Navigating the workplace as a new employee is always a trying scenario at first, for both entry level and senior employees alike. The employee suddenly has to interact at long lengths with complete strangers and be expected to like them! This was difficult enough in high school, and now is exacerbated times 10.
For, as adults, everyone is supposed to get along. Professionalism becomes a word thrown around to mean maturity, competence, and aptitude. But too professional, and you risk appearing cold and unfriendly. Too sociable, and you seem off-task and disingenuous. So, how do you act?
The office setup by nature is a contrived arrangement of people gathered together to accomplish certain tasks. If at first it seems forced and unnatural, don’t worry, it is. But, like smiling when you feel down, forced habits will soon become second nature, and hopefully the weeks of awkward hellos and disengaged small talk from senior staff will turn into long-term career mentorships. Here are several tips for new employees.
Know that every new employee makes mistakes.
Whether it’s addressing an email incorrectly or entering the wrong data into a system, every new employee makes mistakes. An entry-level job provides a hands-on learning experience, and more often than not the mistake is easily remedied.
Hopefully by an understandable boss who points out the mistake, explains the correction, and then forgets it. Don’t take it personally. Most often, employees will be more frustrated with themselves than their boss will be with them. They understand – they were in your shoes once as well.
Dress to impress.
If you are still figuring out the appropriate clothing, better to err on the side of too formal. Remember, your boss and coworkers are still deciding whether or not you are competent at the job, so presenting yourself as smart and polished is a good idea.
Plus, offices vary so much in suitable attire, even in similar fields. Some law firms expect suit-and-tie, while others allow jeans. Invest in nice quality work clothes. Once you have been at the company a few months and know the attire, experiment more with clothing that speaks to your personality.
Smile and act happy.
Even if it’s forced. No one wants to be around someone constantly serious and rigid. So, force yourself to smile at times. When you say hello, when you talk about your weekend, or when you are proud of a presentation. Although the link between job satisfaction and employee performance is still debated, the link between feigning happiness and experiencing it has been established. You will seem more likable to coworkers, and your boss won’t worry that you will quit. With any luck, your forced cheerfulness will become real. For more on this, read How to make people like you at work.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions, even unrelated to the jobs content. This avoids any miscommunication between your boss, coworkers, and you. Even if they may seem trivial, clarity and thoroughness are important to good supervisor-worker relations. Some might include:
- How long are employees allowed for lunch? Is it company culture to eat at your desk, or dine out?
- Are we allowed to work from home if we are ill? Who should I inform if I am ever running late?
- Am I paid weekly or bi-weekly? How many vacation and sick days am I allowed? What holidays does the company honor?
Avoid friending people you work with.
At least at first. Some companies have more relaxed social standards, and others are stricter, but, to be safe, keep your personal and private lives separate. This way, your boss or coworkers can’t even risk seeing the photos of your wild weekend getaway. Connect with them on professional websites only. If you post your personal blog or web pages on these sites, make sure you don’t post anything unseemly.