[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

In The Workforce Now: 10 tips for your first job

By brass Staff on May 1st, 2011 •

The professional world can be an intimidating place. For first-timers, it can be very different than what you expect. That's why we've compiled ten tips for navigating your first job from those of us who've made it through.

Get used to getting up early. The workday starts around 8 am, so those noon o'clock wake-ups are out. Arriving on time or early shows dedication and responsibility, which makes you look like a good candidate for advancement.

Don't ask for free stuff. Restaurant employees typically receive free food, but some owners are more tightfisted. Don't assume perks from the higher-ups unless otherwise informed. It will save some embarrassing questions later.

Pack a lunch. It might mean getting up earlier to do so, but packing a lunch will save your paycheck from getting gobbled up by takeout tabs. Just because you're employed doesn't mean you're rich.

Always dress professionally. Work is usually not the place for fashion statements. When representing your employer, professionalism shows that you value your¬self and the company.

Ask where to park. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's easier to ask up front than fumble with parking tickets or dirty looks from the boss before discovering the employee parking lot.

Stay until your boss says to leave. Leaving early (or on time in some cases) can come back to bite you if any work is left unfinished. On the other hand, while hard work and tenacity can earn respect, ask permission and check the overtime policy before working past your hours.

Prioritize. It's tough when the daily grind kills your social life, but having a job in today's economy is a privilege. Don't ditch scheduled work for play. When you're settled in and clear on company rules, then schedule time off.

Take advice and criticism professionally. Better performance equals more efficient workflow for you and the company. Plus, arrogance or defensiveness won't fly in the workplace, especially from those low on the totem pole.

If extra job training is offered, take it. Even if you don't like the job, the skills learned could look good on a résumé or become helpful in other fields or jobs.

Don't think you'll get all the money. A fair amount of income tax will be withheld based on your W-4, so don't be alarmed when that paycheck looks a little shallow.