New Job Proverbs

Following is a collection of proverbs to guide and assist you in the often challenging, sometimes difficult world of work that is just ahead:

Your first few days:

  • Understand fully what your company does for a living and its competitive advantage. Be ready to give a thirty-second overview to anyone who asks, from your friends to your grandma to your next-door neighbor.
  • Understand your role in contributing in a positive way to the bottom line of your company. Keep your eyes (and your career) focused on the big picture rather than on your own little cube.
  • Get a copy of your company's most recent annual report and read it cover to cover (if you haven't already). Read all of it. Then read it again. Then read it annually.
  • Dress conservatively—at or above the conservative median within the company. You should always let your voice and actions speak for you rather than your clothes.
  • Remember the names of those to whom you are introduced. In your first few days on the job, jot down names until you remember them. They only have to remember one new name, while you will have multiples.
  • Take the time to understand your company benefits plan. Don't wait until you need to use one of your benefits to understand it.
  • Personalize your work area, but not too personal. Frame your degree and hang it on the wall. Put a small picture on your desk. Get a desk nameplate so everyone will know who you are when they pass by. This gets you past the newness quickly and gives others a reason to introduce themselves.
  • If your employer provides the option, have your paycheck set up for direct deposit. It will save you the time and hassle of depositing each paycheck and will give you quicker access to your money.

The daily routine:

  • Rehearse what you need to accomplish each day during your morning get ready time or during your morning commute.
  • If you can take public transportation to work, do it. It not only saves energy, but also gives you time to read. Always have beneficial work-related and professional development reading materials with you.
  • If you drive to work, get in the habit of "reading" books on CD or MP3 or through your phone. It's amazing how much reading you can accomplish over the course of a year during your commute.
  • Be a note taker, whether on your phone or a notepad or pocket organizer. If you drive to work, get a windshield- or dash-attached holder. Get in the habit of writing down both your brilliant thoughts and daily reminders as they occur to you. Otherwise, you may lose them forever.
  • Be a morning person, even if you have not been in the past. Always be on time.
  • Plan your day at the beginning of each day. Five to ten minutes in the morning will equal an extra hour or more of productivity throughout the day.
  • Develop a routine only where it increases personal productivity; don't get into the rut of doing something only as part of a standard routine. Make sure everything you do has a true value add.
  • Be the first person to greet others with a "Hello" in the morning. And say it with a smile.
  • Never leave a half cup of coffee in the coffee maker for the next person. Always make a fresh pot. Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Keep a toothbrush, breath mints and/or a small bottle of mouthwash in your desk for bad breath emergencies. And remember, just because you can't smell your breath doesn't mean it's sweet and clean.
  • Keep an extra shirt or blouse, pressed and boxed, in your car or tucked away in your workspace. Also consider having an extra tie or an extra pair of nylons available at the ready. You likely will eventually need them and will be happy to have a spare.
  • Always check your appearance in the mirror before leaving the washroom. If it's windy or raining on your way in, stop at the washroom on the way to your workspace.
  • Arrive at meetings on time. Bring extra work so that you can pass the time with while you are waiting for others.
  • Don't doodle or daydream at meetings. If topics being covered are outside of your area, silently and discretely review your schedule of what you need to accomplish that day.
  • Eat lunch in as your standard default. You will save both time and money. Even just $8 per lunch eating out (and it can easily be quite a bit more) adds up to $2,000 per year of after-tax income (and closer to $4,000 of before-tax income). Plus it's typically healthier to bring your own. Use a resealable lunch container and bring last night's leftovers or soup or pasta. And as a by-product, you will often be viewed as a hard worker for consistently staying in when others are going out.
  • If you do go out for lunch, make it work related. Take others in your company out to lunch to learn more about their jobs and their departments. Let them do the talking. You do the listening.
  • Go for a brisk walk each day. Park at the far end of the lot in the morning. And get up to take a walk to stretch your legs before or after lunch. It will clear your mind and make you more productive for the remainder of the day.

Work ethics:

  • Draw a solid ethical line and never cross it. Especially when others are encouraging you to do so.
  • Integrity sold cannot be repurchased. Do not allow yours to go onto the trading block, for there will always be a ready buyer.
  • Integrity means doing what is right, even if it is unpopular, unfashionable, and unprofitable. Actually, especially when it is unpopular, unfashionable, and unprofitable.
  • Develop a reputation for honesty and integrity. If you have failed in these areas in the past, your new job is an opportunity to start fresh. Your reputation is something you must earn over time. And live up to that reputation at all times, at work and everywhere else.
  • Don't use profanity, even when others do.
  • Never tell dirty jokes, racist jokes, or sexist jokes. And simply walk away from those who attempt to share them with you.
  • Don't lie, cheat, or steal, even when the temptation is great—stand for honesty and integrity in all you do, and you will be amazed how high it sets you above your peers.
  • Make good on your promises and commitments. If you are not sure you can deliver, don't promise.
  • If you are feeling unsure about whether or not you should be doing something, don't do it. That's your conscience talking. Listen closely.
  • Always seek the good in others, and they will be more likely to find it in you.

Interpersonal skills:

  • Talk 20 percent and listen 80 percent. And avoid those who talk 100 percent.
  • Take the opportunity to praise others who are worthy of praise. If someone has done well, take the time to compliment them. Praise publicly. In front of others whenever possible. And copy their boss if your praise is via email.
  • When someone is telling you a story, don't interrupt. And don't try to upstage with a better story of your own.
  • Smile. A lot. Even when you feel like frowning.
  • If someone is confrontational with you, avoid the confrontation. Take time to cool off before you respond.
  • If you're not sure if you should press Send on a controversial or emotional email, don't. Just save it in your Drafts folder and come back to it later. It is likely you will revise it or not send it at all.
  • Be the person in your office who makes everyone else smile. Everyone loves a cheerful person.
  • Look for solutions, not problems. Anyone can identify problems.
  • When someone compliments you for your work, don't say "It was nothing" or try to talk them out of it. Just say "Thank you" with a smile and move on. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Life isn't fair. And sometimes work isn't either. There will be some days when just getting through the day is the best you can do. Wait until tomorrow to see if things clear up. They usually do.
  • Don't be a complainer. Every work environment has a person who somehow feels responsible to fill the role of office complainer. Let someone else fill that role. And ignore them when they attempt to practice their art upon you.
  • When you are unhappy on the inside, do your best to stay happy on the outside. You will eventually turn inside out.

Office politics:

  • Show respect for your boss in everything you do. Don't join in when others are boss bashing. It can be contagious.
  • As a subordinate, you must be willing to submit to the plans of others. Submission is not found in obeying the requests of those with whom you are in agreement. True submission is found in obeying another when you are not in agreement.
  • Never discuss your salary with your coworkers. Your refusal to discuss will drive them crazy wondering why you are making so much more than they are.
  • The work washroom is located at work. Don't let your conversation change to match the surroundings.
  • When you are personally complimented for something that was a team effort, always give proper credit to the team.
  • When others begin to criticize, fight the urge to join in. Stand apart and refuse to partake.
  • Be a builder, not a destroyer.

Education and training:

  • Your education has not ended. It is only beginning. Commit yourself to a lifetime of learning.
  • Know and understand the company training and development program. And take advantage of it.
  • Seek to match your training with immediate application of what you have learned. Apply it and it's yours forever. Don't apply it and it's lost.
  • Continue your education. Even if you do not pursue a formal degree, make learning your lifelong vocation.
  • What you learn will affect what you earn.
  • If you are a "hunt and peck" typist or all thumbs, learn to type properly and efficiently. It will save you immeasurable time over the course of your career. And it will keep you from looking silly.
  • Become fully computer literate. You don't have to be a computer wizard, but you do need to become proficient in the use of technology in your work. Stay ahead of the technology curve.
  • Learn to become a team player. College rewards individual performance. Employers reward team performance.
  • You probably don't know nearly as much as you think you know. It often takes the maturity of a lifetime to come to this realization, but if you are willing to acknowledge this fact early in life, you will capture a lifetime of learning and growth.


  • There is more to life than the endless accumulation of wealth. There will never be enough money. You must find your wealth elsewhere in your life.
  • Money does not buy happiness. Happiness is found in being content with who you are and what you have.
  • Read your company's annual report every year. And study the President's Message to the Shareholders. That's both the history of the past year and the vision for the coming years. Keep your career focused on doing your part in helping your employer reach that vision.
  • Sign up for your 401(k) plan as soon as possible and have 10-15 percent automatically deducted from your paycheck. Minimally sign up for the max amount of employer match, since these are free funds. Since you will never have this money in the first place, you will never miss it. And you will be well taken care of later in life while others continue to struggle just to survive.
  • Buy some stock in your company. If you are not willing to invest financially in your company, why are you investing your entire career with them? If they have an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) or Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) where you can buy at a discount, sign up. But remember to diversify—don't put all of your available savings here.
  • Always pay your bills on time. Especially credit cards. And student loans. An unblemished credit record is an asset that should be cherished and protected.
  • Don't run a monthly balance on your credit card. If you can't pay it off that month, don't buy it.
  • Regarding any financial venture or investment, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


  • Limit yourself to one glass of beer or wine when dining out with coworkers or clients. And wait for someone else to order drinks first—don't be the only one.
  • Don't drink at all at the holiday party or other company social activities—besides, it's much more fun to watch others who are drinking.
  • Don't do drugs and avoid those who do. Many promising careers have been lost due to addictions.
  • Beware of office romances. Keep personal matters outside the work environment.
  • Listen to your voicemail greeting message from the perspective of your boss. If you don't want the office to hear it, change it. Cutesy messages usually don't sound cute when played over a speakerphone at the office. And if it's real cutesy, they will probably tell others to call and listen to it as well.
  • Join a health club. Go before work, during lunch, or after work two or three times a week. It will increase your level of energy in your life. You will look better and feel better.

Career progression:

  • Watch and emulate those who are successful in the company. Allow them to be your mentors from afar.
  • If/when you have someone at a level or two above you at work with whom you have developed a relationship, consider asking that person to mentor you in your career. Have quarterly meetings to assess where you are at and where you are going.
  • Know who your boss's boss is. This is the person who may either recommend or authorize your promotion in the future.
  • Ask your boss to point out areas for improvement.
  • Become known either as the person who is the first in to work or as the person who is the last to leave. Or both. But don't do both forever. It's a good start in your career, but it's not a good life balance in the end.
  • Develop a reputation as a problem-solver. If a problem lands on your desk, don't pass it on to someone else.
  • Even if you receive a good performance review, ask what you can do to improve your future performance.
  • Be aware of the work that is going on around you. These are your vistas of potential future growth and development.
  • Review the annual reports of your competitors. It will keep you in tune with your industry and help you to better understand and appreciate your company's competitive edge.
  • If you love doing what you do, success will follow. And the money will take care of itself.
  • Learn to tap into the office network. Career progression is more like climbing a web than climbing a ladder. You may need to move sideways or diagonally before you move up. Make sure you tap into as many connection points as possible.
  • No one owes you a living. No one owes you a job. You earn it, each and every day, all over again. And when you cease to earn your job on a daily basis, you will cease in your career progression.
  • If you do more than what you are paid to do, you will eventually be paid more for what you do.
  • Don't ask for a raise because you need more money. Ask for a raise because you are worth more money.
  • When faced with earning $40,000 and loving what you do versus earning $60,000 and hating what you do, take the $40,000 job and sleep well at night. Your life will be much richer than if you had taken the other job.
  • Take the pillow test to assess your career satisfaction. When you take your head up off the pillow in the morning, are you excited about going to work? And when you lay your head down on the pillow at night, are you happy about what you have been able to accomplish? The answer will not always be "Yes," but if it is consistently "No," it may be time to consider making a move. Look internal first, external second.

Skills for a lifetime:

  • Life is never exactly what we want it to be. Life just is. It is what we make of life that will bring it nearer to what we want it to be.
  • You are the best investment you will ever have. The dividends received on your investment in you will pay back for the rest of your life.
  • Be proactive in planning for the future. To gain things in the future, you need to begin pursuing them today.
  • Expect great things from yourself and hope for great things in others.
  • Set goals in your life. Break down your long-term goals into near-term goals. Then break down your near-term goals into annual goals. Then break down your annual goals into monthly goals. Then break down your monthly goals into weekly goals. Then break down your weekly goals into daily goals. Then break down your daily goals into specific tasks which will lead to results. And make sure it is all written down. Then do it. You are now on your way to accomplishing all the goals in your life.
  • Begin to use a daily scheduling/productivity app, or pocket planner religiously. It will quickly become your daily guide to accomplishing your goals in life.
  • Be observant—learn from the mistakes of others so that they are not repeated in your life.
  • When you do make mistakes, take responsibility for them immediately. Denial will only prolong and intensify the error. Acknowledge you were wrong and move on. And do your best not to make the same mistake again.
  • Every journey begins with a single step. And with each new step forward, the objective comes into clearer view.
  • Don't put your ballet shoes in the attic. If you have a sideline passion, continue to develop it. Do your best to keep your life multifaceted.
  • Always give back to those who are less fortunate than you. No matter how hard you have worked to get where you are now, there is always someone who has not had the same opportunities that you have had in life. Do your best to give to help meet the needs of others.
  • Patiently listen when children speak to you.
  • It's not where you start out in life—it's where you end up.

And finally, always remember that work should never be your sole purpose in life. No one ever said on their deathbed, "I wish I would have spent more time at the office."

We wish you all the best in your new life after college!

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