Recent Grads: 19 Great Tips for Your First Month at a New Job

Last Updated Sep 23, 2011 1:11 PM EDT

According to recent Census figures, young people were the biggest losers in the recent recession. Employment among 16-to-29 year-olds fell from 67.3 percent in 2000 to just 55.3 percent in 2009. If you're fortunate enough to score a gig, you'll want to kick butt and take names ASAP, in order to keep your job and move up quickly.

Here are 19 tips from career experts for your first days and months on the job. Practice one a day, and you'll be that much closer to job security and success.

1. Don't Panic... Like the Grateful Dead sang, the first day are the hardest days -- and they'll pass. "Even though that first month can (and usually does) seem overwhelming, it's important that you keep things in perspective," says career coach Shawn Graham. "You're generally not going to be expected to have a firm grasp of everything right away."

2. ...But Do Ask Questions Clarify early and often when you have a grace period at the beginning. "When you're new, you're expected to ask a lot of questions. After all, how else are you going to learn?" says Anthony Morrison, Vice President at Cachinko, a recruiting and consulting firm.

3. Be a Know It All Be informed, and add to the conversation. "Read the key major newspapers and be sure to stay up on the news -- both current events and what's happening in the industry," says Meryl Weinsaft Cooper, co-author of Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Hired, Noticed, and Rewarded at Work. Then you can feel confident chatting intelligently with your colleagues, clients, and CEO.

4. Learn To Listen While asking questions is important, so is listening to what is said. "Every day, take copious notes during all conversations. At the end of the day, review the notes and highlight the key messages from each. Before leaving, create a list of follow-up questions, things to research, and possible next steps that you can take (or support)," says Weinsaft Cooper.

5. Prepare Your Message Speaking in front of higher-ups in a meeting can be intimidating, but you can make things easier on yourself by preparing personal Cliff Notes. "Before walking into any meeting/conversation/event, take a minute to write down two to three messages that you want to communicate," says Weinsaft Cooper.

6. Be Generous Give your time and effort. "If you see someone on your team who is obviously slammed, ask them if you may help them in any way," says career coach Jenny Foss, founder of JobJenny.

7. Watch The Clock Be there before -- and leave after -- your manager. "Arrive early and stay late," says Hillary O'Keefe of recruiting firm Onward Search. "The extra hours will not only make a good impression, but you'll be exposed to the full spectrum of your job, your coworkers, and the environment as well."

8. Know Your Company Just like asking day-to-day questions, you'll want to understand your company, culture, and where your role fits in. "You'll learn the business and your job more quickly, and be able to contribute ideas for improvement once you understand 'how things work," says Foss. You'll also learn where you want to go within the company and and how to get there.

9. Dress Like You Belong Yep, the old "dress for success" adage is still apt, but in some companies, overdressing can be as egregious as the opposite. "Aligning yourself with the broader company culture will help others feel more comfortable with you right off the bat, so if you have the choice, leave the suit at home in favor of business casual if that's what everyone else is wearing," says O'Keefe.

10. Read Every Email You'll probably be getting a lot of mass emails about everything from benefits information to bagels in the break-room. Even if it takes you some extra time, make sure to read all of them carefully. "Consuming information is more than just reading or watching the news, or keeping up with social media and other third-party updates. You never want to skip over an important [detail] that could impact your work," says Samantha Zuppan of GlassDoor.com.

Next: 9 More Tips for Your First Month
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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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