5 myths about starting a new job

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Advice from friends and family is one thing most of us are not short of when we start a new job.

Well-meaning as your counsellors undoubtedly are, however, not all that advice will be good. So how do you distinguish true pearls of wisdom from unhelpful opinions?

We have set out to help by debunking five popular myths about how you should act when you start a new job.

Get in early and leave late

New job starters are often advised to create a good impression by showing they are prepared to work long hours.

But while you definitely want to turn up on time and show you are willing to stay late if required, always being the first to arrive and last to leave could backfire on you in the longer term.

That’s what project manager Claire Pinder, found when she started a new role last year.

“I was really excited to get this job, so when I started I decided to show my enthusiasm by turning up early every day,” she said.

“It was only several months later that one of my colleagues revealed this was annoying other members of the team, who felt I was trying to make them look bad!”

It’s also worth noting that your manager is likely to get used to you working longer hours, which could make it difficult to do just your contracted hours at a later date.

Shake things up as soon as you arrive

You may have lots of great ideas about how to tackle your new role or, if you are taking on a managerial position, how to improve the performance of your team.

You may even have been brought in to cut costs or overhaul the organisation.

But however keen you are to shake things up, it pays to take the time to understand how the company works from the inside beforehand.

Allowing your new colleagues and employees to show you the ropes will help you to build bridges, while also giving you a clearer idea of what changes need to be made.

“My advice would be to keep your head down a bit at first, and to spend your first few weeks listening to those who have worked there for a while,” said electronics company director George Menton, who employs more than 50 people.

“Once people see you are competent, you will find it much easier to persuade them to accept new ideas.”

Stick it out, even if you don’t like it at first

Sometimes new jobs fail to live up to your expectations.

You may, for example, be required to work much longer hours than you were told, or find the job that sounded so exciting on paper involves a lot more boring admin than you thought.

Traditionally, the advice in this situation has been to stick it out because only staying in a job for a short time looks bad on your CV.

But while it’s often worth giving yourself a few months to bed in, staying in a job you hate is more likely to damage your career than leaving it for a new, more promising one.

Recruitment manager Richard Lowe, who works for a large estate agency, said:

“In the past, companies may have been wary of taking on ‘job hoppers’ who switched employers at the drop of a hat.

“But nowadays they know good people can pick and choose their opportunities.

“It’s also much more common for people to only stay in a job for a short time, so there’s no longer the same stigma around it.”

Just be prepared to explain to any prospective employers why you want to leave the role.

It pays to take the time to understand how the company works

Assert yourself from the start

Nobody wants to be a doormat, but while your friends and family may advise you to show your new manager you are a force to be reckoned with, it’s also important to avoid coming across as too pushy.

The time for negotiating benefits such as, holidays and flexible working hours was before you signed your contract.

If you missed that opportunity, it’s best to leave it for a while before you start making demands.

“A few years ago I took on a guy who asked for two weeks off on his second day,” Menton said.

“He obviously hadn’t read his contract properly because it clearly stated he couldn’t have any holiday during his three-month trial period.

“I probably would have allowed it had he asked politely during his interview.

“As it was, though, it was just one of many issues that convinced me not to keep him on.”

Start networking straight away

If you are ambitious and hope your new job will be a stepping-stone to a higher position, your friends and family might encourage you to make friends in high places as soon as you start.

But while there’s no harm in introducing yourself to high-level colleagues if an opportunity arises, forcing an introduction could prove awkward and ultimately unrewarding.

It’s also sensible to allow relationships with your colleagues to progress naturally, rather than immediately treating them as your new best friends.

“It’s good to get to know people away from the office, for example over a drink in the local pub,” Pinder said.

“It’s important not to get carried away, though. One friend of mine got drunk at a work do shortly after starting a new job, and it took her a long time to be taken seriously after that.”

Menton agrees. “There’s plenty of time for people to find out how fun and interesting you are once they have learned to respect you as a colleague.”

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.

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