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Your First Year on the Job: Some Job Advice

EmployersPAGE INDEX:
Before You Arrive on the Job
First Year Mistakes
What to do While on the Job
Additional Links

Initial impressions on a new job are important. Here are some guidelines:

Before You Arrive on the Job - top

You have the job offer and are excited about the opportunity, but don't know where to start. Begin by thinking about the things that you'll need to do before you move. Finding an apartment is a good start. There are some employers who will assist you with this process, so begin by asking if your new employer will make a referral. Web sites abound on the subject of real estate, allowing you to conduct on-line apartment searches. However, you will need to visit the area to secure an apartment, as tiny pictures and brief descriptions on the internet can often be deceiving. Below are some general apartment websites:

Map of USAGeneral Housing:
United States Apartment Finder

Where to Live - A local real estate agent will be happy to show you property rentals. Consider location, commuting distance to work, property amenities, and population demographics. Take some time to closely evaluate your new salary and create a monthly budget so you know what price range you can afford when apartment hunting. One commonly used rule of thumb is to spend no more than 40% of your take-home pay on housing/apartment rent.

Budget - When creating a budget, be sure to work with your net income - after deducting things like taxes, insurance, benefits, savings/retirement investments. Usually, this computes to approximately 30% less than your gross salary. Begin by making a list of all of your essential expenses - things like rent, car, insurance, utilities, gas, groceries, clothes, student loans, and savings. After calculating the net income you have "left over," consider those additional expenses like parking, newspaper, eating out, cellular phone, gym membership, doctor visits, birthday/holiday gifts, and credit card payments. The point being there will always be extra things you want to spend your money on, but prioritizing your expenses will allow you to get a better picture of your financial status.

Credit Cards - A word of caution about credit cards. Credit cards are abundantly easy to obtain while you're in college, so seize the opportunity and obtain one. However, carefully consider the fine print and analyze terms such as grace periods, billing dates, late fees, and teaser rates. Realize that it's much easier to use this piece of plastic recklessly, so a credit card spending strategy should be considered. A simple strategy is to create a "credit card" folder. Immediately after you've exercised your "plasticity," write a check to cover the expense, attach it to your receipt, and place it in your credit card folder. This will help you build your credit rating, maintain your bank account, and stay out of credit card misery. Credit cards are conveniences that have become a necessity in the business world. Be sure to use them wisely so that you can tame "The Plastic Monster." Below are a couple of articles about the college student and credit cars.
"College Student Warnings About Credit"
"Credit Card Smarts" - by

Saving and Investing - An important, often overlooked item by new college graduates is saving and investing. To drive home the importance of understanding the "time value" of money, let's consider this example. Sally and Frank are each 22 years old and plan to work until they are 65. Sally opens a qualified retirement plan at 12% and invests $2,000 a year for six years, then STOPS. Frank SPENDS that extra $2,000 a year on himself for the first six years, then opens a qualified retirement plan at 12% and invests $2,000 a year for the next 37 years. Sally has invested only $12,000, compared to Frank who has invested $74,000. However, at 65 years of age, Sally has accumulated $1,348,440, nearly IDENTICAL to Frank's accumulation of $1,363,780!

Job Benefits - Understanding your benefits is crucial to getting a good start with your new employer. Hearing terms such as indemnity, PPO, HMO, POS, PCP, COBRA, FSA, 401K, and 403B being thrown around at employee orientation as if they are second nature can be an intimidating experience. Don't worry, a list of these terms and their basic meanings are provided at the end of this document. Realize that if something remains unclear to you regarding your benefits package, you can schedule a time to meet with your friendly human resources representative. Remember, more often than not, employers aren't going to spoon-feed you this information. Be proactive - research the terms to understand meaning, carefully read through your employee handbook, and develop a list of questions prior to new employee orientation.

First Year Mistakes - top

The First Year is Different
It is a transition stage; you are not a college student anymore but not yet a professional
The first year is a “breaking in” stage
Have appropriate expectations
Know how to establish yourself and learn the way things are done
Earn credibility and respect
Very important time for your career ladder
Does it Really Matter?
Yes!! The way you enter an organization will have a major impact on your success
Success depends on impressions you make
Research suggests how you approach your first year will have major impact on your salary, advancement, and ability to move within the organization
Your challenge is to use strategies to establish yourself as a bright, capable and valuable. 
It can take years to recover from a bad start
Success Strategies
1. Slow Down - Thoughts are you must make a “Big Splash” to impress your company. If you do this before you have earned acceptance and truly understand the company, chances are you will embarrass yourself. What makes the most positive impression is not showing how much you know, but rather demonstrating the maturity to know how much you don’t know!
2. Learn the Culture - Every company has its own personality and culture and set of rules, often unspoken. Pay attention to the way things are done. Learn what the norms are and how other behave. For example, one new hire was quick to criticize a project only to find out that it was started by one of his senior managers! Remember you can’t change the culture until you are accepted into it.
3. Manage a Good Impression - You are in a fish bowl your first year. Many will be assessing your ability to succeed. Build a good professional record. You want your co-workers to notice your professional maturity, not your college ways. They want to see a readiness to change and an attitude that is realistic about your role.
4. Learn the Art of Being New - Requires a new way of thinking. Accept your role as a newcomer. You must learn the tasks of the organization as well as the “rites of passage.”
5. Manage Your Expectations - Major frustration of new graduates is their expectations are not met. Keep them realistic and expect to be surprised. The image the recruiter painted is probably not quite realistic and it is doubtful you will receive the same attention you did when you were being recruited. Real world is different than college. The job probably won’t be as glamorous as you thought. People skills and teamwork are crucial. Many college grads say the challenges are different than they expected. More pressure, hrs. and types of tasks different.
6. Become a Savvy Subordinate - The single most important person is your new boss. Be sure what you do supports your boss. Learn what your boss wants and expects and bring solutions not problems. You can’t be a good leader until you have been a good follower. A bad boss is not a legitimate excuse for a poor performance. It is your responsibility to make the first year transition a success.
College is a Different World
You have 17 years in education - hard to let go
May be surprised to learn that many of the skills you acquired in college are rarely the ones needed in the workplace
If you have the same expectations of your supervisor as you did your college professor you will be greatly disappointed
Learn the culture of work and don’t embarrass yourself by taking classroom behavior into the workplace
Examples: you are taught to argue your point with a college professor - try that with your supervisor. No syllabus to follow. At work A’s only are accepted. College was an individual effort and work is a team effort.
Let go of those old college ways.
12 Steps to First Year Success
Adopt the right attitudes
Adjust your expectations
Master breaking-in skills
Manage the impression you make
Build effective relationships
Become a good follower
Understand your organization’s culture
Develop organizational savvy
Understand your new role
Develop work-savvy
Master the tasks of your job
Acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities you need

What to do While on the Job - top

Get to work early. You could come in ten minutes late and work one hour late, but you’ll still leave a negative impression. Coming in early makes a much better impression; ask any supervisor.

Come to work every day. Don’t call in sick, stranded, needed elsewhere or waiting for a fire truck. Do not miss any work on account of illness ever, if possible, but especially not during first year. Make dental, doctor, lawyer and wedding dress fitting appointments after work or during lunch hour. Be assured that should you ever need a reference or recommendation, the first two questions asked will be about promptness and attendance.

Be courteous, friendly and helpful. Smile and say hello to everyone every time you seen them, whether you know them or not. Remember the names of those to whom you are introduced; jot down names until you remember them. Open doors; help finish reports; assist on projects; thank those who help you; and look for opportunities to offer sincere praise to the boss, the secretary, the custodian and everyone in between.

Be friendly, but not friends. Go to lunch with colleagues or boss (remember that you should never invite your boss out to lunch before he/she invites you), but don’t make it a regular habit, and be especially careful not to become identified with any cliques. Do not ever go drinking with them. Don’t reveal your weaknesses. Once they realize what your weaknesses are, your co-workers will begin to exploit them, whether consciously or unconsciously. This is not cynicism, but a most painful truth. It should go without saying, but never become romantically entangled with anyone at your office, especially your boss. This can be suicide for your career.

Keep your personal life private. You will be tempted to share personal information with friendly, warm and well-meaning colleagues. Unless you want your private life discussed by all your co-workers, don’t open up life to them.

Be loyal to the absent. (Don’t gossip!) Never talk about anyone in his/her absence, and when you hear others gossiping or criticizing others behind their backs, defend the victim. This will offend no one, and you will gain a reputation as a person of integrity.

Dress as well as or better than your co-workers. Remember that you dressed up for the interview to create a favorable impression. Consider a professional wardrobe as an investment rather than an expense. Some people rebel against dressing for success. They feel that “substance” should count for more than “image.” In the perfect world, this may be true, but the workplace is far from a perfect world. If you want to advance in your career, you must invest the time, energy and money it takes to dress the part.

Speak and laugh softly, seldom and when appropriate. Never tell off-color, sexist or racist jokes; if exposed to them, politely excuse yourself. Compulsive and/or loud talking or laughing annoys others, wastes time and reveals insecurity. Pay attention to your own talking and laughing habits, and take appropriate action.

Don’t move too fast. For the first month or two, say very little, ask a lot of questions, but don’t offer suggestions or opinions unless asked. This is often the most difficult thing for a recent graduate to do, because in the academic environment you are taught to debate, offer suggestions and find a quick solution to problems. The very thing that you have spent years perfecting becomes the least valuable attribute to the new employee! Listen and watch for clues as to which behaviors are valued and which will get you into trouble.

Ask for feedback. As often as you feel it is appropriate, ask how you are doing. Ask your co-workers and your supervisor for constructive criticism, and then accept it and use it. Don’t get defensive, offer explanations, get angry or embarrassed. Being able to take criticism and suggestions for improvement is the mark of a mature person and will go far to cementing your place in the company.

Be honest with yourself and others. Telling lies, deliberately misrepresenting or hiding facts may be the quickest way to the unemployment office. That goes without saying. But there is another kind of lie that can get you into just as much trouble, and that is the lie you tell when you make a promise that you don’t keep. If you aren’t positive that you can deliver the goods as promised, don’t make the promise.

Identify potential conflict early. If you start feeling stressed, angry, confused or resentful; if you begin to drink heavily or rely on drugs; if you experience health problems, especially headaches, stomach problems or back problems, seek help from a therapist, a member of the clergy, or a trusted friend. Most companies have either insurance coverage or an employee assistance program, but even if they don’t, get help before you fall into a pattern. Many lives are turned around by simple techniques for communicating more effectively. On the other hand, chronic stress may be a signal that your job is not the right match for you.

Additional Links - top

Build for the Future During Your First Year on the Job - By Barbara Mulligan and JobWeb.

Surviving the First Year on the Job - From

The Critical First Year on the Job - The first year on the job may not be what you expected. Great easy to use site.

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