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Starting your First Job? Avoid these 12 Reputation Wreckers

Your first months at your new job are an ideal time to think about your personal brand. What are your career goals and how will a positive, mature and professional start help get you there? One way to make a great impression is to avoid some common rookie mistakes:

1. Not cleaning up your social media footprint

Ok, you got the job, even with a smattering of partying pictures and silly antics posted for the world to see. But before your first day, do a social media clean-up. Consider each posting as if your coworkers, supervisors and the senior leaders of your company will be looking. Be proud of what you put out there.

2. Talking about your private life

If you had a crazy night with friends, or have an emotional personal situation, you don’t need to announce it at work, even if your coworkers are in your peer group. Your office isn’t the place to give the post-mortem. If you want to share, stick with neutral topics like family get-togethers, sports and other hobbies and interests. 

3. Showing how “green” you are

You just graduated two weeks before starting your new job, and it’s your very first time working! As exciting as this is, avoid bringing attention to your rookie-ness, especially in front of clients or people outside your company. Don’t take away from your impressive knowledge and abilities by continually pointing out your lack of experience.

4. Spending time on non-work related activities

Texting your friends, watching YouTube videos, shopping online, making personal calls – all of these activities will reflect poorly on you when you are just starting out (or anytime in your career.) Everyone has to conduct personal business at work on occasion, but overdoing these non-work activities will take your burgeoning reputation in the wrong direction. Instead, save the surfing for at home, and personal calls for a discreet location at lunchtime.

5. Not investing in the right work wardrobe

Too casual, too short, too tight, too high, too low… clothing and shoes need to be work-ready, not nightclub worthy. If you aren’t sure how to dress for work, ask an experienced friend, family member or new colleague for advice. Or ask a sales associate at a clothing store that caters to working professionals. Take into account your industry; what may be appropriate in a marketing role will definitely not work in a legal setting. Your work wardrobe says who you are before you say a word, so have it speak positively. When in doubt, be conservative. You want to become known for your professionalism and contributions, not your cleavage or biceps.

6. Not polishing-up your language

A sure way to show you’re new to the working world is through unprofessional language. Take the time to think about how you are coming across in conversations at the office. Your great idea may lose credibility if it’s presented with too many, “likes,” texting terms and slang.

7. Gossiping

Gossiping about your coworkers, boss and other colleagues will ultimately reflect poorly on you. Whatever negative things you say about someone may come back to bite. Instead of gossiping, focus on your work, collaborating with your team or complimenting others on their successes. Save your gossiping for outside the office, or better yet, avoid it all together.

8. Decorating your workstation like a dorm room

Think carefully about the photos, chachkies and “art” you put around your office. The picture of you in your bathing suit at the beach may not be the best way to show your colleagues the bright, young professional you are. Decorate and settle in, but before putting out the R-rated bobble head, think about who will be walking by and what the décor will say about you.

9. Talking too much

Sometimes new employees are eager to show their boss and colleagues how smart they are and how much they know. But be conscientious about dominating the conversation. Take the time to listen – a lot – then listen some more. Take advantage of the knowledge given to you by seasoned professionals. It’s important to contribute ideas and suggestions, just be sure you are first spending time learning, taking in the culture and figuring out the ways your coworkers interact and communicate. 

10. Being late

Showing up late to work, late to meetings, late to conference calls or getting back to someone later than you stated is never good, especially when you’re just starting out. Being late sends a message you don’t care or you are not organized. If you can’t avoid being late, tell the meeting organizer as soon as you can. Otherwise, show up five minutes early, get settled, and show your colleagues you are engaged, eager and organized.

11. Getting too friendly in the office

Part of the fun of a new job is meeting new people. Social opportunities are usually plentiful. But if things start to get "romantic," you could be taking a big risk and creating problems at work. Sure, many happy relationships have developed in the office – but if things don’t work out, you are stuck seeing this person every day, and that could get awkward. Before partaking in an office “romance,” think carefully about how it may (or may not) work out and what that could mean for your job.

12. Being sloppy in your correspondence 

Exchanging emails with your boss or colleagues is not the same as posting on Instagram or texting with your friends. If you are too casual, you risk coming across as unprofessional or even unintelligent. Take the extra moment to check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Write complete sentences and be sure your email is clear, concise, informative and helpful.

If you act the way you want to be perceived and model your behavior around others you respect and admire, you will have a greater chance of making a positive and lasting impression during the first months at your first job. 

Photo Credit: Idea Architects