6 Mistakes people make in the first week at a new job

Ali Gray

Follow these top tips to start your new job off on the right foot.

Of course you're nervous. The first day at a new job is like the first day of school all over again. You stress over what to wear, you have no friends and you're terrified of messing up.

To help ease the transition, we've rounded up some of the most common - and most detrimental - mistakes that people make during their first week at a new job.


If you can get through your first five days without doing any of these things, you'll be running the show before you know it.

1. Not introducing yourself to everyone.
You may feel shy or overwhelmed by meeting so many new people, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. 'Don't be aloof or scared of your new work colleagues,' says career expert Corinne Mills. 'Go out of your way to introduce yourself and show interest in them. Warming up these relationships from the start makes it easier for you to ask them questions, and they'll be more helpful and tolerant while you get up to speed in your new job.'

To make the task easier, Karen Meager of Monkey Puzzle Training & Consulting suggests asking your manager for a list of key people you'll be working with and making a plan to say hello to them in person. 'If you are shy, you can use the name of the person who suggested them as an intro, for example "X told me that you are a key person I’ll be working with..."' she says. 'That makes them feel important and takes away any embarrassment you might feel.'

2. Expecting to know it all.
If you go into your new gig with the realisation that things will be unfamiliar and uncomfortable for a while, things will be a whole lot easier. 'Be realistic in your expectations,' says Corinne. 'It's going to take some time for you to get to grips with the way that things are done in your new organisation.'

Karen notes that one of the worst things you can do is pretend to know something you don't. 'I was coaching a woman who worked at a company that had a lot of jargon,' she says. 'On her first day, she acknowledged that she knew what a piece of jargon meant - but she didn’t. Five years later she is still none the wiser!'

3. Not asking questions.
As you learn the ropes, you're bound to have loads of questions - but it's easy to feel like a nuisance if you're continually badgering the person next to you. 'Instead of constantly asking questions, collect a list of the more complex ones and arrange a regular check-in with your manager or work colleague to go through them,' Corinne suggests. 'This will be a more efficient use of time and less disruptive to their work.'

4. Talking about your old job.
You know shouldn't dwell on past relationships with a new boyfriend - and the same rule applies here. 'In their wish to establish credibility with their new colleagues, people often talk about their old job,' Karen says. 'This is dangerous because other people may find it boring or, worse still, arrogant.' Instead, she suggests waiting to discuss your former job until people ask about it.

5. Promising too much.
'As a new recruit it's natural to want to impress your new employer, but it is very easy to underestimate just how much time and energy it takes to adapt to a new role,' Corinne says. 'When you sit down with your manager and agree priorities and targets for your probation reviews, make sure they are realistic and well within your reach. More ambitious targets can follow once you're settled in.'

6. Dressing inappropriately.
Unless you're working in the fashion industry, your new boss will be more focused on your skills than your outfit. But you still want to look like you're familiar with the company's vibe. If you show up in a professional-looking suit and your colleagues are all wearing jeans and tees (or vice versa), you'll look inexperienced. 'Getting it right starts with the interview,' Karen says. 'What did the interviewer wear? If you had chance to look around the office, what was the general dress culture? And check it wasn’t dress down Friday. It is always worth checking if a company has a dress policy before you start.' 

For more career advice, check out the MC@Work section...

Looking for more career inspo? It's not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire's @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.

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