At LearnVest, we like to think we have office culture nailed down. And new hires are welcomed with friendly faces — as well as free snacks.
Over the years, through various jobs, we've seen (and made) some pretty common newbie mistakes. Just as important as learning how to crush your first job out of college is knowing how not to — like committing the office faux-pas you might not even know about.
No one wants to fall into the "clueless millennial" trap, so read on for our common new-job mistakes and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: You don't understand the office culture.
Career advice articles (including ours) will tell you meshing with the office culture is the secret sauce to enjoying and performing well in your job. Sure, this includes the fun stuff like catered lunches and happy hours, but more importantly, it's understanding the basic rules of the office: Who's in charge? How do people interact? Is the vibe start-up casual or corporate formal?
In addition to being more observant, you may want to bring these questions up with your manager and fellow colleagues.
"Give yourself permission to ask questions in the beginning versus waiting nine months into the year," says Denver-based career and life coach Jenn DeWall. "No one is expecting for you to be perfect or know it all; that pressure comes from you as an individual and not necessarily from the company."
Another seemingly minor but important detail to clarify is your in and out time, which could vary from department to department. "If you work on a team that's in by 8 a.m. and you don't come in until 8:30 or 9, that may reflect poorly on you, even though it may just be a simple misunderstanding," DeWall says.
Mistake #2: You don't look the part.
Hate to break it to you, but people do judge a book by its cover. In a new job, this goes beyond what threads you're sporting around the office.
"These are the nonverbal things employers and leadership are going to assess you on to understand your work ethic," DeWall says. Take a step back and consider: Are you chatting too much when all your colleagues are on deadline? Are you slouching in meetings and not paying attention? Do you look professional depending on what your work culture is? Think hard about the impression you're giving off, and gauge from your colleagues' habits whether you need to scale back or step it up.
Mistake #3: You let technology do the talking.
Between Slack and Gchat and iMessage and email, you could go days without speaking face-to-face with a colleague. If that's the case, step away from the screens.
"Put your phone down and get to know your coworkers," says Nick Murphy, CEO of job site Mid-America Careers. "Keep your phone use to a minimum, look people in the eye, be curious, ask questions and listen to the answers. Not only will you learn faster this way, but you'll shed the label of the 'typical millennial' that you desperately want to avoid."
Mistake #4: You aren't asking questions about the bigger picture.
You may not be working your dream job as an entry-level employee, but you were hired for a reason, and your boss wants to see you explore that.
"If you're doing something menial, ask why you're doing it in a curious — and not combative — way," DeWall suggests. Doing so can help you understand how your everyday routine ties into the bigger company initiative; plus, it can motivate you to create success.
You do want to strike a balance between being curious and needy, Murphy notes. Instead of posing these big-picture questions when your boss just wants invoices filed, save them for periodic check-ins with your manager, which should be split between discussing the everyday responsibilities you perform, as well as the skills you need to succeed in the long run.
Mistake #5: You haven't sought out a mentor.
If you haven't already noticed, a lot of these early-career mishaps can be eased with the guidance of a mentor.
It can be awkward as a newbie to ask for mentorship from a veteran, but try this simple opener from DeWall to kick things off: "I really respect what you've done for this company and feel I could learn a lot from you — would you be willing to spend some time to show me how you've created success here?"
A mentor can be your direct manager or someone who is at least a level above you. One word of caution: Do a little research to make sure your potential mentor is respected in the company based on their interactions with their reports and peers, as well as among the leadership team.
DeWall suggests seeking this guidance right off the bat. "If you don't have a mentor in the beginning, you're losing out on someone who can help you out, show you the ropes and help you navigate what it takes to be successful in the company and beyond."