Kaitlin Westbrook

Thinking of making a career move? There can be numerous upsides to starting a new job: a fresh culture, new relationships and colleagues, and (hopefully) exciting pay and benefits. There are plenty of things to do on your first day at a new job to set yourself up for success, too. However, it's important to remember that new beginnings require a fresh perspective, too. 

For instance, you may have formed bad habits at your previous job. Maybe you got too comfortable, or maybe you started getting lazy towards the end of it because your morale was low. Whatever the case, a new position is the perfect opportunity to do away with those habits and have a fresh start.

What Should Avoid When Starting a New Job?

There are several obvious things you shouldn't do a new job — like complain about your old job, gossip, come in late and other faux pas. But there are also some not-so-obvious behaviors you should avoid, too. Avoiding the following five behaviors will help set you up for success earlier on in your new job.

1. Acting Impulsively

Landing a new job is exciting, but sometimes it can embolden us to make poor, impulsive decisions. You may, for instance, feel tempted to announce your new job immediately. However, it’s better to wait on these announcements, especially in contract positions. After all, you might receive a counter-offer, or you may realize the new position isn’t what you expected.

If you're wondering if you should give notice before leaving, the answer is a resounding yes. Why? Well, if you don't, you're kissing that professional reference goodbye. Secondly, proper notice promotes stability for your coworkers and manager. Burning bridges, however tempting, isn't the answer. Plus, you may need those bridges in the future.

2. Forming Immediate Relationships

Professional friendships are undoubtedly important, and workplaces with strong communities are thought to be more productive and engaged. So, you may be ready to become friends with people on the first day at your new job.

Don't—at least, not yet. Work should be your highest priority when starting a new job, because those first few weeks will really prove whether or not you're a good fit. The compromise? Meet your colleagues, show you're a diligent worker, and let friendships form organically.

This is also good advice for workplaces with a political nature. After all, you never know what politics are at play when you start a new job. Be polite, and spend time learing about everyone's roles. You'll naturally find your flow in the company culture.

3. Not Asking for Help

Asking for help feels uncomfortable, but it is crucial in any position. Although we’re eager to show our expertise, there's nothing wrong with vulnerability. You’ll never know everything about a new position, so why pretend?

Asking for help will allow you to form relationships with your team built on understanding and trust. If you don't know who to consult, or if you have specific goals in mind, consider finding a mentor. Allow yourself to grow your existing skillsets as well as new ones.

4. Oversharing

Even if you're an open book with friends, you shouldn't be quite so candid at work, especially with your boss or bosses. You want your leaders to look at you professionally. If you're constantly bringing personal issues to the office, however, your managers may feel you can't adequately handle responsibility. There are just some things you shouldn't share about yourself at work.

On the other hand, if you're managing employees, it’s important to remember they are working for you, instead of looking for a friend. By all means, listen to your employees and give them advice, but as a manager, you have a responsibility to avoid oversharing. Even if your words seem harmless, consider first if they could be perceived in a negative way. Remember, your employees are trusting you to treat them with dignity and respect.

5. Taking Advantage

With the Internet, jobs are far more flexible than they've ever been. Many positions give us the freedom of a healthy work-life balance through nontraditional benefits.

While you should never take advantage of employee privileges, you certainly don’t want to over-utilize your benefits when you begin a new job. Many privileges are created for special circumstances (e.g. remote capabilities, unlimited paid leave, flexible hours, etc.), so it’s important to appreciate these freedoms, rather than abuse them. Then, when you really need them, they'll be available.

6. Being arrogant

While it is easy to walk into a working environment proudly waving your past experiences and industry knowledge in the face of your new colleagues, it can also be bad for business. Be humble and learn your new company's processes and ways of thinking about the industry. Talk about your experience when it's relevant or when it's asked, but never to say something is going wrong. After all, there could be history you don't understand or other gaps in your knowledge. After spending some time in your role, you can make suggestions to your teammates or manager about how to make things run more smoothly. At first, it' s just your job to be a sponge. 

7. Ignoring norms

Every workplace has it's own culture — there's a morning routine, there's a lunch ritual, there's a social scene. While some of the aspects of your work culture may be explained to you, like, say, what time you need to come into the office, others will not be. Be sure to pay attention to social norms and mimic those of people around you, at least until your reputation is set. 

What Should You Do When Starting a New Job?

Now that you know what not to do on the job, here are seven ways to start things off on the right foot:

1. Get clarity

Now is the time to ask questions. In your first 90 days, seek clarity on everything — from a process you don't understand to the nitty-gritty details of your boss's expectations of you. Be candid in your questions. It's OK to say that you don't understand something, or that you need to understand how much time something will take each week. Having clear information from your manager, and letting them know where you stand in your onboarding process, will help everyone set reasonable expectations and boundaries for your contributions to the team in your first year.

2. Set healthy boundaries

Speaking of boundaries, at the start of any new job, you should come in with healthy boundaries in place. Don't work an unreasonable amount of overtime just to look like you're working hard. Don't volunteer for a million projects just to prove you're eager. And start learning right away about cultural norms so you can take PTO when needed, and put in the correct amount of effort for your role. Setting boundaries now will paint a clear picture for others as to what they can expect from you and what you won't stand for. This keeps you from being a doormat later. 

3. Take your time building relationships

As discussed above, there's no need to rush into relationships. Instead, set aside some time each week in your first 90 days for a quick meeting with someone new. Once you've met all of the important folks, set up follow up time with the ones you clicked with or who will be useful in your new role, and let those relationships develop naturally. And remember: There's no need to spill all the details about how you're feeling or what your personal life is like to people you've only known for a few weeks.

4. Ask for feedback

Now is the time to understand how you are performing all of the parts of your new role. Each time you take on a new task, it's OK to ask your manager for feedback if they don't provide it on their own. This will help you learn quickly and avoid any unseen criticisms in your 90 day review.

5. Consider your personal brand

In all of your interactions with your new colleagues, keep in mind what you want them to think of you as a professional. Are you enthusiastic and creative? Are you analytical and quick? Think of adjectives that align with who you are as a professional, and paint your contributions with those words. 

6. Pick your battles

As we said above, there is a lot of context within a workplace that you may not understand after a week, a month and even a year there! If something could really be improved, you should say something. But pick your battles over what should change in your workplace and what can stay the same carefully. Too many missteps without the proper context can be damaging to your professional reputation.

7. Soak it all in

Now is the time to sit back and focus on learning. Pay attention to how things work, both technically and socially. The most successful person is the one who can use their surroundings to get things done. That requires learning about your surroundings first! 

The Bottom Line

You may feel you've made mistakes in previous positions. We've all done things we could have done differently, but mistakes do allow us to revise and go into the next job with a renewed sense of self. If you're about to start a new job, take the lessons you've learned and the tips we've discussed today, and apply them to your new position. Start your dream job on the right foot.


Kaitlin Westbrook is a content writer for Vecteezy.com. She covers business, creative content, professional writing, and more. When she’s not writing, she enjoys movies, baking, and her Pomeranian. You can connect with her on Twitter.