Arlington: Can you offer me any "new kid in the office" advice? I am starting a new job, and I am completely green, a total novice. Also, the job I'm taking was held by the same person for 10 years! I want to fit in and avoid the inevitable "Well, Cathy did it this way."
Well, don't avoid it, embrace it! After 10 years on the job, chances are Cathy's way was pretty good. In fact, you should probably get Cathy's phone number and e-mail address before she escapes from the building . . .
The best advice I have to offer is this: Relax. Take your cues from your co-workers, and keep your expectations realistic. No one expects you to revolutionize the company in your first week. Or year. Or ever. But if you work hard and make yourself as useful to your boss as possible, you'll do fine.
Alexandria: I have a job interview lined up. I asked my supervisor to be a reference, but he said it's company policy not to give references; he can say only that I was employed there for a specific time. I don't know what to do, since this is the only job where I've used the skills relevant to the position I'm applying for.
First, be glad your boss is keeping his mouth shut. A friend who works in management told me recently that the "company policy" line is his polite way of sparing the person from what would be a weak reference.
Think beyond your boss. Very few people use their current supervisor as a reference anyway because most job hunts are conducted on the sly. Former bosses are great choices, even if they didn't supervise your use of these specific skills. Some things are universal, such as the ability to communicate effectively or a strong work ethic. You might also use a trusted co-worker at your current job.