Module 04: On the Job Success

Employer Expectations and Developing as a Professional

Nobody expects you to understand everything on the first day. When you are new to a job, your manager understands you’ll make mistakes. However, there are some basic expectations that your manager will most likely expect.

What you are expected to do:

  • Show up on time.
  • Show up to work every day for your designated shifts unless you have a valid reason to be absent.  You would need to follow the protocol for reporting time off.
  • Return promptly from any break and stay until the end of your shift.
  • Maintain a professional appearance.
  • Treat everyone you encounter with respect.
  • Be focused while you are at work; avoid being distracted by personal business.
  • Complete your assigned tasks within the specified time.
  • Demonstrate support for the company’s overall goals.
  • Be committed to providing excellent customer service.
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude and enthusiasm.
  • Respect the authority of your manager.

A square box split in half. On the left side against a light blue background stands Jane Career with a hand on her hip. There is a desk behind her with a clock reading 8:50AM.  The word “Arrive” appears in the top right.  On the right side of the box against a dark blue backgrounds stands another image of Jane Career with arms crossed. There is a desk behind her with a clock reading 5:10PM. The word “Leave” appears on the top left.

Many employees start out behaving well but begin to break the rules as they become comfortable in the workplace. Don’t fall into that trap. Your inability to meet these basic expectations may cost you your job.

Taking responsibility for your own development

As a professional, you must learn to take responsibility for your own career development.  The working world is very different from a college or university environment where there may be professors or staff looking out for you. Managing the transition from one environment to the other can be challenging, particularly for those with limited experience in the workplace, but it’s a necessary process. Understanding the need to take responsibility for charting your own path early in your career can save you a lot of headaches later on.  Taking personal responsibility for your process does not mean you have to do it alone- in fact mentorship and support from family, friends and your wider network will remain crucial supports along the way.

Below are some professional development skills that are important when it comes to the workplace.  You needed many of these to land the job but now that you’re in the position, developing and refining these skillsets further will give you a big advantage to your overall success. There’s no way to control the order in which you’ll learn these skills and often you may be dealing with a workplace issue well before you feel ready to do so successfully. However, remember you’ve made it this far and you have the tools to improvise and learn as you go.


One of the most essential components to success is the development of a positive, optimistic and growth mindset. As someone who may be starting out on the bottom rung in an organization, this approach will help you develop humility, an openness to learn, a strong work ethic, adaptability and other helpful traits for the workplace.  Reflect on people in your environment who are respected- admired even- and consider their attitude. Try to model or adapt their approach to suit your own personality.

It’s easy to become frustrated when learning new things or trying to navigate a new work environment.  Remember, frustration can be viewed as a conflict between what you expected versus the reality of the situation. Reality is often a let down, but if we try to anticipate that many aspects of a job may be different from what we initially expected, our frustration may diminish.  Adopting a long-term positive perspective may also help us take a different view of the situation. This too shall pass.

Impression management

Impression or reputation management is an important area over which emerging professionals must learn to exert some control – particularly in their first year on the job. Impression management involves a concerted effort on your part to positively influence how people view you. In a workplace context  this refers to qualities and behaviors  that  make  you  a  person  of integrity but also and  a positive contributor  to  the  team or organization. Finding opportunities to manage how you present yourself that will elicit positive responses from other people is a natural human desire both in life and in the workplace. Positive responses could include:  getting a raise or promotion, attracting allies, and/or receiving a bonus. This is about putting the most positive light on your skills, abilities and qualities. When starting a new job, you’re under the microscope and co-workers will be observing and monitoring you, determining your skills, your “fit” in the workplace and whether you have the ability to work as a team player.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that presenting a professional image may be more challenging for some.  Managing your personal traits may not be enough to present a professional image. Belonging to a particular group may come with certain preconceived stereotypes and dealing with bias is something that can present a challenge. For example, younger employees may be seen as less credible or less responsible than older workers.

In recognizing your place as a new hire and thus an outsider to the organization, you may consider holding back on any criticism lest it be perceived as an attack on the organization.  Putting in your dues by learning the details of your job as well as your role within the wider organization will help boost your credibility.   In many respects actions speak louder than words. Therefore, focus on building a track record of completing projects on time, demonstrating a willingness to work hard, and conveying gratitude to colleagues who help orient you. When faced with a challenge, do your best to independently explore possible solutions.

Honing Job-specific Skills

Invest the time to learn the skills you need to do your job well.  In some roles, the content or systems you rely on to do your job effectively may change and you’ll need to stay current. Be sure to keep tabs on any developments that impact your position, whether it involves changes within the role, within the company or external factors- such as, public opinion.  Attend conferences, join associations, register for webinars, and attend lunch and learns. This will help keep you aware of changes in your role and sector.

Refining your Transferrable skills

Your job will probably offer you the opportunity to further develop transferrable professional work skills.  Transferrable skills are just as they sound: skills you bring/transfer with you to virtually any job. These skills include: time management, setting priorities, multi-tasking, drafting emails and proposals, presenting, participating in meetings, working in a team, influencing, and advising.  Finding opportunities to diversify and deepen your transferrable skill sets will stand you in good stead as you progress in your career.

Training and Development

Employers expect that you will require some training as you progress in your role. They will be impressed if you continue to build upon your expertise. Be sure to register for trainings that are offered by your employer.  Inquire about special projects, committees, and initiatives in the workplace which could further stretch your skills. Also consider volunteer opportunities outside of work to build your skill sets. These kinds of opportunities may be especially beneficial to your career development if your current job is not one which you’re interested in pursuing, as they provide exposure and a track record in another area of interest.   Consult with your supervisor to determine which skills you’d benefit most from developing and ask if they would be willing to support you in developing these skills. Be clear that the benefits of your skills upgrade is not just to yourself but to the organization or department as a whole.

Networking and Friendships

Creating and maintaining positive relationships with co-workers leads to greater satisfaction at work but also to the possibility of advancement. When beginning a new position, you’re meeting a group of people with whom you may end up spending a large portion of your day. It’s no wonder then that many popular tv series revolve around workplaces.  Your new co-workers are determining whether you are trustworthy, friendly and dedicated to your job.  Are you someone they can come to for advice or a laugh?  Both are important.  Finding your place in this new ecosystem involves navigating a variety of personalities and agendas.

Building workplace friendships can have a tremendous positive effect on our emotional well-being and productivity on the job. Studies have demonstrated that employees with friends at work tend to focus better, get sick less often and stay longer in their role.  On the flip side, feeling lonely on the job and a lack of connection with co-workers can lead to diminished focus, lower productivity and lowered drive to succeed.

Get to know as many of your colleagues as possible, even if many of the connections are relatively superficial. Networking can take the form of a simple “Good morning” greeting in the hall, lobby, or elevator.  Casual chats before or after meetings can also promote stronger bonds with co-workers. Working social events such as holiday parties can also provide opportunities to connect informally. If your organization has volunteer programs or charity events, feel free to take part. These events provide an opportunity to give to the organization while further networking with co-workers. Participate in team-building activities and be open to socializing with your co-workers when you can (for example, during breaks or at lunch.) This is a great way of learning more about the job culture and developing a sense of belonging to the organization.

Remember, most people like to talk about themselves. Consider engaging new co-workers on “safe”  topics such as parenting, children, pets, or sports. Offer friendly and appropriately personal information to show that you too you have a life beyond work.

Develop Organizational Savvy

As a new employee, it’s difficult to know how to navigate the organization to get things done and develop professionally. However, it’s important to be aware that workplace politics and company priorities can be complex and may shift over time. Learning more about how best to maneuver through these topics is an important skill to hone as you progress in your career.  Over time you will determine which battles are worth fighting and which are best abandoned, who the influencers are and how best to build collaborations to influence certain initiatives.

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