9 Mistakes all university graduates make in their first office job

Hold back on the coffee and alcohol, and expect some late nights in the office if you want to make a good first impression

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The Independent Online

It’s your first proper real adult job. Scary, right? As graduates, you’re not expected to be brimming with experience, or even understand the unwritten rules of the office.

That being said, just because you’re a fresh graduate, it doesn’t mean you have to act like one.

Lizzi Hart of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau provides some of the mistakes that many office newbies make, in the hope that you can avoid these and make an even better first impression.

1.    Drinking too much caffeine

Just because the coffee is free, it doesn’t mean you should drink seven cups a day. Just like everything, consume in moderation, or risk getting the jitters and struggling to sleep.

2.    Getting too drunk at their first company outing

Ah, the first company social – a breeding ground for nerves. And what do nerves love best? Alcohol. But before you down that third pint, think about the first impression you’ll make.

You might not realise it yourself, but you might come across as very obnoxious to people who don’t know you that well whilst drunk.

Don’t become a liability; drink in moderation, and actually live to remember the conversations you have had with your new colleagues.

3.    Too much texting

Everyone does it occasionally, especially when a tempting notification appears on screen. But you need to be careful.

Remember, this is your first job and you want to impress your co-workers and managers. It’s not even easy to conceal.

When you’re on your phone, it’s very obvious. Try turning off your phone for your first few weeks, or switching it to do not disturb so you aren’t hounded by constant vibrations.

4.    Not owning up to mistakes

It’s a horrible thing to admit that you’ve screwed up; to admit that you have flaws, and that you aren’t perfect. But when it comes to your job, you need to be accountable for your actions.

Don’t just hide behind your desk. Tell someone you messed up, and do everything you can to remedy the situation, or just be careful to not do it again.

As my own manager says, it’s better to let someone make a few small mistakes autonomously, rather than help them, and let them believe they’re invincible – they’re more likely to be careful in the first instance, but reckless in the second instance.

5.    Not asking for help

You're not expected to know everything in an entry-level or graduate position. You weren’t hired for your knowledge necessarily, but more your ability to learn or understand what your job requires of you.

In this vein, learn to ask for help when you need it. Try something yourself first, as you don’t want to come across as lazy, but if you’re truly stumped, ask someone.

Companies don’t want you to make loads of mistakes by trial and error because you’re too proud to ask for help; they want to teach you.

If you’re worried people seem too busy to help, you’ll have to get used to it. Speak to your line manager, or find someone who is patient and good at explaining things, and run through your problem.

6.    A tendency to complete tasks too quickly

We’ve all been there. Doing a long and time-consuming school assignment, but getting so sick of doing it, you just end up submitting it without proofreading. But this isn’t going to cut it when you’re being paid.

The annoying thing for graduates is that, to the colleague who gave you the task, you seem to have poor attention to detail. But it’s not that, you just want to complete as much as possible in a short space of time, despite the lower quality of work.

To avoid annoying your co-workers or coming across as sloppy, take a little extra time on a task to check through your work. It will be appreciated.

7.    Leaving on time when there’s work to do

Hours aren’t rigid. Graduates coming into the working world might think they are, but often, you will work unpaid overtime in order to get the job done, or to hit a deadline.

If you can spend 20 minutes extra finishing up a task, rather than leaving at 5pm and wasting time the next day reminding yourself of the task and what needs to get done, your dedication and hard-work will be noticed.

Think about it this way: when you’re more experienced, you’ll likely have familial ties, meaning home time is even more precious. So why not put in the extra hours now in order to make an impression.

Once you’re more established within your industry, you can demand a regular leaving time if needs be. 

8.    Over/under-sharing with colleagues

There's always a danger of either completely holding back from your work colleagues (going home for lunch, avoiding after work drinks) or coming across as far too keen and end up annoying your colleagues – which is never a good idea.

A happy medium is obviously the answer, but many graduates new to the working world aren’t sure how to strike such a balance. Everyone has their own friends and family.

The people you get on well with, you’ll probably end up seeing outside of work. But not everyone will want to socialise with you, or wants to hear every single minute detail about your weekend.

Conversely, if you decline all social invitations, you leave your co-workers to make assumptions or feel rejected.

9.    Complaining too much

Humans love to complain. For some reason, many of us believe negativity is a more effective way to connect with each other than positivity.

We all need to have a rant when we’re frustrated with something we can’t change or don’t know how to. But when all you bring to an office environment is negativity, you are less likely to make friends, let alone a good impression on management.

It’s a tricky thing to try and combat, but if you can try and catch yourself before you complain at someone who just politely asked you how your weekend was, you’re more likely to get on well with everyone and come to enjoy work.

Lizzi Hart is a linguistics graduate and a marketing executive at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau.

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