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New to a Job: Developing Good Work Habits

New to a Job: Developing Good Work Habits

Whether you're at your first job or in a new work situation, it can be confusing to try to find your way. Fortunately, there are a number of qualities that nearly all employers are looking for in a worker. We hope this advice on work habits will help start you out right.


1. Arrive at work early or on time every day.
No matter how good you are at your job, if you are not on time to work, your employer will not view you as professional. It's good to arrive ten or fifteen minutes early so you can get settled in before it's time to begin work. That way you won't feel rushed. Make sure to come back on time from breaks and lunch time. If you are going to be late due to an emergency, make sure to call your employer.

2. Stay busy on the job. Find out what needs to be done and help do it. Avoid slacking off.
It is professional to work for the number of hours you are being paid to work. This sounds simple, but many people slack off at work and end up losing their jobs. Take breaks when you have breaks. If you run out of things to do, ask your supervisor for direction.

3. Dress professionally.
Follow the dress code if your employer has one; if not, make sure you're dressed professionally. This means your clothes should be clean, they should fit you well, and they should not reveal too much detail about your body. They should stay on when you move around, and they should not get in your way when you move. Your clothes should help make it easy to do your job efficiently.
If you have questions about what's appropriate to wear to work, ask your supervisor.

4. Learn the workplace rules, policies, and safety procedures, and follow them to the best of your ability.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most employers would much rather answer questions than correct the mistakes of people who don't ask questions. (See #13 below for Float Your Boat curriculum to learn more about how to ask questions in the workplace.)

5. Speak carefully.
Avoid workplace gossip and negative communication. Don't say anything at work behind anyone's back that you wouldn't say in front of that person. That way you won't have to deal with the consequences of the wrong people overhearing you. If you want to complain about your job, do so to people you trust outside the workplace.

6. Learn and follow your employer's social media policy, and avoid social media use during work hours.
Text or use social media only on breaks, not during work time. Avoid complaining about work on social media; often this will get back to your boss. Read your employer's social media policy and follow it.

7. Treat everyone at work with respect, and expect to be treated respectfully yourself.
Be polite to everyone at work, even to people you don't like. It's rare to have a job where you like all your co-workers. You don't have to like people, but it's professional to treat everyone respectfully. Expect others at work to treat you with respect, too. Don't put up with abuse at work. See what your company's policy is for resolving disputes, and use the system that is in place. If no system is in place for resolving serious disputes, or if the system at your workplace isn't working, you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (See #13 below for Float Your Boat curriculum to learn more about how to speak politely in difficult work situations.)

8. Learn from the people who are good at their jobs.
Watch the behavior of people you admire or respect. If someone is good at her job, observe her at work and figure out what she does that makes her successful. Pay attention to the actions of people who have the jobs you want in the future. See if their actions are worth imitating. (See #13 below for Float Your Boat curriculum to learn more about how to ask for help in work situations.)

9. Ask questions.
One of the most common mistakes new employees make is not asking questions because they are afraid of seeming silly or ignorant. In fact, asking questions is the best way to keep from making silly mistakes. Your employer would much rather answer your questions than spend time cleaning up a big mistake you make because you didn't ask. Everyone was new once. Unless your employer is a jerk, he or she will remember what it was like to be new and confused, and will try to help you out. If your employer is a jerk, try to find someone at work who is more experienced than you are who will answer questions for you. (See #13 below for Float Your Boat curriculum to learn more about how to request a mentor.)

10. Be cautious about mixing your personal life and your professional life.
It's usually best to be careful about discussing your personal life at work, at least for a while. Take some time to observe people and find out who is trustworthy and who isn't. Remember that any workplace is full of people with opinions and habits might be different than yours. You may want to wait and observe for a little while before socializing with people at work. You can be friendly to co-workers without throwing aside caution. It is especially important to be careful about dating people at work, because if things don't work out socially, you may end up with a big professional problem.

11. Clean up after yourself.
Be aware that other people work alongside you, and respect them. Don't make other people clean up after you in workplace bathrooms or kitchens. Keep your work area clean. Take care of any equipment that you are responsible for. Help your co-workers keep common areas clean.

12. Learn as much as you can.
Every job can teach you something, even jobs you don't like. If you pay attention, you'll learn from all your experiences. You'll learn more about where you want to go professionally, and where you don't want to go. You will learn more about what interests you, what you're good at, and what job you want to work toward. Skills you learn at each job will build on one another, and before you know it, you'll be within reach of your professional dream.

13. Now that you have started your first job, you can use Float Your Boat Module 2 and Module 3 to be successful, and communicate well. Requires a paid subscription.

Module 2: Starting A Job

Getting Help at Your New Job

Making the Most of Help

Checking Your Work and Asking for Feedback

The Telephone

Module 3: Keeping A Job

Absences, Lateness, Personal Days and Vacations

Phrases for Common Workplace Interactions

Phrases for Handling Workplace Conflict

Appropriate Phrases for Workplace Socializing

Common Idiomatic Expressions in the Workplace

Customer Service Phrases

Good luck, first-job seekers and new employees!

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Barbara Myers's picture
  • by
  • Mon, 12/22/2014 - 10:10
Having good work habits aren't a problem....I have always done my jobs to the best of my ability and gone above and beyond what has been expected of me...
oavalos80's picture
  • by
  • Tue, 01/27/2015 - 18:47
yo me puedo preparar para mejorar mi actitud y mis habilidades en el trabajo.