I will be entering the professional workforce for the first time. What should I do to be successful?

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Answered by: Michelle , An Expert in the Careers Category
Entering the professional workforce for the first time can be as intimidating as it is exciting. But being successful at your first professional job won't be hard if you first focus on something very basic - being a good employee.

Your new employer won't expect you to immediately be an expert on their business or the specific mechanics of your job. That comes with time and training. But they will expect you to be a responsible adult with a good work ethic and a healthy respect for workplace policies and etiquette. Your new manager has her hands full training you to perform your new job responsibilities. Cut her some slack by being easy to manage. Here are some simple things you can do to be that good employee right out the gate:

- Be on time. If you're supposed to be there at 8:00, you need to be there, at your desk and ready to work, at 8:00. Not 8:05. Not 8:10. Being ten minutes late may not seem like a big deal, but if you're consistently ten minutes late it will become a big deal to your supervisor, as well as all your peers who, like it or not, are watching you. Oh, and don't make it a habit to leave early, either!

- Avoid personal screen use when you're on the clock. This one is hard these days, so you have to be strong! Stay off facebook, snapchat, instagram - whatever your online addiction is - while you're at work. For one thing, your employer isn't paying you to do that. For another, no matter how sneaky you think you're being, your manager will catch on and so will your nosy cubicle neighbors. If you have some downtime those first few weeks, rather than tweeting, read training materials or search through the employee intranet or the corporate website. Use the time to learn and become a more valuable resource. - Abide by HR policies. Most companies have policies regarding things like sexual harassment, use of company equipment and dress code. As soon as you can, read them and obey them. Don't try to push the envelope. Don't make your boss send you home because your skirt is too short or your jeans are too ripped up. Stifling a little bit of your fashion flair is a small price to pay for a paycheck!

- Limit the amount of personal business that takes you away from work. Life happens, and any reasonable employer realizes that sometimes you'll miss work because you're sick or you'll be late because you had a flat tire. But miss a whole day because of that flat? Nope! Put on the spare or catch a ride and get yourself to work. Act like you want to be there or you may find yourself with lots and lots of time to take care of your personal business.

- Don't cause or participate in workplace drama. It's awfully tempting to engage in water cooler gossip, especially when you're a new employee who is trying to bond with your peers. But it can have unintended consequences, like giving you a bad reputation. If you find yourself in a gossipy conversation, politely remove yourself or change the subject. But not to religion. Or politics. Maybe stick to sports or the weather.

It can be really simple to start strong at your first professional job if you first focus on just being a good employee. These good habits will serve you well throughout your long career. Congratulations on entering the professional workforce! Success is within your grasp!

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