6 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a New Job

By Cai Wen Wong   •   5 min read


It’s your first day at work and you’re feeling the nerves. Starting out in a new career will definitely make you feel all jittery about what you should do, and should not do.

are keen on setting off on a right note, and nailing the first impressions. But what are the small etiquettes that you should be taking note of?

To help with the jitters, we have compiled a list of the biggest first impression killers you should avoid doing at a new job, so you can be aware and not commit any deadly mistake.


  1. Forgetting your colleagues’ names

A simple mistake most of us make: Forgetting your co-workers, or worse, your immediate boss’ name. After all, with so much going on on your first day of work, how are you expected to also be good with names? Some co-workers may be forgiving about this. But others may feel offended or get the impression that you don’t have your head in the game.

Here’s a quick memory hack for remembering names.

Greet each co-worker and repeat their name, as you offer a handshake. What this does: It reinforces the name of each co-worker in your mind, and increases the likelihood of you remembering them.


  1. Giving a wimpy handshake

It’s no secret that first impressions are everything. And a wimpy handshake is the killer way to set a bad impression. This touchpoint (literally) will instantly make your coworkers feel that you lack confidence in yourself, and the results that you can deliver.

On the other extreme, don’t give a bone-crushing handshake either. For every new person you meet, these are 4 simple tips to up your handshake game:

  1. Look them in the eye, in a firm but friendly way, as you shake their hands
  2. Give a good firm handshake
  3. Keep it to no more than 2 to 5 seconds
  4. Smile and repeat their names


  1. Misinterpreting the “face time” culture

A face time culture is one where time spent at work is used as an indication of your productivity level or commitment to the company. To put it simply: The more you work over time, the “better” you are as an employee.

It’s common to want to prove yourself, when you start a new career. But arriving too early every single day, or working till late since your first week (especially if the workload is low) may leave your colleagues wondering what you’re trying to prove.

Don’t be afraid to leave on time if you’ve done your due diligence. If you’re truly unsettled, ask your superior if he or she has any additional work for you for the day. If not, ask if you can leave the office. Pride yourself on being able to finish your work on time, instead of dragging on the hours unnecessarily.


  1. Pretend to be a know-it-all

It’s your first week at work. Nobody’s going to fault you if you don’t know the acronyms or jargon used. In fact, don’t waste your first few weeks at work where people are more forgiving when you don’t know something you should.

Admit that you don’t know certain things during work. Seek clarifications if instructions given by your boss leave you feeling confused. Be curious about everything and learn from your coworkers about how things work.

Not asking questions is one of the biggest mistakes a newcomer can make. Rather than fumbling about amidst your uncertainties and delivering sub-par work, asking the right questions can get you up to speed in a much shorter time.


  1. Gossiping or revealing sensitive information about your previous employer

Airing the dirty laundry of others not only makes you come across as negative, but also reflects upon how you may treat your colleagues in the future. You want to earn the trust of your new colleagues. And office gossip is a surefire way to earn you some bad reputation.

Additionally, revealing sensitive trade secrets of your past employer will make your current employer feel that you might do this to them as well. Your employer may then be more hesitant to hand you sensitive or more strategic work.

Remember: You’re joining a new community here. Your coworkers are silently forming their judgments of you, and deciding if you’re someone they can trust – both personally and professionally.


  1. Promising more than you can deliver

Start with small, achievable goals. No one expects you to be a pro from Day 1.

The key is to show your bosses that you are trying hard, and delivering more and more results as days pass. Once they see you hit all these small cumulative targets, they will eventually give you more responsibilities to work on.

When that time comes, it’ll also be good to communicate with your boss about your work aspirations, so that you’re both aligned on what you want to develop on professionally.

Stay true to your skills and experience, instead of making sweeping claims on what you know. Giving your boss unrealistic expectations of what you can do, will simply come back to haunt you.

It’s normal to be nerous for your first day to first few weeks at a new job. Just remember our tips on how you can make a better first impression on your job. All the best!


Cai Wen Wong

TalentTribe Writer

An optimist with an unsatiable curiousity about the world around her, Cai Wen is on a journey to chart her own career path. She finds value in exploring the tricks of the trade in various industries, taking a leaf (or two) from the big players in the marke


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