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On-the-Job Etiquette: Common Mistakes for New Grads

Mar 21, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Unemployment is high for new college grads. If, in spite of this, you’ve managed to land a job—congratulations! Now you’ll have to hang on to it.
New college graduates entering the workplace for the first time often carry old habits and behaviors with them—behaviors that might have been perfectly acceptable in college and high school, but that won’t go over well in the workplace. Here are a few bad habits to avoid as a new graduate and new employee—that can help you hang on to your job.

Sticking to the college dress code

If you’re a traditional student—going straight from high school to college and then the work force—there will be a learning curve when it comes to dress codes. Many college students are used to dressing casually in class and at home. Even if you’ve held an internship or worked a summer job in an office, it’s possible that your boss was more tolerant with your dress code because you were a student.

It won’t be that way once you’re a full-time employee. You’ll need to dress the way your coworkers do—and even if your office is casual, it’s better to be a little more formal than the others if you’re the new employee. Avoid open-toed shoes, skirts that come above the knee, and T-shirts or jeans. In some offices,
khaki pants and collared shirts with no tie are too casual.

Business Man in Office

Avoid the obvious workplace blunders, put the time in and show that you care about your job.



Getting involved in office gossip

There’s gossip in every office. But if you’re a major contributor, you could get a reputation for it. This can be especially damaging if you’re new—and your reputation could follow you for years after you’ve outgrown your new-employee stage. It’s never a bad idea to listen to the gossip if you want to get a sense of the office politics—but don’t be a contributor.

Updating your status and tweets from work

It can be tempting to get on social networking sites during down time at work and connect with your friends. It can be even more tempting to post things about work—including disparaging comments about the company, your coworkers, or your boss. But be very careful. These actions can easily get you fired. And even if you’re not posting anything controversial, your online activity can be easily tracked by your employer—and they may not approve of you spending work time on personal business. To be on the safe side, avoid personal email and social media accounts altogether at work.

Not managing your online reputation

Even if you’re not going online at work, your Facebook account could get you in trouble. Planning to use a sick day to go to your friend’s wedding or a concert? Be careful that someone doesn’t post pictures that inadvertently bust you. And if your friends post pics of you in unflattering situations—after a few too many drinks at a party, for example—it could still land you in hot water at work. Some companies disapprove strongly of employee behavior that doesn’t reflect well on the company, even during off hours. College students often used to parents who give them privacy, and feel free to post any pics they want—but don’t expect to be able to guilt your employer into giving you the same privacy.

Trying to change everything

See a better way to do things? Watch and learn before you make suggestions. In an ideal world, your employer would value your suggestions and implement them immediately. But in the real world, newcomers who walk in and try to promote a new way of doing things right away may be met with resistance.  Work to understand why the company does things the way it does—and gain the trust of your coworkers—before you start promoting change.

It’s not easy to get a job in this economy. And it can be difficult to hang on to one as well—employers know that there are plenty of workers where you come from. Unless you already have prior full-time work experience, you’re vulnerable as a new graduate to making mistakes that could bring your reputation down—or possibly cost you the job. Avoid the obvious workplace blunders, put the time in and show that you care about your job—and you should be able to build a good reputation in your workplace.

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