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Mistakes Students Make When Starting A Job Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Mark Swartz
Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dear Mark: I'm very excited because I'm starting a summer job next week. It's in an office and I want to make a good impression. Any advice on what to do, and not do?

-- Wallace F., Truro, Nova Scotia
Dear Wallace,

Getting off to a good beginning in your new role takes a bit of planning and extra effort. See my earlier article on Starting Off Your New Job Right for more specifics.

Students are often prone to common errors when beginning a new job. Whether through lack of experience, nervousness, impatience, or a desire to stand out among their peers, here are the kinds of mistakes that tend to show up early on:
  • Being late for work and for meetings.
  • Arriving less than fully prepared for meetings.
  • Spending too much time socializing on the job.
  • Not asking enough questions, and therefore not completing tasks and assignments properly.
  • Reading documents labeled Confidential or that aren't meant for you at all.
  • Playing online (instead of doing work) during company time.
  • Stealing the limelight in terms of taking claim for achievements rather than being a team player.
  • Acting disrespectfully to your colleagues or supervisor.
  • Pretending to be a know-it-all.
  • Complaining about not being given hugely important assignments.

You can better your chances of doing well from the start by becoming an intent listener. Seek to understand before you go running off in wrong directions. Don't be shy to ask questions that help clarify the nature of your role. If you are finding things confusing or overwhelming, see if you can reach out to a colleague or mentor. And try not to make assumptions about what the boss 'really' wants -- until you get their input directly.

By doing what's asked of you in a timely and reliable manner; by behaving professionally and respectfully to everyone you deal with; and by checking in from time to time with your supervisor for feedback; you are on your way to creating a solid foundation for yourself. Remember to do small things well and always with enthusiasm. This will pave the way for bigger and more challenging assignments as you prove yourself over time.

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