Jobs & Careers

How to act in your first graduate job

Walking into your first job after university can be just as daunting as it is exciting – what to wear? Who to ask questions to? We've got the lowdown!
interview nervesSo you've aced your CV, beasted that covering letter, gotten through that dreaded interview process and managed to land your first job as a graduate – well done!

Starting your first professional job can feel like a big leap into the real world. Regular hours, always having to look presentable and having no time for an afternoon nap will be hard to adapt to, but you'll get there!

With the lifestyle change come other concerns: How should you act at work? How formal should you be with co-workers? How should you dress ‘appropriately'? How many questions can you ask without getting on someone's nerves?

The transition from uni into employment isn't as hard as you might think. We're here to calm your nerves and answer some of those baffling questions!

Are you happy with the salary you've been offered in your first job? Find out what the average graduate salary is for your degree.

14 tips on how to act at work

How you should be presenting yourself at work involves a lot more than just turning up and doing your job. By acting in a professional manner, you could make your job much easier and more enjoyable, whilst getting some brownie points from your boss and co-workers!

(If you were looking for “how to act like you are working” then there is a ton of advice on the web, but you're in the wrong place!)

  1. Respect your co-workers

    respect your colleaguesCredit: Ben Dalton – Flickr
    Making friends at work is important in order to make you feel comfortable and content at work, and the way to ensure this happens is by being respectful towards your new colleagues.

    Being polite and considerate to every one of them is crucial if you want to see any respect in return. This is a bit of a no-brainer, but sometimes it's good to be reminded!

  2. Don't gossip

    first day at your new jobWorking environments can be challenging, but please don't be tempted to regress into a high school gossipmonger.

    Telling stories about others in order to score brownie points is something best kept for the playground, and most of your colleagues won't respect you for it (the ones you want to be spending any time with won't, anyway).

    Spreading gossip might make you popular with some, but others will see right through this and begin to distrust you.

    This also goes for confidentiality with assignments – if you're asked to work on something confidential by your boss, do not tell your colleagues. You could lose the trust of your boss and the chance to work on further big projects.

  3. Watch your mouth

    watch your mouth at work Credit: Alexisnyal – Flickr
    A cutting edge wit and boundary-pushing sense of humour often does the trick when breaking the ice in most situations; but for the office, it needs to be toned down (until you get to know people a bit better, at least!).

    Unnecessary references to race, religion, gender, or any personal criticism of your co-workers won't be tolerated in the workplace (but luckily these sorts of jokes are the least funny of them all, so we're sure you've got more to offer, anyway!).

    Remain courteous and respectful, and avoid using expletives (that's sweary words, btw) – no matter who you're talking to.

  4. Be reliable

    confident superheroThere's nothing that will score you better points than showing you can be super reliable at work: Never turn up late and always make yourself available to help colleagues out.

    If a co-worker asks for your help, be sure to pull out the stops where you can. Gaining the trust of your co-workers not only allows you to be an all round good egg, but it proves to your boss that your are a well-liked and trustworthy employee.

  5. Talk to your boss

    how to talk to your bossCredit: Karam Al-Ghossein
    Try to have something to say around your boss. You want to make an impression and show you have some confidence in speaking when they're around.

    When in meetings, try to make a positive contribution (make sure it's something well thought-out, though – don't just speak for the sake of it).

    Having something sociable to say to your boss will work well too, as it let's them see your personality as well as your role as an employee.

    Pay attention to what they say in the office, and show an interest by asking questions like “did you have a nice weekend?” if the opportunity arises. Remember, they're human too, and should appreciate the gesture (even if they don't give you much of an answer!).

  6. Be a good team player

    teamworkzYour job might involve a lot of collaborative work, and this gives you the chance to prove how easy and fun you are to work with.

    Don't take credit for something you didn't do alone, and likewise ensure to give credit where it's due. This shows honesty, appreciation and respect for others, which works more to your advantage than taking credit for something you don't totally deserve (this will almost certainly backfire one way or another).

    If you're having a disagreement with a co-worker, don't make this the big news in the office. Try to resolve your differences on a one-to-one basis, and don't get petty no matter how crazy someone makes you!

  7. Have some humility

    new girl at the new jobIt can be tempting to show off when starting your new job – bragging about how you graduated top of the class or that you had your dissertation published in a journal.

    As tempting as this might be, keep your bragging to yourself. Whilst you're likely to impress your colleagues momentarily just a smidgen, they're way more likely to see you as arrogant and a bit of a show-off.

    Having some modesty goes much further during your early days in a new workplace. This way, you'll impress them even more when you apply your boast-able skills to your job and let them speak for themselves!

  8. Know what's expected of you (and deliver)

    positive thoughtsWhen starting your new job, you should be given an outline of what is expected of you by your boss or superior.

    It's essential that you get the most out of this and ask as much as you can about your job role.

    By knowing exactly what your boss wants from you, you can work on achieving this and make an impression by even doing more than is expected.

  9. Show an interest

    show an interestUnsurprisingly, showing an interest in your new company and role is pretty important – not only will it make you feel more like you're part of things, but it means you'll be able to hold an informed discussion with colleagues about the company.

    Ask productive questions, get involved, and make some time to get to know people.

    If there are any extra-curricular activities going on, it's always good to show you're keen be taking part!

  10. Don't be scared to ask questions

    questionsGetting on with tasks as quickly as possible and barely asking any questions might show you're an independent worker, but it's not useful at this early stage of the game.

    Your colleagues and superiors know you're new and will be prepared for a slow start and a barrage of questions. Make sure you take advantage of this!

    Make sure you're asking the right people, though: your superior is best to ask about important parts of your job, but a co-worker can easily tell you how the photocopier works.

  11. Be careful with Facebook

    should you add colleagues on facebookNow this is a tough one – to friend or not to friend? The answer is… really dependent on how professional your behaviour appears on Facebook.

    We've heard a lot of horror stories about graduates who have added their colleagues, only to have pictures of them partying drunk on a school night do the rounds of the office.

    If you want to add your colleagues on Facebook, do so with caution. Be sure to get your head around Facebook's privacy settings and think about editing what they can and can't see when you post. Those who have spent all their uni life avoiding their parents on Facebook should be able to handle this!

  12. Take care with internal mails

    does your work monitor internal emailsEmails between colleagues can be much more informal than external emails, but still be wary of what you write in them.

    Many companies are able to view and keep a record of every single email that's been sent between staff, even if you've deleted them from your inbox.

    Don't let this make you get paranoid – you can still be friendly and informal in emails to your co-workers, but just avoid writing anything you wouldn't want anyone else to read. Avoid moaning about colleagues (particularly your boss) at all costs!

  13. Dress the part

    how to dress at workHow to dress ‘appropriately' for work is difficult because the appropriate attire can vary massively from one workplace to the next.

    Roles in slightly more creative industries such as marketing and PR can be fairly informal, whereas accountancy, law, and office-based roles can still require formal wear.

    Working at a startup is normally pretty laid back (jeans and trainers are even a goer, would you believe!) but if you're feeling unclear – just ask! It doesn't hurt to send a quick email asking about dress code before you start.

  14. Don't complain

    complain catThere's fewer things more annoying than a new person coming into your workplace and moaning on the job.

    If you have something you're unhappy about, take note of it and speak to your manager during your review meeting if it isn't urgent. If you feel it does have some urgency, ask if you can organise a meeting to discuss the matter in private.

    Whatever you do, don't complain about the company or role to your colleagues. First of all, this makes a pretty terrible early impression with your new colleagues, and secondly, you never know how this might come back to bite you!

Hungry for more info? Head over to Save the Graduate for a wealth of great advice including how to impress your new boss and get promoted quicker.

If you've got some great tips on how to act in your new job, share them with us! There's a comment box below with your name on it. 

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