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How to Kick-Ass at Your First Corporate Job

There are some things they just won't teach you in your new employee orientation, like how to make friends at work or offer valuable insight when you’re just starting.

It can be difficult to adjust to pencil skirts, cubicles, and conference calls. If you’ve just graduated from college, but feel like a freshman of the office, remember that you’re not alone. Your first corporate job right out of college can be a difficult transition.

There are some things they just won’t teach you in your new employee orientation, like how to make friends at work or offer valuable insight when you’re just starting. Want to kick-ass in your first corporate gig, but not sure where to start? Check out our tips below.

1. Make sure your coworkers know you exist.

This may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be shocked by how many new employees tuck themselves away in their cubicles for eight hours a day only surfacing for a few timid breaks to the kitchenette or rest room (I would know, as I used to be one of them!).

Especially if you’re shy, it can be tempting to convince yourself that it’s best to lay low for a few weeks and learn the ropes before socializing. But taking this approach only alienates you from your coworkers. Instead, make an effort to be noticed and recognized as a member of the team.

You don’t have to be a social butterfly to be sociable and friendly. Say hello as you pass coworkers in the hallway, strike up conversations in the break room, or invite a cubicle-neighbor to grab a coffee on a slow morning. Making an effort to get to know those around you will show that you’re friendly and approachable right from the beginning.

2. Be smart, but acknowledge your learning curve.

Remember, you’re fresh meat in the office. Even if you come into a new position as a subject-matter expert, remain humble while you get to know the ropes of your job and the company as a whole. It’s great to speak up in meetings and voice your input, but just as important to acknowledge (and embrace) your learning curve. It’s likely that you’ll be asked some questions that you don’t know the answers to yet. That’s okay. Use it as impetus to hit the ground running.

Don’t forget to ask questions and show off your eagerness to learn. If an unfamiliar acronym comes up in a meeting, ask what it means. Even asking non work-related questions can have their benefit. Took the last cup and not sure how to brew a new pot in the industrial coffee maker? Ask a fellow employee. It’s a great reason to strike up a conversation.

3. Soak in the company culture.

Every company has a corporate culture that governs the way employees conduct themselves at work. Smaller groups, like departments and teams, also have their own ways of communicating and working together.

Cultural norms big (such as conducting your job with honesty and transparency) and small (like saying hello as you pass colleagues in the hallway), exist in every work environment, and it’s in your best interest to soak these up right away. As long as the culture is positive and healthful, it’s a smart move to work with the grain, and not against it.

Being the new person in the office can be scary, but it can also be exciting. contributor Craig Cincotta gives sound advice to new grads in the workplace: “Volunteer for interesting projects, introduce yourself to someone new every day and embrace the uncomfortable nature of not knowing everything.”

It’s never easy being new, but embrace the opportunities that make you nervous, and allow yourself to kick-ass where it counts.

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About the Author

Dana Johnson

Dana graduated from Central Michigan University with her B.S. degree in English-Creative Writing and Broadcasting. She enjoys dancing around in her bedroom, reading and writing poetry, and going for long walks. She'd like to work in the publishing industry, and be surrounded by literature always.