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5 Biggest Mistakes People Make in Their First Job

Across the city, first-year professionals fresh out of school have started their careers, embarking on journeys that they hope will be filled with financial success and personal satisfaction. The harsh reality, however, of working full-time for the first time can be quite a wake-up call for the unprepared.Here are five thoughts on the five biggest mistakes people make in their first jobs.

First Job Mistakes (Photo: iStockphoto)

Over-promise & under-deliver
The temptation to prove yourself to your new team can sabotage your career early on if you aren’t careful about managing expectations. Think very clearly if you really can finish that model or presentation in the next two hours so you can take on that second, third or fourth assignment. The minute you commit, you must deliver. Nothing looks worse to a boss than an over-zealous first-year dropping the ball unnecessarily.

Talking back to your boss
Spirited debate between manager and direct report is generally considered a best practice; however, take caution in the tone and manner in which you address your boss. Your boss is no longer your RA down the hall you can disagree with without consequence. No matter how ridiculous a request may seem from your boss, there is usually a legitimate business reason behind it, so think before speaking, and speak respectfully.

Winning the lampshade award
The start of a career in finance, consulting, law or media will typically involve corporate hazing rituals (i.e. long and fancy drinking events) to test your sociability, likeability and networking skills. While it can be a good idea to bond with your teammates from bar to bar well into the early hours of the next day (arguably great for office morale), it is never a good idea to make a fool out of yourself from consuming too much alcohol. Pace yourself, drink water between rounds and make sure you have a full meal before heading out. With career jeopardy just one embarrassing tweet away, moderation is crucial.

Office fraternization
It’s natural to be attracted to someone in your analyst or first-year class especially with all the time the two of you spent out with your team the night before. However, if you’re more intimate feelings are not reciprocated stop right there and move on. As a general rule, just avoid dating someone from the office altogether until you establish yourself over time and are better able to maintain discretion.

Focusing on your next job too soon
You are just one week into your role and already you can’t wait to network with your second- or third-year friends in that other department you really wanted to join. I’ve heard horror stories from my clients who made terrible decisions to seek out their next role so aggressively that they shirked their current role and were ultimately fired. The right time will come for you to move on; focus your effort on what you need to do today.

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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