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The New Grad's Survival Guide

By Laura Morsch,

Congratulations! You got your diploma, aced the interview and landed a job offer... now what?

Starting your first real job is an exciting and challenging experience, and every new graduate could use a little guidance. Susan Morem, author of 101 Tips for Graduates (Checkmark Books), offers these 15 crucial tips to help new grads survive those first gut-wrenching months on the job:

1. Get a makeover.
Student fashion is "out" in the office. Low-rise jeans and hoodies were practically your uniform in college, but a professional image is crucial while you're establishing yourself at work. Get acquainted with your company dress code and buy a few basic pieces to get you started. Then, continue to build your work wardrobe a few pieces at a time, buying the highest quality clothing you can afford.

2. First impressions make lasting impressions.
When you first walk into the office, everyone you meet will be silently evaluating you. Looking sloppy, inappropriate, disorganized or excessively nervous will give the impression you are incapable or apathetic. So dress to impress, carry yourself well and be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet.

3. Get rid of the chewing gum.
Chewing gum is unprofessional and unappealing whether you're in a meeting or helping a customer. While you're at it, avoid nervous fidgeting, don't pick your nose and stop tapping your pen on the desk.

4. Ask questions.
Don't assume anything. Hiring managers say not asking questions is one of the top mistakes new grads make during their first 90 days on the job, according to a recent survey. Whether you're confused about an assignment, the company dress code or holiday party etiquette, just ask -- you might avoid an embarrassing mistake.

5. Be willing to make the coffee.
Even if housekeeping chores aren't listed in your job description, you will be expected to do them from time to time. If you use the last sheet of paper in the copy machine, refill the tray, and if you drink the last drop of coffee, make another pot. These tasks are not demeaning -- and if you refuse to do them, others may resent you for your refusal to pitch in around the office.

6. Timing is everything.
Be on time. If a meeting starts at 10 a.m., be there and ready to start at 10 sharp. Traffic delays and bad weather are no excuse -- you should always plan ahead, even if it means arriving a little earlier. Likewise, if you promise to get back to someone by the end of the day, do it.

7. Don't procrastinate.
It's common to want to push back starting a difficult or unpleasant task. But procrastinating can mean you run out of time to finish a project or do a careless job. When faced with a large project, block off a chunk of time to work on it, ensuring you have time to get it done. Then, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

8. Under-promise and over-deliver.
If you tell your boss you'll have a project finished by Friday when you're already overextended, you could wind up doing a poor job on your assignment or missing your deadline. Instead, Morem suggests over-delivering -- or setting a more reasonable deadline and working hard to finish ahead of schedule.

9. Proofread every document.
Proofread all your e-mails, memos and letters before sending them, checking your work for accuracy, spelling and errors. Carelessness can cost you time and embarrassment later on.

10. The company party is not a party.
Office happy hours and the company holiday party are a far cry from college keggers. Think of company social functions as an extension of your office -- your behavior is still being closely watched. Always dress professionally, be on time, be friendly and think before you drink.

11. Show up for events.
Your presence matters.Show you care about your co-workers by celebrating with them and grieving with them. Make an effort to attend weddings, baby showers, and retirement and birthday parties. And if a co-worker experiences a tragedy, offer your condolences.

12. Go to work every day as if it were the first day.
On your first day of work, you're excited, impeccably dressed, friendly and eager to take on any challenge. But sooner or later that excitement will fade. This feeling is normal, but never forget how hard you worked to get where you are, and try and adjust your attitude to give your all every day.

13. Just say NO.
Turning someone down can be tough -- and even tougher when it's your boss or co-worker. But saying no can be crucial, especially in situations where your boundaries are being tested. Morem suggests when put into a difficult situation: Consider your options, get the facts, take time to think, make a decision and then stand by it!

14. Always have your business card with you.
You never know where you might meet your next client, contact or employer. Therefore, you should always carry your business card in your purse or wallet. That way, when you meet someone important in line at the supermarket, you'll always be prepared.

15. Don't take rejection personally.
Every successful person has been rejected, Morem writes, and some more than once. When it happens to you, remember to put things in perspective. Rejection hurts, but it happens, and setbacks can provide some of life's most valuable lessons.

Laura Morsch is a writer for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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