Advice for New Employees from Your Colleagues

A letter from Your Experienced Colleagues, Compiled from mentor comments
by Barry Sweeny


1. ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS AND SHARE YOUR PROBLEMS. As mentors we want to help and we need to know the best way to provide that help, so your questions are important to us. We know that you have a lot to learn, especially the first 2-3 years, so don’t feel inadequate or embarrassed asking often for suggestions or help. We all are professionals and are always learning. Be willing to take some time from “today” periodically to develop yourself as a professional so you are continually improving, and can do even better work “tomorrow”.

2. EXPECT IT TO TAKE A LOT OF WORK. Without realizing it, you may be expecting to assume the full load and responsibilities of an experienced employee, but that’s not wise nore expected yet. If you did that, you will be doing it without the benefit of that experience. There is so much to learn and some of the “lessons” are easier than others, so for the first year or so you’ll be working very hard to do your job as well as you want. Just remember that as your experience and skills grow, so will your ability to work efficiently and effectively. If our work was simple, it wouldn’t be a profession!

3. DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL NOW. No matter how experienced any of us becomes, we find that the work is NEVER done. It is not possible to do enough to attain our Mission, the focus about which we all care so much. The most important things are:

  • to care about the work, our clients / customers, and your professional colleagues,
  • to stay involved in your local department or team activities, and
  • to stay informed and on track with your task priorities.

In this way the essentials will receive your best effort.

4. JOIN THE “TEAM”, DON’T GO IT ALONE. We all discover that the most significant results are achieved when we work as a team. Each of us has strengths and limitations as individuals, but as a team our diversity creates more strengths and many fewer limitations on what WE can accomplish. This means that WE can respond better to the evolving requirements of our work, we will learn more from each other, and what we do together will improve. The more open we are to learning from and sharing with others the truer this becomes.

5. LISTEN TO YOUR MENTORS AND DEFER TO THEIR JUDGMENT WHEN YOU FIRST TRY NEW THINGS. Mentors are trained to limit the amount of advice they offer, particularly after the initial orientation period. If your mentor advises you to try something you should definitely consider it. Try it once, then when you have more experience you’ll be better able to judge for yourself what is right for you and your work. Ignoring the mentor’s advice often means learning “the hard way”, by trial and error.


  1. Don’t assume very much. Ask for clarification or check it out.
  2. Don’t apologize when you ask questions. You need to know. We’d worry if you didn’t ask questions.
  3. Use the resources that we provide you. Read the handouts, articles, and manuals.
  4. Be yourself. We liked you when we hired you!
  5. Be flexible and willing to adapt to situations. Rigidity wins a “battle but loses wars” and friends.
  6. Keep your sense of humor and enjoy the work, learning, and your colleagues.
  7. Celebrate the successes, but realize that we do not always succeed.
  8. Plan some time for yourself. Protect your great attitude.
  9. Listen a lot. Speak up when it’s appropriate.
  10. Pacing is vital. Ask others for their outline of the year’s activities or patterns in the work flow and consider how to better work WITH it.
  11. Keep clear notes on each important question you have, on things that don’t seem quite right, and when you are concerned. Ask your mentor about these things and carefully listen to the advice. If you are still not sure, ask your supervisor. Documentation will sometimes seem a waste of time when you don’t need it, but when you do need it, it will protect you.