Module 04: On the Job Success

4.3 Employer Expectations and Developing as a Professional

Nobody is expecting you to get everything right on the first day. When you are new at a job, your manager expects you’ll make mistakes. However, there are some basic expectations that your manager will likely have of you.

What you are expected to do:

  • Show up on time.
  • Show up to work every day or for your designated shifts unless you have a valid reason to be absent in which case you would need to follow the protocol on reporting time off.
  • Return promptly from any break time and stay until the end of your shift.
  • Have a professional appearance.
  • Treat everyone you encounter with respect.
  • Be focused while you are at work; avoid being distracted by personal business.
  • Complete your assigned tasks within the specified time.
  • Demonstrate support for the company’s overall goals.
  • Be committed to providing excellent customer service.
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude and enthusiasm.
  • Respect the authority of your manager.

A square box split in half. On the left side against a light blue background stands Jane Career with a hand on her hip. There is a desk behind her with a clock reading 8:50AM.  The word “Arrive” appears in the top right.  On the right side of the box against a dark blue backgrounds stands another image of Jane Career with arms crossed. There is a desk behind her with a clock reading 5:10PM. The word “Leave” appears on the top left.

Many employees start out behaving well but begin to break the rules as they get comfortable. Don’t fall into that trap. Your inability to meet these basic expectations can cost you your job. Think about which points mentioned above are your strengths and where you could improve.

Taking responsibility for your own development

As a professional, you must learn to take responsibility for your own career development.  The working world is very different from a college or university environment where there may be instructors or staff looking out for you. Managing the transition from one environment to the other can be challenging, particularly for those with limited experience in the workplace, but it’s a necessary process. Understanding the need to take responsibility for charting your own path earlier in your career can save you a lot of headaches later on.  Taking personal responsibility for your process does not mean you have to do it alone- in fact mentorship and support from family, friends and your wider network will remain crucial supports along the way.

Below are some professional development skills we think are important when it comes to the workplace.  You needed many of these to land the job but now that you’re in the job, developing and refining them further will give you a big advantage in being successful in this job and your next one. There’s no way to control the order in which you’ll learn these skills and often you may be dealing with a workplace issue well before you feel ready to do so successfully.  But remember, you’ve made it this far and you have the tools to improvise and learn as you go.


One of the most essential components to success is the development of a positive, optimistic and growth mindset. As someone who may be starting out on the bottom rung in an organization, this approach will help you develop humility, an openness to learning, a strong work ethic, adaptability and other helpful traits for the workplace.  Reflect on people in your environment who are respected- admired even- and consider the attitude they convey. Try to model or adapt their approach to suit your own personality.

It’s easy to get frustrated when learning new things or trying to navigate a new work environment.  Remember that frustration can be viewed as a conflict between what you expected or hoped for versus the reality of the situation. Reality is often a let down but if we try to anticipate that many aspects of a job may be different from what we expected, our frustration may diminish.  Adopting a long-term perspective can also help us to take a wider view: this too shall pass.

Impression management

Impression or reputation management is an important area over which emerging professionals must learn to exert some control – particularly in their first year on the job. Impression management involves a concerted effort on your part to positively influence how people view you. In a workplace context  this refers to qualities and behaviours  that  make  you  a  person  of integrity but also and  a positive contributor  to  the  team or organization. Finding opportunities to/Managing how you present yourself in a way that is most likely to elicit a positive response from other people is a natural human desire both in life and in the workplace. Positive responses could include:  getting a raise or promotion, attracting allies, getting a bonus etc. This is not about lying about your abilities but about shedding the most positive light on the skills, abilities and qualities you do have. When starting a new job, you’re under the microscope and co-workers will be observing and monitoring you, determining your skills, your “fit” in the workplace and whether you have the ability to work as a team player. This is part of human nature as you’ve entered an environment where people don’t know you or your capabilities…yet.

It’s important though to acknowledge that presenting a professional image may be more challenging for some.  Managing one’s personal traits may not be enough to present a professional image: belonging to a particular group may come with certain preconceived stereotypes and dealing with bias is something that can present a challenge. For example, younger employees may be seen as less credible or less responsible than older workers.  While some groups are disadvantaged.

In recognizing your place as a new hire and thus an outsider to the organization, you may consider: softening or holding back on any criticism lest it be perceived as an attack on the organization.  Putting in your dues by learning the ins and outs of your job and tasks as well as your role within the wider organization will help boost your credibility.   In many respects actions speak louder than words: focus on building a track record of completing projects when you say you will, demonstrating a willingness to work hard and conveying gratitude to colleagues who have helped orient you. When a challenge appears in your path, do your best to independently explore possible solutions or inquire with a co-worker. Your supervisor is likely to be impressed that you did your best to proactively problem-solve before approaching them for help.

Honing Job-specific Skills

It may seem obvious to state but invest the time to learn the skills you need to do your job well.  In some roles, the content or systems you rely on to do your job effectively may change and you’ll need to stay current and upgrade.  Be sure to keep tabs on any developments that impact your position whether it be changes within the role, within the company or an external factor such as, for example the economy or public opinion.  Attend conferences, join associations, register for webinars, attend lunch and learns- whatever is appropriate to your work context- and will help you keep your finger on the pulse of changes in your role and sector.

Refining your Transferrable skills

Your job will undoubtably offer you the opportunity to further develop transferrable professional work skills.  Transferrable skills are just as they sound: skills you can bring/transfer with you to virtually any job. They include: time management, setting priorities, multi-tasking, drafting emails and proposals, presenting, participating in meetings, working in a team, influencing, advising.  Finding opportunities to diversify and deepen your transferrable skills will stand you in good stead as you progress in your career.

Training and Development

Employers expect that you will require some training both initially and as you progress in your role. They will be impressed if you continue to build on your expertise. Be sure to register for training that is offered by your employer. But also find out if there’s a professional development fund you can apply to to offset costs related to additional training which you source. Inquire about special projects, committees, initiatives in the workplace which could further stretch your skills or do so via volunteer opportunities outside of work. These kinds of opportunities may be especially beneficial to your career development if your current job is not one which you’re interested in pursuing, as they provide exposure and a track record in another area of interest.   Consult with your supervisor to determine which skills you’d benefit most from developing and ask if they would be willing to support you in developing these skills. Be clear as to the benefits of your skills upgrade not just to yourself but to the organization or department as a whole.

Networking and Friendships

Creating and maintaining positive relationships with co-workers leads to greater satisfaction at work but also to better potential to advance in your career. When starting a new job, you’re meeting a group of people with whom you may end up spending a large portion of your day. It’s no wonder then that many popular tv series revolve around workplaces (ie The Office, Grey’s Anatomy).  Your new co-workers are sussing you out to determine whether you are trustworthy, friendly and dedicated to your job.  Are you someone they can come to for advice or a laugh?  Both are important.  Finding your place in this new ecosystem involves navigating a variety of personalities and agendas.

Building workplace friendships can have a tremendous positive effect on our emotional well-being and our productivity on the job. Studies have demonstrated that employees with friends at work tend to focus better, get sick less often and stay longer in their role.  On the flip side, feeling lonely on the job and a lack of connection with co-workers can lead to diminished focus, lower productivity, lowered drive to succeed.

Get to know as many of your colleagues as possible, even if many of the connections are relatively superficial. Networking can take the form of a simple “Good morning” greeting in the hall, lobby, on the shop floor, in the elevator.  Casual chats before or after meetings can also promote stronger bonds with co-workers. Work social events such as holiday parties can also provide opportunities to connect informally. If your organization has volunteer programs or charity events, feel free to take part. These events provide an opportunity to give to the organization while further networking with co-workers. [[Participate in team-building activities and be open to socializing with your co-workers when you can (for example, during breaks or at lunch). It’s a great way of learning more about Canadian culture and developing your sense of belonging to the organization.]]

Remember, most people like talking about their personal lives. There’s no need to be too intrusive, but consider engaging new co-workers on “safe”  topics such as parenting, children, pets, or sports. Offer friendly and appropriately personal information to show that you too you have a life beyond work.

Develop organizational savvy

While a newbie, it’s difficult to know how to navigate the organization to get things done and develop professionally. However, it’s important to be aware that workplace politics and company priorities can be complex and can shift over time and learning more about how best to manouvre is an important skill to hone as you progress in your career.  Over time you’ll likely figure out which battles are worth fighting for and which are best abandoned, who the influencers and power brokers are in a given area and how to build coalitions to influence an initiative you care about.


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Centennial College Career Success Guide Copyright © by Career Services and Cooperative Education, Centennial College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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