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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

4 Little Things That Make a Big Impact in Your First Job

After the celebrations have ended and all your graduation checks have been cashed, the real world will be right around the corner—hopefully with your first job.

Before setting foot in the office as a paid employee, I bet you’ve gotten some good advice. And it’s probably the big stuff—find a mentor, dress for success, go above and beyond with every assignment you’re given. And that’s all great—but what I often hear managers complaining about are the little things.

So, as you kick off your first big job, consider these four little tips. They can stand in your way of first-job success—or make sure you’re set up for it.

1. Get a Timepiece

OK, so I don’t mean that you literally have to wear a watch the moment you get a job, but you do need to know what time it is. It may sound obvious, but after a few years of flexible schedules, all-nighter study sessions, and weekend jobs, you’d be surprised at how time can get away from you.

Your new boss, however, won’t have much sympathy for your adjustment to typical Monday through Friday business hours, which means you need to be on time—if not early—every single day. So, until you’ve got your routine down (and even after) set an alarm, wear a watch, or keep your phone on you at all times. Sure, some things may be out of your control, but if you’re on time for work (and meetings) 99% of the time, you’ll put yourself in good graces with your boss and colleagues right away.

2. Be on (Ball) Point

It may seem terribly old-fashioned, but trust me; carrying a notebook and pen everywhere you go in the office will only make your life easier. It doesn’t have to be big, or even fancy, but it should be something you won’t be embarrassed to bring into a meeting with the CEO of your company.

Take it with you everywhere, along with a pen, and jot down notes as you receive instructions or meet with colleagues. And, especially in meetings! Even if nothing particularly groundbreaking is said, write a few things down anyway. Taking notes shows your boss or colleagues you’re trying to absorb what’s going on and that you’re prepared. Two things that will definitely up your credibility around the office.

3. Talk the Talk

It may not seem like a big deal, but how you communicate in the office says a lot about you. Specifically, if you come across too casual, your boss may not take you seriously and could pass you up on the next great client project (or worse, a promotion).

Handling this one might be tricky, since what’s considered slang can vary from office to office—and person to person. The best way I’ve found to decode the slang tolerance in an office is to start out on your best behavior. Pretend you’re visiting your grandparents for the holidays or meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time. Start there, and see how the rest of the office interacts. You can always take it down a notch or two once you get to know everyone, but at first it’s best to play it safe.

4. Log Out

One of the top complaints I hear from managers is that workers spend too much time surfing the web. While it may seem unreasonable if you’re getting all your work done, the perception that you’re goofing off on company time can really hurt your image in the office.

Now, I’m not saying you have to abstain from your daily web habits altogether (unless, of course, your employee handbook says so), but you do need to be strategic about it. Set aside specific times to check the sites you frequent, and if possible, limit your social media habits to your smartphone. If your boss is going to see you surfing the web, make sure he or she sees you catching up on current events, researching stock prices, or checking out your company’s competitors. Everyone—yes, everyone—uses the internet for personal matters while they’re at work, and your boss knows this. Just don’t take advantage of that, and you’ll find you have a manager who will trust your judgement and appreciates your respect for company time.

I know—there are a million things to think about when you’re starting your first job. But considering these four little ones can have a bigger impact than you know. So keep them in mind, and you’ll earn your rock star cred in no time.

Photo of person working courtesy of Shutterstock.