Getting Started Professional Development

How to Be a BOSS at Your First Job After College

Written by Peter Jones

Congrats! You’ve snagged a job and are on the way to building your professional life. There are five things you need to know to be your best self in the workplace.

Deal with your boss

Do nothing but impress. If your boss asks you for something, accept the challenge and deliver the finished product without complications. Unless you’re really stumped or confused by her instructions, find a way to get it done quickly, correctly, and well. Ask questions. Make sure you know exactly what is required from you and then do that, plus a little more. When possible, don’t show anybody how the sausage is made. And never make your boss or coworkers look stupid in front of others.


You’re not in college anymore. The jokes you and your friends thought were funny in college probably aren’t. When in doubt, act more mature than you have ever felt. Don’t gossip in the hallways, don’t write emails angry, figure out how to express yourself professionally and concisely—when to write an email vs. pick up the phone vs. swing by someone’s cubicle. Learn to listen. Don’t blather on in meetings. Don’t ever check your phone in the middle of a conversation; it’s just rude. Be unimpeachable. Your future reputation thanks you.

Deal with your coworkers in a courteous manner

Be nice. Don’t say anything inflammatory or insensitive. Try and appreciate perspectives and experiences that are not your own—who knows, you may learn something. Pick up a few troubleshooting skills to ingratiate yourself; if you’re the only Excel wizard on your team, chances are you’ll be called in to pinch hit often, and thanked profusely! Drink less than you would by half at every work function. (You’re welcome.)

Dress like a pro

Be neat, but not ostentatious. Don’t overdress, and definitely don’t underdress. Present yourself professionally and without flash. Invest in a few quality pieces: nice shoes, a decent bag, clothes that fit your body type and don’t look sloppy. Keep your haircut neat. And beyond that, don’t stress too much. Let your work speak for you. 

Evolve and excel

You’ve worked hard already. That’s how you got where you are. Now you just have to transition from the all-nighters and the energy drinks to the office life. Stay steady, find a project you can sink your teeth into, and keep your head down. When you make mistakes—and you will—rectify them quickly and learn from them.

About the author

Peter Jones