About a year ago, I landed my first “big girl” job—you know the kind with a salary, benefits, and the expectation to show up to an office every day. During that time, I’ve I’ve embarrassed myself too many times to count. After every mishap I wanted to just crawl under my desk and hide. But you know what? It’s been a year of silly slip-ups, and I’m still here, even with all those little mistakes. And what I learned is that everyone makes those mistakes. In fact, it’s kind of expected that you’ll mess up now and then, especially if you’re in an entry-level position. You’re still trying to figure out what it means to be a professional—and it’s OK.
After consulting with other entry-level newbies, I figured out that some of the office blunders I made are universal. So here are some things that might happen to you. (If they do, don’t hide in the bathroom in shame—mistakes happen to us all.)
Sending an email to the wrong person
It’s a moment of sheer dread when you hit send for an email just as you’re realizing something is off, whether you’ve addressed it to the wrong name or referenced a different company. It’s even worse if you CC’ed other people because now everybody knows you messed up. But you know what? I think this is the most common office mistake. I’ve even seen some higher-ups do it. All you can do it play the waiting game, hope the receiver has a good sense of humor, and apologize.
Introducing yourself to someone you met already
I have the worst memory when it comes to facial recognition. On the first day of my job I said “nice to meet you” to a man who interviewed me—who turned out to be my boss. But you’re not the only one who does that—and people are usually nice about it, too.
Drinking a bit too much at a company party
Maybe it’s because of nerves, or maybe you just can’t resist free booze. Everyone I’ve spoken to has sometimes had one drink too many at a company event. Just remember to linger near the snack table, drink water, and don’t indulge too much in the company champagne, and you’ll be fine.
Completely forgetting something you had just been told
My first few months at work I was so nervous that half the time I would just forget what I had been told. Sometimes it was a name, other times instructions, but it would go in one ear and out the other. And I felt just completely silly asking for my coworkers to repeat themselves. Carrying around a pen and pad helps prevent this, but it also happens to everyone. Offices are busy places, and people are often juggling many tasks at once. It’s better to ask for a reminder than to not do a task that’s been assigned to you.
Getting “business casual” right
It’s true what they say: It’s always better to be overdressed than under-dressed. Regardless, no one wants to stick out when everyone is wearing jeans and a T-shirt and you’re wearing a suit. Always ask about the dress code before your first day of work and any company event, or you might be the girl in a ballgown at a company picnic. (And if you are, just work it.)
Skipping over the chain of command
When I first started, I wanted to show my supervisor that I’m an independent worker, that didn’t need to be babied—so I sent out an email that I proofread myself to the client. Although there were no errors, it still shouldn’t have been sent out because I didn’t have the authority to do so without approval yet. Being aware of your team’s processes is important. It’s very likely that when you’re first starting out you’ll have to run everything by supervisor, as you don’t have the trust of your team yet. Don’t worry, it will eventually come.
Missing a deadline/assignment
When you’re a newbie, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with your duties. Hopefully you’ll have a supervisor who guides you, but at some point you may miss a deadline or assignment. Maybe it was poor time management, or maybe the information got lost in the shuffle, but either way it sucks and you have to own up to the blunder.
It’s inevitable that you’re going to mess up at some point, so don’t crawl under your desk and hide. Instead, take a deep breath and go tell a supervisor if you must. First jobs are full of mistakes and learning experiences. You’re going to be OK. No, wait: You’re going to be great.
Nicole Smith works at a “hip” agency in New York City. Her interests and hobbies include running, mimosas, animal puns, working out while eating ice cream, and super hero movies. Public transportation is her sworn enemy and she hates sharing dessert. Her main goal in life is to travel the world with her dog. Check out her random thoughts at https://twitter.com/nicsmith911