Common Mistakes People Make At Their First Job

Common mistakes people make at their first job

Mistakes you don't want to make at your first job

It’s easy to think the hard part is over once you’ve gotten that offer letter. But, there are quite a few ways to face-plant in your first year of employment if you’re not careful. Here are the most popular mistakes I’ve seen, as well as my fellow career expert, Julie Katz of Resume Girl.


Look, we all have those days when the train is delayed or we have to turn the car around to make sure we turned off the curling iron. But, don’t make this a habit. You want to fit in and not stand out. Others will notice and soon it will be a performance problem and an uncomfortable discussion with your manager.

Going Goalless

If your boss hasn’t set up formalized goals and objectives within the first month on the job, take the initiative to set up a meeting and have a discussion to formally outline performance expectations. This will help avoid potentially uncomfortable discussions later and you’ll walk away with a document that you can refer to throughout the year to keep you on task with reaching your goals.

Workspace Hoarding

Keep your desk neat and organized. I know this sounds cliché, but appearance is everything and even if you’re super busy, it’s important to appear organized and in control at all times. As Katz recounts in her HR career, “One manager made it a point to go into her employee’s office and leave a note saying, ‘Clean this place up, make it look like mine.’” Not all managers will be as nice as this one.

Avoiding the Admin

Not making friends with the administrative assistant supporting your group will only hurt you. This is one of the most sacred pieces of advice Katz gives new hires. “Make sure to always thank your assistant, get to know their families, what’s important to them, and how to work best with them,” she said.

Over Sharing

Don’t share too much too quickly with too many people at work. Keep it professional. Remember, it takes time to build genuine relationships, so please carefully select who you share non-work, um, stuff with…. Too many times non-work stories have come back to hurt someone’s career. Remember what happened to runner Mary Sue Ellen? Of course you don’t. She left before you were hired faster than you can say her nickname “wet-t-shirt-RUNNER-up.” Still wondering why her TMI caused her early leave?

Neglecting Niceties

Being polite and positive brings double the benefits compared to the very little effort it takes to initiate. This means: it’s completely worth working on if being chipper and mindful of formalities doesn’t come naturally to you. Saying good morning, goodnight, and flashing a simple smile regardless if you’re having a bad day is the goal–and is absolutely doable.

Waiting on Your Boss

Let me clarify. If your boss doesn’t take the time to sit down with you, make it a point to set up an appointment on his/her calendar. Don’t wait, twiddling your thumbs for your boss to meet with you. Learn now how to manage up now to save you the growing pains later.

Moving too Fast

Typically, it isn’t appropriate to ask to post for another job or be transferred before your first year anniversary. It’s always best for you to learn the job you’re hired for first, and that usually takes at least one year, especially when it comes to making an impact that’s measurable at work. Katz knows managers who just cringe when employees start jobs and then one month later ask to post for another opportunity. “It makes the manager rethink whether she made the right hiring decision,” Katz explained.

Please, we’re begging you. Don’t be that girl.

For help finding your next job, check out our career services on ProfessionGal to fine-tune your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profiles…you name it!

Megan Broussard

Megan Broussard is a storyteller from New York City. She credits her talent for balancing big hand gestures and a glass of red on her Cajun roots. When she isn’t covering women in career/business, fashion, lifestyle and culture, she’s playing with her pup – the inspiration for her doggy daycare business.