10 Things New Grads Need to Know Before They Start Their First Job

May 16, 2016, 2:00 PM UTC
MIT Commencement 2014
CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 6: MIT held its graduation on it's campus. A graduate has an inspirational saying on his cap. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Boston Globe Boston Globe via Getty Images

So you managed to graduate college and land a job. The hard part’s over, right? Not quite. For recent college graduates, starting that first “adult” job can be a daunting prospect.

We get it, and we’re here to help. First, stop and take a deep breath. Next, check out the following pointers, which will help you prepare for the start of your post-graduate career.

Here are 10 things you need to know.

1. Your boss is a valuable resource. While the very idea of having a boss may scare you, it’s important to understand that he or she is there to help. Because your success is a reflection on your manager’s performance, the smart ones will take the time to explain the job to you, provide training and monitor your progress as you gain some experience. Never hesitate to ask your boss questions if you don’t understand something. It’s okay to take up some of his or her time so your expectations are clear. You want to succeed at work, your boss wants you to succeed, and by working together you have a better chance at making that happen.

Related: The One Thing Every Manager Wants in an Employee

2. The job starts before your first day. The more you know about the organization you are joining, the better. By building a frame of reference before you enter the building, you’ll make the onboarding process more seamless. Many organizations have brochures describing their history, policies, procedures and other information that will be helpful. Of course, the Internet is also an excellent resource for this.

3. It’s all about teamwork. Joining a new organization means joining a team. You will likely rely on your co-workers, and your co-workers will rely on you. The most successful groups complete their tasks by working well together.

4. Which means you’ll need to check your ego at the door. Since you’re the new person on the scene, be prepared to listen and learn. No one expects you to be an expert — because you aren’t an expert yet! — so don’t try and act like one. Instead, learn from people at the company who have experience on the job and can help get you up to speed. As a new employee, the phrase “you have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth…use them proportionately” directly applies to you.


5. A lunch break is not a work break. Whether it is during snack breaks, lunch, or even dinner, there is tremendous benefit to eating with others. Sharing a meal is a casual way to get to know other people in your organization. As such, it’s an invaluable networking tool. Don’t waste it!

6. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Before you start, try and determine the office’s dress code and conform to it. If you aren’t able to figure this out before your first day, err on the side of formality. It’s far better to be overdressed than underdressed. Once you start the job, base your outfit choices on what your coworker’s are wearing.

7. Friendliness goes a long way. You will likely meet a lot of new people at your first job; expect a diversity of ages, backgrounds, attitudes, work habits and experiences. A positive attitude and cheerful demeanor go a long way towards building connections with your coworkers. It will also make your experience at work more enjoyable. Most co-workers enjoy working with others that display a positive attitude, smile far more than frown, and enjoy their work. Remember: you are allowed to have fun on the job!

Related: What It Really Means To Have a Life Outside Of Work

8. As does flexibility. As a new employee, it’s important to go with the flow. Flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability are all traits that show your boss you are ready to learn and be a team player.

9, Mistakes happen. And you’ll make quite a few of them! It’s inevitable, and it happens even to the most experienced employees. Instead of covering up your mistakes, the key is to recognize them, learn from them, and do your best to ensure they don’t happen again. Sometimes this requires additional instruction or training and sometimes it just requires practice.

10. Focus on doing your best. The most important ingredient for success at your first job is simply figuring out what your objective is and doing your best to achieve it. Particularly for entry positions effort is an important, if not the most important, part of the job.

Good luck!

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