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10 Mistakes at Work to Avoid

man in suit smiling and shaking hands with employerWhether it’s a part-time student job or your first entry-level job after graduation, students entering the working world are prone to making certain mistakes at work.

From failing to ask questions to not wearing appropriate office attire, these are some classic work mistakes that you should be sure to avoid.

1. Ignoring Email Etiquette

When it comes to emails, always err on the formal side. Use proper addresses (Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.), and signatures that include your company contact details. Avoid abbreviations (like BTW), nix the emoticons and keep an eye out for unnecessary exclamation points!

2. Texting Your Superiors

If you are running late to work, whether you’re working in an office or waitressing, give your superiors the courtesy of a phone call or, at the very least, an email to let them know. Don’t use a text message, which is too informal (unless, of course, your boss has specifically requested you to text him or her on days when you’re running late).

3. Keeping Your Phone On

Whether it’s a one-on-one with your boss or a huge staff meeting, always turn your phone off during work meetings. Remember how embarrassing it was in college when your phone rang during class? In the working world, multiply that embarrassment by about 100.

4. Not Asking Questions

A lot of new college grads think that asking questions on the job is going to make them look bad and put their career in jeopardy. However, it’s much better to ask questions if you are uncertain about something than to try and muddle through it on your own – and make major mistakes in the process.

5. Taking Supplies from Work Without Permission

Every office has a different policy on what you can and can’t use for your own personal needs, but definitely make sure you ask before taking any office supplies or printing anything from your computer that isn’t work-related.

6. Social Networking on the Job

Avoid social networking while at work (unless it’s part of your job, obviously). The last thing you want is your boss catching you on Facebook during your second week of work. Some offices are really cracking down on social networking, even blocking sites like Facebook and Twitter on corporate computers.

7. Social Networking on the Job…About Your Job

This is something that, believe it or not, a lot of people seem to do while they’re at work or on their lunch break.

Never assume that you’ll be able to keep your work life completely separate from your personal life, especially if you are friends with a coworker on Facebook. Nothing you ever put out in cyberspace will be 100% private. Griping about your job, your personal life or anything else could get you some raised eyebrows from people who might be watching — maybe even worse.

8. Dressing Inappropriately

When I say “dressing inappropriately,” I’m not assuming that you are going to show up to your first day of work in a tube top and cut-off shorts! Like dressing for an interview, there are just certain elements of office dress – hemline length, how to wear a collared shirt, appropriate height of a heel – that take some getting used to.

Many college students starting in the working world need to invest in new clothes for the office (I definitely had to). If possible, snag someone older with office experience – a friend, sibling or parent – who can help you put together appropriate work outfits.

9. Keeping Too Much to Yourself

It’s a good idea not to go on and on about every personal detail of your life when you’re at work, but that doesn’t mean you should shut yourself in your cubicle and keep your head down all day. Work days can be long and tedious without a friend to joke around with or ask about your weekend.

Making friends — or at least acquaintances– is also a helpful networking tool for jobs in the future.

10. Cutting Minutes Here and There

Showing up a few minutes late, leaving a few minutes early, taking an extra five minutes or so at lunch – these are all work mistakes that might not seem like a big deal, but some bosses notice and can be pretty unforgiving about it. Play it safe and become a human clock about your hours and breaks, at least for the first few weeks until you’ve felt out the office vibe.

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