. But consider the timing of your question: “Just don’t ask to be trained during high-stress peak periods. Try to wait until the crisis has passed.”
2. Having a bad attitude.
So maybe the job you’re in right now is not your dream job, or you may be overqualified. Or maybe you’re just bored, as I heard one college student recently complaining that she doesn’t do anything in her job. Don’t let everyone at work know you are unhappy, but focus on performing well, learning what you can from this position and making sure you leave the job with a positive referral (not with bosses and co-workers thinking, “Good riddance.”)
Even if you consider this a temporary gig, Oliver recommends learning about the company’s marketing and advertising, customer satisfaction metrics, employee retention, and other business areas. Ask if you can take on additional tasks that will make your work more engaging and challenging.
3. Using poor (or no) etiquette.
You may love that your workplace is casual and relaxed, but don’t use that as a reason to bring in bad behavior or push the dress code to new boundaries (leave the super tight shorts and see-through outfits at home). Oliver, author of books including, “301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions,” says you still need to be polite, using words such as “Please” and “Thank You” and don’t interrupt others.
4. Trying too hard to be liked.
Find your balance between being social and being too social. You’re going out with co-workers, bringing snacks, and are getting the reputation as the jokester. But if you’re just getting started in your career, that may be the wrong type of persona to have. Oliver says: “It’s great to be popular, but it’s just as important to be respected at the office. Especially at a new job, oversocializing and too much people pleasing at the expense of delivering good strong performance results can really backfire … It’s better to pay your dues and work really hard at the beginning.”
5. Ignoring the people at your workplace.
On the other hand, you need to be informed about everyone on the team – from co-workers to management. Why? Because that’s how you can get noticed – and move up in your career – and show an interest in those around you. Oliver recommends knowing the names of senior executives and being on a first-name basis with those who work under them as well as those who work on your floor. This may be unlike how you got through college, sitting in classes without learning the names of classmates. Oliver says: “Find out who runs each department, and learn the names and titles of everyone at the workplace. As a new employee, this will save you potential embarrassment when discussing work-related issues with both your higher-ups and colleagues. Learn who the ‘go-to’ person is on each team.”