Resist the Takeover Urge at Your New Job

During seminars I give about young people entering the workplace, one issue crops up all the time.  “These twenty-somethings come in and expect to take over the company right away,” older managers complain.

Whether you’re twenty-two or sixty-two, arriving on the scene like a bulldozer is not good strategy for starting off a new job on the right foot.  Here’s a reality check.  Inevitably, your days at a new job will involve administrative work in some shape or form.  If you’re a recent graduate, there is a good chance the company sold you on using your existing skills to do meaningful work, and thus, you are probably insulted to be answering phones for the price of a college education.  My best advice is to think of your time as an administrative assistant as a rite of passage.  Everyone must do it, and by the time you emerge from your mountain of executive expense reports, you will appreciate the mundane tasks that go into running a business and will have the knowledge and experience to contribute in a consequential way.

When your manager involves you in a project that includes co-workers, resist the temptation to jump in and start running the show.  Do more than your share of listening and ask for direction from your teammates rather than suggesting your own course of action.

Nothing turns people off like a newbie who waltzes in and says, “Well, at my old company, we did it like this.”  The second that comes out of your mouth, people will think that since things were so swell at your old company, maybe you should go back.  This is the last thing you want.  For the sake of your reputation, use your first projects as an opportunity to observe how things are done at your new company.  You’ll have your time in the sun soon enough.

Tagged as , , initiative, new job, office politics.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a current contributor for Fortune and Metro US, Alexandra has authored several books, including the bestselling They Don't Teach Corporate in College, How'd You Score That Gig?, Success for Hire, MillennialTweet, and New Job, New You. Her book on the top myths of business success is due out from Penguin/Berkley in the fall of 2011. Since serving as a member of Business Roundtable's Springboard Project, which advised the Obama administration on current workplace issues, Alexandra produced the critically acclaimed JobSTART 101 (, a free online course that better prepares college students and graduates for the challenges of the workplace. She is a frequent national media spokesperson and has been featured in thousands of outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, ABC News, Fox News, CNBC, the Associated Press, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. In 2010, she was named Money Magazine's Online Career Expert of the Year and the author of one of Forbes' best websites for women. Known as one of the premiere spokespeople of her generation, Alexandra regularly speaks at conferences, universities, and corporations around the world including the American Society for Training and Development, Campbell's Soup, McDonalds, and Whirlpool — on issues facing modern employees such as how to communicate effectively between generations.

  • Chukwuemeka

    Great article. I’m currently doing a coop and I am especially happy after reading this that I did stay humble.

  • Alexandra Levit

    Glad to hear it, Chuk, hoe you will keep reading!

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