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Your First Job

Making a Good Impression

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Shortly after graduation, when the strains of Pomp and Circumstance have begun to fade into the past, it is time for you to start the next phase of your life. You will begin your first "real job." Generally speaking, most of what you learned in school will not prepare you for this. Perhaps you did an internship or participated in some other type of cooperative education experience. In that case, good for you. You will be a step ahead of your peers. However, there is a big difference between being a student at work, and being an employee. Certainly, more will be expected of you. Following are some rules that will help you get acclimated to the world of work.

Rule #1: Listen and Observe

The best career-related advice I ever received came from my former boss on my first day of work. She told me to listen and observe before suggesting any changes. I took that advice and have used it in other situations, both in and out of the workplace. While innovation is a good thing, it is important to be mindful of dynamics of the workplace. If you are entering an environment where routines are already in place, a newcomer walking in and talking about "better ways" to do things, will often be met with negative reactions. Why? First, you know nothing about why they do things the way they do. Second, you haven't gained the trust of your co-workers. Finally, people, by nature, are threatened by change.

By listening and observing, you will gain a lot. You will learn about the environment of which you are now a part. You will find out about the people you are working with. You may save yourself from making a major, public mistake -- you are the new kid on the block while your co-workers have been around longer. Learn from their collective experience.

Rule #2: Beware of the Office Troublemaker

Every office has one. Once I describe him or her you will know just who I mean. The office troublemaker is the one who comes up to you on your first day and says something like this: "The boss is always nice to new employees. Wait til you've been here awhile." The office troublemaker is the one who tends to stir up trouble and then pretend to have nothing to do with it. Listen to what this person tells you, but do not comment. There may be truth to what he or she says, but it may be greatly exaggerated. Keep in mind, the person who talks about others will soon get around to talking about you.

Rules #3 and #4

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