8 Things NOT to Do on Your First Day of Work

Congratulations on landing a job! Do you feel ready to absorb everything about Company X and get to know your new co-workers?

Ready to carpe diem!
Ready to carpe diem!

Optimism aside, make sure you do not commit any of these mistakes on the first day (or maybe, ever? Then again, we’re all human…):

  1. Show up wearing clothing not matching the company’s dress code – You must have visited the office for your job interview. If you observed that everyone was wearing suits and ties, do not show up on the first day like a surfer. Be observant during that interview and, for your first day, err on the side of a little more dressy if you could not figure out the dress code at the interview. Unless you are going to work for a tech startup, it is best to wear nice slacks and blouse/button-down shirt for the first day.
  2. Wear a ton of perfume or cologne – You might accidentally douse yourself with perfume or cologne before getting to Company X because you feel nervous. Refrain from pouring on the scents! You do not want to be that one, super-scented person in the office and have everyone remember you for this in the long run. I would hope you do not normally toss on a ton of perfume for other occasions either.
  3. Using your smartphone anytime during the day – Unless you are receiving urgent calls from loved ones, there is no need for you to have your smartphone out at work at all. Leave your phone at your desk or in your briefcase/purse during meetings. And, even though lunch time would normally be a good time to check in with your phone, this is your first day: see if you can mingle with your co-workers at lunch to maximize networking opportunities.
  4. Talk crap about your personal life – You are trying to make a great first impression, right? Well, keep your personal life details out of the office/group lunch. At this point, nobody cares to know that you and your partner got into a fight last night, or that your friend backstabbed you. In general, keep personal stuff out of work life, even after the first day. You do not want to be known as the “poisonous” co-worker.
  5. Refuse asking questions to your supervisor about your duties/tasks at hand – Hopefully Company X has some training going for you on your first day. Even so, when there are times for you to get stuff done without supervision and you get into some confusion, do not hesitate to ask your supervisor to help you out. It is better to seek help instead of trying to fix the problem yourself and causing a big hullaballoo in the company database due to your fear of asking questions. Just. Ask.
  6. Use overly colloquial language – Unless your work environment is uber casual, keep yourself always at the professional language when speaking and writing. Keep your “hey GUYS this is da SHIT!” language for when you hang out with your buddies. Also, when sending emails to your supervisor or co-workers, double-check the grammar and spelling to make sure everything makes sense. You would be surprised at how many people fail at this simple task on a daily basis.
  7. Distract your co-worker with babble throughout the day – You will probably be busy training for your position anyway, but still, try to keep your small-talk down to a minimum. You do not need to tell your co-worker or your supervisor about the wonderful sandwich you ate while you were in Paris last week; bring that topic up another day when you figure out who is a foodie in the office.
  8. Sit idle when you are finished with your tasks for the moment – Seems like common sense to NOT do this, but this happens a lot. I know at a few of my first jobs I did feel a bit stuck on what to do next, but I made sure to ask my supervisors what to do next when I noticed my idleness. You can do the same with your supervisor: ask what needs to be completed next. If there is truly nothing for you to do at the moment, offer to help your co-workers out. Show the office that you are proactive with your work, even on day one.

And there you have it. Some of the situations above may seem ludicrous, but these things happen to many people on their first days and beyond. If you do end up committing one of these blunders, hold yourself accountable….but, also, do not be too hard on yourself. You may have a co-worker empathize with you considering you are new to Company X. So, cheer up and enjoy your time at Company X from day one and beyond.

5 Essentials For a Successful Networking Experience

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Whether you are attending a general social mixer, networking event, or a conference, these are five things you must bring along for a great experience:

1. Business Cards– Always have a way for others to follow up and contact you. Even if you have a brand new startup or are unemployed, get some cards made before the big event.

2. Your Smartphone– If you want to get others’ contact info into your phone right away (or make a reminder to follow up with a new connection), remember to bring a fully-charged phone with you. If you are at a conference, you also beed your phone if you want to partake in the event hashtag via social media.

3. A Strong Pitch– Have a strong pitch practiced and ready so it will be a breeze introducing yourself to others. Boil the pitch down to around 30-45 seconds. My pitch usually includes my name, my title and my company, and an explanation of what my company TAOpivot does.

4. Suitable Bag/Tote– Always good to have something to carry all the cards, brochures, etc. you may get at an event. I always make sure to have a spacious bag in case there’s schwag handed out; frees up my hands!

5. An Open Mind– You might talk with a few people who have differing views than you do on current events, the economy, etc. Don’t get into an argument with others! That’s embarrassing for you and may soil the whole experience. Listen to others and take what you will from their words and your interactions. If you feel the connection isn’t a good fit, then leave it at that. No follow-up is needed.

Of course, none of the above is required (well, besides the open mind!), but I have found that having all these things handy has helped me maximize my success at networking events and conferences. Hope these help you, too.

3 Steps to Exit a Company Gracefully

My last day at work in 2010; got flowers for my departure. :)
My last day at work in 2010; got flowers for my departure. 🙂

From my work history, I know the anxiety all too well of leaving one job for another one, or just to leave and start out on my own. Have you ever wondered how to exit gracefully? These are the steps I took when I was about to leave each of my previous jobs:

  1. Notify in-person and in writing when you will be leaving – Talk to your manager about your impending departure but also put it in writing. Best to let your manager know a month or two weeks in advance (I recommend one month). The written notice will be good for both your records and for the business’s records.
  2. Offer help in finding your replacement – Depending on the size of the company, you may be able to help out HR by offering to sift through incoming resumes for your position. I volunteered to do this at my last job in San Francisco, and it helped cut down on all the noise for the director. If your manager refuses help from you, then that’s fine–let it be.
  3. Stay polite & leave on the best terms possible – As your days wind down at the company, make sure to maintain good relations with your co-workers and supervisors. Contain your excitement for your next move if others do not inquire about your decision. Who knows–maybe on the last day you’re at the company, you’ll get a surprise from your co-workers and supervisors (like I did; see above).

Even if you had a less-than-stellar time at the job you’re leaving, it’s always best to keep things polite between you and the company. You never know; might need a favor from them later on.

3 Reasons Entry-Level Work Does Not Exist Anymore

All these people are lined up for a conference, or lined up looking for work...or both.
All these people are lined up for a conference, or lined up looking for work…or both.

Alternate Title: Why Employers are Being Unfair with Their HR Methods

Lately, this topic seems to come up a lot among my peers and my clients at TAOpivot: “Why do I have to have years of experience when it is an entry-level job?” “Why can’t I get paid for my worth?” “Why can’t I get a job out there with benefits, health insurance, etc.?” and on and on.

All very valid questions and I completely understand the frustration; I experienced this in my own job search after I got my Bachelors degree. I moved to San Francisco, naively thinking that, despite no relevant work experience I was sure to land something entry-level.

I did and I did not: I was left with a lot of the same questions I listed above. The catch-22 of a job-seeker with little to no work experience: how to gain experience if nobody is willing to hire and train me?

I believe these days, entry-level work does not exist anymore. Three reasons why:

  1. Company staff are running lean; they do not have the time or money to have a staff member train a new employee, especially one without experience. The company must focus on how to utilize their available staffing in the most versatile way.
  2. Because companies are running lean, they feel that inexperienced candidates would only cost the company more (time, money). These companies may or may not have perpetual “interns” who end up doing too much of the slush work.
  3. Saying “entry-level” in a job posting plus “5+ years of experience” will certainly lure someone more experienced to be paid at an entry-level position…..because everyone falls for that, right?

The three reasons may all sound the same, and they pretty much boil down to one main point: the economy is still pretty crappy. The way businesses are run is changing in this new landscape where no longer do people stay at one job all their life: they may end up job-hopping a lot before they find a job that they will stick with. Employers are not happy with this kind of landscape because they could lose valuable talent right away if a better offer comes along.

But, these reasons should not cause for employers and HR managers to shy away from adapting to the new environment. And, most certainly, I find when job postings state both “entry-level” AND “requires 5+ years of experience”, that that is just unethical.

I know that companies are running lean; even my own startup is lean. But at the same time, I believe that the many jobless job-seekers out there can really help the economy if a few more employers actually played fair and were open to taking on entry-level/newly graduated job candidates and pay them their proper share.

The economy is not going to fix itself with a magic wand. We must make incremental changes in our own mindsets and how businesses are run in order to give our fellow Americans work and allow them to help alongside and fix our economy.

4 Steps to Having Effective Business Cards

My two business cards: one for TAOpivot, the other for just me.

My two business cards: one for TAOpivot, the other for just me.

No matter what career you are in, you need a business card to represent you and your brand. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been to a wide variety of networking events: creative small businesses, tech startups, nonprofits, etc. At every event though, there was at least one person who did not bring their business card/did not have a business card period. I know, I know, not everyone has their cards on them all the time, but we should start implementing this as a habit, a norm.

If you’re a job-seeker, small-business owner/entrepreneur, or freelancer, here are some steps to getting your own cards for your next social/networking event.

  1. Visit Vistaprint or MOO to order business cards – (NOTE: These are completely un-sponsored recommendations). Vistaprint almost always has deals for first-time buyers; MOO is good for high-quality card stock and flashier design templates. I have ordered from both companies before and I am satisfied with both (see my cards above for examples from both companies). With Vistaprint, you do get more bang for your buck though, so keep that in mind if you want to buy your business cards in bulk (500+ cards).
  2. Decide if you want double-sided or one-sided cards – This is all based on personal preference: I ordered double-sided cards for both my business and for myself; I just sifted through my pile of cards from colleagues and seems that more and more folks are embracing both sides of the business card. If you are on the fence about this, just ask yourself: Can I fit all my information on one side? Do I want a flashy design? Do I have a logo for myself that I want to use?
  3. Decide if you want regular-shaped cards or something ‘out-of-the-box’ – Most people go for the regular-shaped cards. Some like MOO’s mini-cards or even circular cards. I would stay clear of going for odd-shaped cards, though; sure, these may make great impressions on others, but it may also be cumbersome since it won’t fit properly in a business card holder.
  4. Include all relevant contact information on your card – Last but not least, make sure when you’re planning out your card that you remember to include the important details! Generally, a business card should have: your name, your phone number, your email address. If you have a website that can be used as your portfolio, include that as well. Other information to consider: your job title (if available), social media profiles, logo (if available).

There! Now you have your business cards ready for the next networking event in town!

Having business cards will give you an extra layer of confidence when mingling with others: after all, if you meet a possible business connection/employer, you will be able to give them your card (and they can do the same). Follow-up will be much easier so you both remember where you met and what you plan to collaborate on.

Even though I met some people without business cards these past few weeks, I gave them my card. Whether they will follow up or not is a question I have on my mind…and, since I do not have their cards, I won’t be able to follow up with them myself.