7 Things You Should Never, Ever Do In Your First Week At A New Job

You don't want to make the wrong first impression.
There are strategic mistakes you can make as a new hire.
VioletaStoimenova via Getty Images
There are strategic mistakes you can make as a new hire.

During your first week at a job, what you do or say can leave a lasting impression on your new colleagues. And you want to make sure it’s a good one.

That’s because, while you may have gotten the job, the evaluation is not over. Your new boss, your new department — there will be many eyes carefully assessing how you fit with the team.

HuffPost asked career experts about the actions and strategic missteps that will make you memorable in a bad way as a new hire and what you should do instead to ensure you’re received positively.

1. You’re late.

It’s normal to get lost in a new building or to underestimate your new commute, but if you’re late to meetings on your first week, you will make a bad first impression about your time management skills.

“You don’t want to be showing up to meetings three or four minutes late ... you want to be respectful, be punctual,” said Mary Abbajay, president of the leadership development consultancy Careerstone Group.

To account for time you may spend lost, give yourself at least a half hour more than you need to get to work or a meeting.

2. You are a know-it-all.

When you’re a new hire, people will be evaluating your competence, commitment and compatibility, said Gorick Ng, a Harvard career advisor and creator of the “How To Say It” flashcard series for professional communication.

You may think that pointing out what is wrong or what does not align with how you’ve seen things done before will show your competence. But being overly confident in your own expertise will win you more enemies than allies.

Even if you privately believe that your new employer’s way of getting work done is outdated, be open-minded and curious.

You can show that curiosity by asking polite questions. So, “Rather than say, ‘This isn’t how we did things at _____,’ try saying, ‘This is interesting! Could you help me understand the thought process behind _____? It’s a bit different from what I’m used to, but I’m excited to learn your way of doing things,’” Ng said.

You also want to show that you’re a quick learner who is dedicated to getting up to speed. When in doubt, try saying, “I know you said earlier that _____ is important. Would this be an example?” Ng suggested.

3. You don’t play the ‘new card.’

Patricia Schwartz, an executive coach who works with new hires, said playing the new card is a strategic advantage new hires should leverage.

“You can interact with people that you might feel more intimidated to interact with later,” she said.

But you need to be thoughtful about your first impression. Don’t just send every colleague the same generic message, because that “risks coming across as spammy,” Ng said.

When in doubt, Ng said you should focus on “building relationships with the people that you are already meeting and then introduce yourself to the people that you will soon work with, with a message like, ‘Hi! I’m _____ and I’m the new _____. Just thought I’d introduce myself!’”

4. You don’t follow the dress code.

What is appropriate to wear for a job can vary, so don’t assume your T-shirt and jeans will work.

“Dressing inappropriately is also a mistake that I think people make,” Abbajay said.

Typically, your hiring manager will let you know how buttoned up you need to be for the office. If they say that “we have a very informal culture” during your interview, then “that means they probably are more of a Friday casual look,” Abbajay said.

If they haven’t told you what is and isn’t OK to wear yet, you should be able to look it up. Often, employee handbooks outline dress code policies. You could also ask your new boss or team member, “What is the general dress code here?” Abbajay suggested.

5. You overshare.

There is a clear line between being cordial and assuming an intimacy you don’t actually have with a new co-worker. Don’t cross over into the latter in your first week.

“I was working with this woman once we were new colleagues. And in our first time working together on a task, she told me so many things about her personal life that were just TMI, like how she left her first husband,” Abbajay said. “All of these things really made me want to avoid her ... it was just too much too soon.”

6. You gossip.

Are you noticing whispered arguments and muffled laughs when certain colleagues walk in? When you join a company, you are also joining its culture, where there can be warring factions.

Be careful not to engage if you get roped into gossip about other team members.

“Do not align yourself with any group in your first week,” Abbajay said. “Just listening is kind of engaging. So I would either excuse myself, change the topic or turn around and say something nice about the person they’re gossiping about if you have met them.”

7. You don’t touch base with your manager.

Out of all the people you will meet during your first week, the most important relationship you need to establish is the one you have with your boss.

“A very high percentage of people will leave their jobs because of the relationship with the boss,” Schwartz said.

To build that foundation of trust between you and your boss, you need to align your communication style and get on the same page about what’s important.

Ideally, your boss is checking in with you during your first week to have that conversation. But if they are not, you should proactively ask for a one-on-one meeting before the week is over.

“A lot of times bosses don’t reach out because maybe they just got busy, they didn’t hear from you or they’re managing a lot of people,” Abbajay said. “But this is why you should not take that as a sign that they don’t want to talk to you.”

Here are strategic questions career experts previously told HuffPost that you should ask your new boss to understand them better:

  • What’s the best way to approach you with a question?

  • How would you like to communicate day-to-day and week-to-week?

  • What work, project or priority is top-of-mind for you right now?

Observe if you get lukewarm or enthusiastic support for your questions. Managers are evaluating your early performance, and you should be too.

The first week is “so much information. It’s really overwhelming,” Schwartz said. To learn what’s important, she suggested taking notes about how staff talk about their jobs and your experience being there, or debriefing with a friend to get a second opinion.

She also said you should reflect on whether your manager is playing their part or if more of the responsibility to get up to speed keeps falling on you.

“Usually the first few months [are] often a probationary period. So the employee also is determining, ‘Is this a good match for me?’” Schwartz said.

By asking the right questions and paying attention to the culture of your new company, you can figure out if your new job is or isn’t a good fit sooner rather than later.

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