Tech & Work

The worst mistake you can make in a new job

Don't let your enthusiasm take over when starting a new job. Here's what you should avoid in order to get off on the right foot.

There are lots of mistakes you can make in a new job-showing up late on your first day, making personal phone calls all day, and wearing a tutu all qualify as bad steps. But those are all, at least I hope, pretty obvious to you.

The worst thing you can do, and it's a mistake a lot of people do out of enthusiasm, is to storm into a new workplace and start making suggestions for improvement. While you may expect a new employer and all of your co-workers to stop in their tracks and exalt in your keen perception, it won't happen that way.

Here's an unrelated story to explain: A couple of years ago I was at a party at which I was to meet the new girlfriend of a dear friend of mine. This woman happened to be a hairstylist, who for some reason, was eager to make a good impression on me. About five minutes into the evening, she pointed at me and said, "I can fix that." I must have looked perplexed because then she said, "Your hair. I can fix it." Now, maybe it's me but I'm not sure how a statement like that could be received any way but poorly. I just mumbled something about my not being aware my hair was broken.

So, now I'm not saying you're going to charge into the CIO's office and tell him his hair is all wrong. But criticizing (which is what you're doing by offering a "better" way) a business process that has long been in place can feel like the same thing. You cannot expect someone, even an entity like an employer, to be gracious when told indirectly that they've been doing things all wrong.

This is not to say that the time will not come for your insights. It will. But it's more important to learn the lay of the prevailing land before you presume to suggest changes. It's also important that you prove yourself first so that others will take your suggestions more seriously.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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