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Common Mistakes New Grads Make at Their First Job

A college diploma may get you a full-time job after graduation, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will stay employed or get promoted. Once you do secure that dream job, it’s time to work just as hard at getting off on the right foot. While making a mistake or two is, well, part of the job—and part of the learning process—below are a few common ones that new graduates often make:


We all get stumped or puzzled with a problem at work. Realize that unexpected problems are expected, and a manager’s job is to ensure his/her team is operating at top performance. Rather than waste hours or even days on trying to figure this issue out on your own, ask your colleagues or supervisor for direction and advice. Most bosses are more understanding than you’d think. Asking specific questions is expected. In fact, asking the right questions will show your manager that you are determined to do your best. So, if there’s a procedure, assignment, or situation you don’t understand, address it and ask for the assistance you need.


Most college graduates start at the bottom and work their way up within an organization. Employers expect that you will produce quality work and prove yourself before you are given significant projects or leadership roles. Even if you graduated with a 4.0 GPA and held multiple internships while in school, you will still likely need to “pay your dues” at an organization. This may mean completing work involving menial tasks that you don’t necessarily want to do. Carrying a sense of entitlement when you first start on the job will quickly isolate you from your co-workers. Be patient and your hard work will pay off!

Not speaking up

Regardless of the position, your boss wants to know that you’re dedicated to the company’s success, and he or she wants to hear your ideas. Find ways to contribute even if they’re not part of your “official” job duties. Feel free to speak up if you see ways to do your job more efficiently. If you have an idea for a new project, tactfully propose it to your supervisor. You may just get told to run with the idea! Asking for assignments and showing off your creativity could lead to some great opportunities that you wouldn’t have had the chance to tackle it if you hadn’t brought it up yourself.

Skipping social activities

Building relationships with your co-workers is almost as important as doing your job!  You don’t have to be best friends with everyone at your office, but taking the time to get to know your co-workers and showing that you genuinely care can make your work environment a more positive place and the overall work you do together more effective. Consider these after-hours get-togethers—from yearly holiday functions to team-building dinners—part of your job.

Limiting yourself

Unfortunately, some new grads will find themselves in a position where they dislike their job, manager, location or may even be facing a layoff. Don’t be hesitant to use your network! It’s important to maintain those relationships after graduation regardless of your workplace happiness– be an active networker. Previous colleagues, friends, college classmates, and family are all great resources to contact when looking for a different job. Use social media tools such as LinkedIn and sign yourself up for some local networking events through professional societies as well. Consider different roles, industries, working at start-ups, etc. It’s important to think outside of the box and not limit yourself from potential opportunities.

The first few weeks and months on the job can really set you up for success at your company. Your co-workers are closely paying attention to your work ethic, attitude and how you’re fitting in with the team. Make the effort to really dive into your new role by asking for help, building relationships with your co-workers and showing off your creativity. Following these tips will help ensure that you are getting off on the right foot at your new job!

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
-Henry Ford

About the author

Kaitlin Schafer

Kaitlin Schafer is a Career Counselor at Engineering Career Services.