Five Things New First Time Employees Should Know

Just out of college? New to the workforce? Here’s five tip that you should keep in mind.

  1. Assume the world is tiny. Perhaps the biggest eye-opener is just how small the working world is. People in the same industry routinely work together at different companies over their career. But this also means your reputation at one company will likely follow you, and the likelihood of this increases as you work at more places. It doesn’t just stop there. Managers and executives at companies often know each other through their careers. This means one bad piece of history might haunt you at several potential jobs in the future. As such, don’t burn bridges. Even if you are the guy firing somebody, be nice. You never know if next time they’ll be your boss (no, seriously, this is more common than you think).
  2. Respect everybody, especially those below you. This sounds obvious, but sometimes you work with people that seem less intelligent, less capable, or less motivated than you. First of all, that’s based on your limited understanding, and second, you haven’t figured out the political state of the office. As such, don’t step on the toes of co-workers, regardless of their position. Sometimes, the people below you have the ears of the people above you. Besides, being nice is a Good Thing (and, see #1).
  3. Make your suggestions count by limiting them to a few good ones. As in, don’t give suggestions early at a new job. I know some people might disagree, but let me explain. You might see it as a cost reduction measure, but others might see it as a quality reduction or removal of an important sanity check. Anybody can walk into a bank’s mainframe and give a million reasons to upgrade the 20-year-old UNIX build to something more modern, but this only makes you look naive and misguided. Before you suggest using Ruby on Rails instead of ASP, it’s better that you yield the decision until you have a fuller understanding of everything happening beneath the business hood. Business decisions are often limited by constraints that result in less than ideal solutions – but this is the reality. The key is to understand which constraints can be manipulated. This can’t possibly be done effectively by somebody who just started.
  4. Assume your Internet activities are being watched. If you work for bigger companies, it is highly likely that the computer you are using has keylogging or other “big brother” software on it. How likely? According to PC World, 60% of companies monitor where you visit, 50% monitor your email, and 20% monitor IM chats!
  5. Don’t engage in side projects early on. When you’re still learning the ropes, it is expected that you are committing 100% of your professional time to the new job. So save yourself a headache and preemptively decline all side jobs for the first six months of your career. If you have time to be doing side jobs when you are just starting out, you are probably not focusing enough on your career. And this is exactly how your boss will feel if they catch wind (see #1) of this activity.

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