5 Mistakes to Avoid in your First Job

By Sarah Dixon on 22-05-2018

It can be a scary moment when you first step out from university and enter the working world. Whether that’s a summer job or internship, or an entry level position to your chosen career, it can be a big change. And like anything in life, there are mistakes that you could make. Here is a list of a few of the pitfalls you should try and avoid when you start that first job.

People in office


Drinking too much

While booze may pay a large part in university life, your ability to down pints isn’t considered such a desirable thing when you start working. Whether it’s a swift trip to the pub on a Friday lunch time, a leaving drink or an office party, take it steady. You don’t want to be the person everyone is talking about the following day for a bad reason.

When we drink, our brain starts to produce more dopamine and that lowers our inhibitions. And that increases our chances of doing something less than sensible or coming across as loud or rude when speaking to others. Your best bet is to find the line between relaxed and tispy and keep yourself in that zone. If you don’t think you’ll be able to, how about offering to be designated driver and staying sober?

Using your Phone

Smartphones have been a real game changer in terms of personal communication, and it means that anyone can get hold of you at any time. With notifications pinging off for everything from text messages to whose turn it is on Words with Friends, they can also be a major distraction.

A certain amount of smartphone use is probably acceptable; your best bet here is to look at how your colleagues behave and follow their lead. Weirdly, though, your boss will probably expect you to concentrate on work rather than Pokémon Go!

Hiding When you’re in Trouble

When you’re just getting started in a new job, there are bound to be times where you realise you don’t know how to do something that you’ve been asked to. Or worse, you make a mistake and don’t know how to fix it. It can be worrying, if you have to admit to being less than perfect but try not to put off asking for help.

If you’re new to a job, then your boss shouldn’t expect you to know everything. But they will judge you by how you handle a mistake when one is made. Owning up to errors increases your credibility. As long as you haven’t made the same mistake a million times, or just been plain reckless, then admitting that you’ve done something wrong or need help will make you look better in the eyes of others, not worse.

Knowing it All

If you’ve done well at university, you’ve probably come away with a certain amount of confidence and faith in your abilities. And that’s great. You may find when you get into the office that some of your colleagues perhaps don’t know about new ways of doing things, or you’ll spot things that you think could be improved.

But just hit pause before you start suggesting changes. If things are done in a particular way, there’s probably a reason for that. It might be that the theory you’ve learned in the lecture hall doesn’t work so well in real life. It’s also possible that your colleagues have just never thought of it. Either way, there’s an art to making change at work. Approach the suggestion of any changes with humility and ask questions rather than making bold claims and you’ll win more friends.

Leaving on Time

Work will have a lot less respect for the end of the day than your lecturers did. Although your working day may finish at 5pm, most people linger to finish off a task or get a start on the next day. Play it by ear, and watch what your colleagues do, rather than heading for the door on the dot of 5.

And if there is a deadline approaching or a project that needs some extra hours put in? See if you can offer to help. One of the easiest ways to make a name for yourself at work is showing willing when the pressure starts to increase.

Be Professional

Ultimately, making a good show at work is about being professional. If you want to get ahead at work, then you need to make it your priority. Although you’ll probably get some leeway as a newbie, proving they made the right decision to give you the job will likely serve you better in the long term.

Sarah Dixon writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs.




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