Five ways to make a good impression in your new job

You're starting a new job, and you're understandably eager to make a good impression on your boss and your colleagues. Since first impressions are so important - for right or wrong that first impression can determine how you're perceived for the rest of your days with the company - take it easy and don't try too hard. Here are some tips for easing into your new job without alienating yourself.

1. Don't try to fit in too quickly.

There's an episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which a stranger arrives in town. No one knows him but he knows everything about everyone else. His familiarity toward people freaks everyone out and they turn against him. In the end, everyone learns that he knew all about Mayberry because he had read their town paper while he was in the service and he fell in love with the town. He wanted to belong but went about it the wrong way.

The moral of the story is to take your time getting to know your colleagues. Absorb the culture for a while before you start assimilating yourself.

2. Don't come in with all your guns blazing.

I don't mean that literally, although literally it's not a bad tip either. What I mean is don't come into your new job with the attitude that you know all the answers. You may have lots of experience but you run the risk of suggesting things that have already been done. It's an indirect way of insulting your new employer's intelligence. Also, no matter how much people age, every group harbors a little of that middle school mentality---there's little tolerance for show-offs. And there's no such thing as instant credibility.

3. Avoid gossiping

When I first started out in the working world, I encountered some office environments where you were treated with suspicion if you didn't indulge in gossip. The bottom line is, gossiping can lead to big problems. First, it's really risky to gossip when you don't even know all the players yet. Second, if you're good at it, you could get a reputation that is not easy to shake off in the eyes of those who make the promoting decisions.

4. Be a quick study

Take lots of notes when folks are instructing you. Although the temptation is powerful to act like you absorb information instantly, in the long run people don't want you coming back and asking the same questions over and over.

5. Take the initiative

Many companies have clearly outlined training strategies in which they schedule you in blocks of time. If you find you have time between appointments, don't just sit around and drink coffee. Use the time to ask questions about what you've already learned, or do online research.

Ultimately, the best advice you can take is to use the first weeks to absorb information about your new company and its processes. You don't have to make a big splash your first day.

By Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers is the former 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.