Career Advice

How to Crush Your First Month on the Job

Calling all new college grads taking on their first job ever, and everyone who’s ever hopped from company to company to take on a new, cooler position: You know that first month is clutch. You can crush it and set yourself up for success at the company, or fall (proverbially) flat on your face, left worrying whether you have a future here.

As career coach Hallie Crawford explains, “during the first month of any job, you are being observed carefully—especially as a new grad with little work experience.” Why? “Management will want to make sure they have made a good investment and that you are living up to what you said you could do in your interview,” she says.

Don’t worry, though: We’ve got eight expert-approved ways for you to stand out in all the right ways during your first month on the job. Here they are:

1. Be diligent. Mistakes happen, of course, but you won’t knock your boss’ socks off by making too many in your first month. Luckily, most mistakes are easy to avoid, says Crawford, if you are simply diligent and double-check your work. And sure, “you don’t want to be a show-off,” Crawford says, “because that could be annoying to your new co-workers, especially if you are a recent grad. But by being diligent with your tasks and assignments, you show the office that you are a solid worker.”

2. Be the early bird and night owl. This advice won’t help you find that perfect work-life balance we know you crave, but like it or not, putting in more time than anyone else in the office—at least in that first month—will make you stand out. As millennial career expert Jill Jacinto explains, “putting in face time at the office is important in these first few weeks.” She advises that you show up before your boss arrives, and clock out after he or she has left for the day. “Put in the extra hours to work on a new deadline or take an early call with a client who is overseas,” she says.

3. Use your strengths. You got this job because you showed off some serious skills. So now that you’re at your new desk, don’t hide them away. “In your interview, you most likely listed the strengths you would use at your new position,” says Crawford. “Make sure that you are finding ways to put that into practice daily.” When you do, your boss will feel like he or she made the right decision in hiring you, according to Crawford. Bonus: “It will help you feel fulfilled in your new position,” too,” she says.

4. Make like a cat and be curious. While you shouldn’t watch cat videos on the job, mimicking those creatures—in one way, at least—could pay off big time. Here’s how be curious, the right way: “Get to know the inner workings of the company by asking questions and doing research,” Jacinto says. Plus, “the more background you have, the better informed you’ll be to handle an issue or refer back to a product or client.”

5. Be friendly, and make friends. “This seems like a simple tip, but don’t forget to get to know your new coworkers and do your best to get along with them,” advises Crawford. “Management will want to make sure that you fit into the office culture.” But how do you get to know people—like, really know them? “Be observant,” says Crawford. “How do your coworkers interact with each other? Is a little conversation between cubicles or offices acceptable? Do they go on break together?” With all this inside information, you can take the initiative with you new coworkers. “Strike up friendly conversation with them, but don’t be too pushy,” Crawford suggests.

6. Ask for feedback. We get it: Asking your boss how you’re doing can be a scary thought. After all, no one likes to hear criticism. But push past that fear and, “after your first week, ask to schedule a short meeting with your manager or team leader to see if there is anything you can improve on,” says Crawford. Here’s why: When you’re open to feedback, you show your boss that you want to succeed, and that you aren’t afraid to do what it takes to get there. “Just keep in mind that if they do offer a few suggestions, look for ways to put them into practice immediately,” she says.

7. Put your phone away. Stick it in your purse or hide it away in your top drawer, and set it to silent. Otherwise, you might be tempted to look at your smartphone’s small screen more often than you check your work email. “I’ve seen countless new hires spend half their day on the phone and it immediately provided me a negative impression of them,” says Jacinto. “Stay focused on your job and not your Snapchat story—unless that is indeed part of your job.”

8. Avoid making comparisons. Change can be tough, whether you’re taking on a new job as a college grad or you’re moving over from another company. But, “if you are a recent grad and this is your first job, avoid making comparisons with working and studying while on the job,” advises Crawford. Instead, vent to friends and family after work hours. On the flip side, “if you worked at a previous company beforehand, avoid comparing your new job with your old job, and instead, do your best to accept new ways of doing things,” says Crawford.

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