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The “Nau-TEA List “ : 10 Things Professionals Do Wrong in Their First Year

Fired Caucasian businessman carrying personal belongings

  “The Only Place that Success Comes Before Work …Is the Dictionary” ~ Vidal Sassoon

Since the beginning of my career in various human resources roles I’ve seen stellar interview candidates with exceptional resumes and interviewing skills fail. They come into organizations with high expectations, great skill, and being viewed as high potential… but disappoint. They are seemingly the perfect candidate, only to be marched right out of the door with less than a year of tenure under their belt. Perhaps, they were all those things and more but something happen along the way forced an immediate detour. And not the good kind of detour, but the kind that could potentially affects your career for years to come. The company culture and the needs of every company vary drastically, but there a few mistakes that will kill your career almost everywhere.  Below, are a few popular mistakes from my perspective that professionals make that shed a bad light on their performance and career.and make it hard to come back from in their first year.

  1. Not Being  a High Performer – there is nothing worse than just plain failing in performance in your first year. Maybe you oversold your skills (inflated your experience a little) or maybe you find the complexities of how the role is structured too demanding or confusing. However, in your first year if you don’t ask for feedback, request training and development, or ask questions you could find yourself in a low performing predicament that may not turn out well for you.


  1. Not Being Timely (to work, responding to emails, or meetings) – Being timely, and or managing time is key at proving your creditability. Who cares if you are a superstar if you can’t get to work or meetings on time?  Or, it takes you five business days for you to return an email. As a new employee, it’s important that you are actively engaged with your workforce and you can’t do so if you aren’t there. If you are bad with time get a manual calendar, set reminders, and or alerts. I personally am not a morning person. Early in my career I would work out at the office gym at 6am just to make it to an early executive meetings that a senior leader set at 730am consistently. I basically killed two birds with one stone and I looked like a rock star while doing so. As a result,  I generally was the first person in the boardroom, prepped and ready to go!


  1. Not Get Enough Visibility – there’s nothing worse than being talented and underrated. I once oversaw the internship program for a company I worked for. The group was filled with diverse backgrounds of students from all over but all were primarily business and marketing interns for our sales team. At the end of the program two interns were  converted to full time roles for the company. One year I distinctly remember a young woman who was amazingly talented; she was great with analytic reporting, presentations, and graphics. All the interns were broken into three groups of four to complete various assignments and company initiatives. Whenever the stand out intern  was in a group her team was guaranteed to have the best presentation. However, despite the fact that she was extremely talented I noticed each time there was an opportunity to present  or  lead she would shy away from being the spokesperson. She also shyed away from after work professional outings, shaking hands with executives after meetings, and speaking up when she had an opposing opinion. Ultimately, her lack of visibility overshadowed her competence. In the end, she was not selected to be retained because executives could not remember who she was or what she did.


  1. Not Manage Work Relationships Well – There is nothing worse than having conflict at work, inappropriate relationships, or partying just a little too hard at the office party. Work relationships are critical in you being successful. You never want to be the topic of conversation at the meeting after the meeting, or water cooler. Be mindful of how you resolve conflict and manage it well.


  1. Not Fit or Assimilate into the Corporate Culture – Ever heard the saying “ he or she was just not a good a fit?” Well I sure have. Company culture is the unique personality of your company. Whether your company is causal, extremely professional, wellness health focused, requires long hours, or maybe even frequent travel,  you have to find away to fit in without standing out. I once worked for a company that required a lot of “face time”, it was a constant competition of who could stay in the office the latest and pretend like they were still working hard. I have never been a fan of 12-14 hour days, nor do I believe they are very productive. Unfortunately, that was the culture. I saw many people not be deemed as productive by not assimilating. I picked up the hint really fast, and made it work for me. I worked with my VP and came in later around 9:30 am . I’d take an hour wellness break around 3pm and go workout in the gym for an hour,  or  I’d work remotely and be sure to let my presence be known that I was indeed working. Although I didn’t love it, that was company culture – I didn’t write rules I just played by them!


  1. Not Learn Names and Titles – It is so important to learn the who’s who of your company. While it’s important to learn your C-level and Executive team, I’ve found it more important to learn everyone. Whenever I move to a company there are three people I look to meet secretly: Executive Assistants, Security, and the longest tenured employee in the company. Those three people provide the best intel, have a wealth  knowledge about important people, and generally have the ears of most everyone. You want to be successful learn names and learn titles.


  1. Not Look the Part – How we are perceived matters in almost any professional setting! It’s bad enough we have to manage the work, and culture, but sadly we also have to manage appearance. My mentor use to say to me, ‘ You don’t dress like the role you are currently in… you dress like the role you want to be in.” Fair or not, how you look is important in the corporate sector. It’s important that you are mindful of dressing appropriate for work activities. Just because it’s the office Holiday party doesn’t invite you to where your best club attire!


  1. Not Look For Developmental Opportunity & Feedback – You come in an immediately feel like you took a step back instead of forward. Rather than complaining, ask for more projects and developmental opportunities. Taking the initiative to learn new skills and roles, is your responsibility not the companies.


  1. Not Find a Mentor, Work Best Friend, and Work Truth Teller – In your first year its important that you look for a workplace mentor who will advocate for your development and provide career advice. This could be a senior level person or a more senior person on your team. You also need to look for a work place “best friend” not to be confused with your personal best friend because it most certainly is not the same. However, you should find someone you can trust, who understand the culture and will give you his or her honest opinion about issues, and will not repeat what you share. Lastly, a “truth teller” someone who has great understanding of the corporate culture and is willing to tell you the truth about yourself or others. They’ll be honest about how you engage certain leaders, who not to offend, and all the do’s and don’ts they have already experienced.


  1. Not Stick Up For Your Accomplishments – Lastly, the biggest mistake you can do is not sticking up for your accomplishments and work accolades beyond your normal task. If you have accomplished certain “wins” such as positive leader feedback, awards, advanced degree, or done a great job with a company project or initiative don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Most important, make sure those things make it to your review and evaluation sessions.

Avoid those pitfalls and you can bet your first year impression won’t be a flop!

– That’s the Tea!



  1. Lauren says:

    Great advice! I loved number 6. People would be amazed at what the executive assistants know. They are the eyes and ears. Hopefully many young professionals heed your advice. You have given them a great blue print.

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