New to Corporate America? How to Survive Your First 90 Days


5. Ask questions.

No one will fault you for asking a lot of questions. As the department newbie, it's pretty much your job. "Don't assume that people will think about everything you need to know," said Maureen Mack of HR Principal LLC, a human resources consultancy in the San Francisco Bay Area. "Most of us do not get the benefit of a formal training program." Timothy Wiedman, who teaches management and human resources at Doane College in Crete, Neb., agrees: "A question that should have been asked and wasn't can have catastrophic consequences that will not soon be forgotten."

6. Admit mistakes.

Own up to your goofs -- immediately. "Do not wait to see if the boss has noticed. Most bosses are more observant than you may think," Wiedman advised. Likewise, "don't spend hours trying to figure out how to get out of trouble," said Franks, of LUCID Public Relations. Instead, work with your boss to find a viable solution and implement it right away. Doing so shows integrity and an ability to troubleshoot.

7. Nail the details.

Looking like you have everything under control is half the battle. So, make your deadlines. Show up to meetings on time and prepared. Follow up when you say you're going to follow up. Memorize people's names and learn to pronounce them correctly. Take notes if you have to. Spell-check and proofread your work religiously. And clean up your workspace once in a while.

8. Nix perfectionism.

There's proofreading your work, and there's spending four hours trying to perfect a one-paragraph email and missing a critical deadline in the process. Instead of trying to make it perfect, use the "reasonable man test." "Timing is everything," advises said Tiffany Norwood, executive vice president of Next Generation Broadband, a technology company in Washington, D.C. "If a reasonable man or woman would find it great, then press enter."

9. Take lunch.

Sure, you want to show that you're working hard. But miss lunch every day and you miss a chance to get the inside scoop on the organization, your department and its key players. Robert Laura, president of SYNERGOS Financial Group, an investment management firm in Howell, Mich., suggests dining with your higher-ups twice a month. Do so, he said, and you'll be among the first to know about big changes coming down the pike and prime opportunities you can jump on.

10. Be true to yourself.

Corporate America calls for a certain amount of faking it till you make it. But that doesn't give you license to lose yourself along the way. "It's easy to look at those that have succeeded before you and try to imitate them," said Fredrik Marø, CEO and co-founder of, a website that connects users with expert advisors. "But remember that you have your own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Embrace them. If you are trying to be someone you are not, you will never do justice to your real strengths." Darcy Eikenberg, a leadership and workplace coach in Atlanta, agrees: "The corporate world has had enough pretenders -- we need you to be you."

This work is the opinion of the columnist, and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and former cubicle dweller. Her books include My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube. Follow her at @anti9to5guide.

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