Alison Green, who writes the Ask a Manager blog, recently wrote a great article called "Starting Your First Entry-Level Job? Here Are 10 Things You Need to Know." Although the tips are primarily geared toward things to keep in mind while you're on the job, I think having them in mind during your job search can help you avoid making a faux pas in your cover letter or interview.
Here are some of the tips I found particularly relevant:
1. The salary you accept when you take the job is the one you need to live with for at least a year. People new to the professional workforce don’t always realize that and think they can negotiate a raise after, say, three or six months. Attempting that won’t go over well with most employers, since the convention is that you typically can’t ask for a salary increase until you’ve been on the job for at least a year.
2. When you were in school, making a mistake on a test or a paper or handing in work late only affected you. But at work, mistakes can impact your boss, your co-workers and your company. People might end up staying late to fix your work, miss their own deadlines or lose important business because of you.
3. Being smart and having potential is no longer enough; what you actually achieve is now what matters. In school, teachers often favor the smartest students and even cut them slack on things like being prepared for class or even on being respectful or working hard. But in the working world, reputations and careers are built on actual work; being smart won’t give you a pass if you miss deadlines, aren’t prepared for meetings or don’t meet your goals.