Curb Your Enthusiasm

Tips for channeling excitement for your new job to ensure a smooth transition


Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to



Landing that first job after college, or the big job you’ve been interviewing for, is always exciting and sometimes also a little frightening. Often, our excitement and enthusiasm is overflowing to the point that we can barely contain it. Contain it you must, however. Otherwise, you can send the wrong message and get started on the wrong foot with your new colleagues and bosses.

With a little patience and restraint, however, you can smoothly and easily transition from newbie to superstar in no time. Here are a few things to consider when settling into your first or a new job.

First, it’s natural that you are bubbling over with fresh ideas. Also, your new employer certainly wants to hear from you and values your perspective and opinions; otherwise they wouldn’t have hired you. That said, it’s always important, especially in the beginning, to spend more time listening than talking and to devote the first few months getting to know your job, the company, its culture, your colleagues, the office hierarchy and politics, and just generally get a handle on who does what and how things work. When you do speak up, such as in meetings, be prepared and keep it brief.

Next, often new employees have a fresh perspective — or in some cases a more recent education — which can translate to great ideas on better, more efficient processes, software systems and a host of other problem-solving techniques or new ways of getting the job done. Tread lightly, however, when it comes to making suggestions or proposing changes, because even the most well-meaning suggestions can rub some people the wrong way, especially if it’s presented in haste or without the proper tact. Do your research and find out why the person or company follows a certain procedure, then wait for the right moment. Simply asking, “Do you mind if I make a suggestion?” or “Have you considered X,Y and Z?” can be a way to get buy-in from the other party and help you avoid being viewed as a know-it-all.  

Sometimes in eagerness to be noticed and considered an expert in an area of focus, someone can be overzealous and perceived as a braggart. Unsolicited monologues about past accomplishments and rattling off the countless things we are so very good at either excessively or in general conversation is not the best way to self-promote. However, it is important to “toot your own horn,” so get in the habit of doing it and doing it the right way.

For example, track your progress, and when your boss asks, or during regular check-ins, offer up a list of wins. Include how those wins positively affect the company and also be sure to share the good work of other people on your team. If and when you do share these wins with your coworkers, focus on celebrating the success and how it benefits the company, and not on how great you are, because the latter will most assuredly come off as boasting.

If all your attempts at self-control and patience fail, and you realize that you’ve overstepped, a quick apology will usually do the trick and get things back on track. It might sound something like this: “In my excitement at this new job and due to my desire to assist and contribute, I’m afraid I may have stepped into your lane. Please accept my sincere apology. I’m still learning the way things work here and despite my best intentions I sometimes get ahead of myself.”

Sincerity and humility can go a long way towards damage control. Your colleague will likely appreciate your candor and soon enough you’ll be laughing heartily together about the ordeal during the next office happy hour.