At one time or another, we’ve all been the office newbie. We felt energized and excited about the new challenges before us. Yet, we also may have felt overwhelmed, anxious or exhausted.
Don’t underestimate the importance of starting your new job off right. It could be an important predictor of the trajectory of your career. Jobseekers regularly ask us how to make a great first impression at a new job. Here are a few tips we’ve shared.
Depending on the size of your new organization, the onboarding process can be as simple as filling out some paperwork and being shown where the restrooms are located — or as involved as attending several days of employee orientations, medical examinations, campus tours and various training sessions.
While you’re probably anxious to begin doing the job you were hired for, don’t overlook the onboarding process. Do your best to absorb the information being presented. Use the onboarding process as a means of getting acquainted with the institution, meeting important people and learning your way around a new place.
Strange as it may seem, it is possible to be hired without having a well-defined understanding of your role. Even if your expectations are crystal clear, “the responsibilities of the job you were hired for could change by the time you start work,” says Jennifer King, HR analyst at SoftwareAdvice.com. “Reach out to your manager…and make sure you have a clear understanding of your current role, responsibilities and authority before you take on any projects,” King recommends.
Having clarity regarding your job responsibilities and asking questions, even when the answers may seem obvious, could save you from making unnecessary mistakes, walking into political battles and creating impressions that may be difficult to overcome in the future.
Some jobs start slowly and pick up steam as the weeks go on. If you have the luxury of free time in your first month on the job, take advantage of those hours and schedule meetings with new coworkers. It’s a great way to gain a better understanding of the organization and the roles of your colleagues while demonstrating your proactivity.
Even if your workload is heavy, don’t spend every minute alone at your desk. Make time to meet with key players. Share a cup of coffee with officemates who can give you the lay of the land.
Don’t limit your invitations to coworkers at your own level. Those who support you and the higher-level employees in the office can be your most important allies. Many of them know more about company protocol, history and the preferences of the top executives than anyone else in the company. Ask specific questions about policy and procedure as well as culture and expectations.
Whether organization is your strong suit or not, having systems for managing contacts, meetings, resources and deadlines right from the start can smooth your transition and ease the anxiety you may feel when you start a new job. Taking notes during or after every meeting, conversation or introduction will help keep your files (and your brain) well organized.
“One common mistake of new hires is never taking the time to understand exactly what it is that the company is trying to accomplish through their strategic plan,” says career expert, Heather Huhman. “Bring the mission statement and vision to life and discover the plans the company abides by to reach these core values.”
For example, take the time to reread the company’s website content, employee handbooks, strategic plans or handouts that you were given during your orientation. While some of the information contained in these documents may seem like common sense, other content may be critical and well worth the time.
Spend a few minutes in the lunchroom and chat with people at the water cooler or coffee machine. Pay attention to the company culture. What do people wear? How do people behave in meetings? Does your boss have an open-door policy, or do you need to make an appointment to run things by her? Is it typical for people to work late or come in on weekends?
Understanding behaviors and attitudes will make it easier to adjust to your new work environment and make a good first impression.
Sit back, watch and listen. Now is the time to absorb as much information as you can about your role and the company. Respect the fact that those who have been at their jobs longer than you may have reasons for doing things the way they do — learn from them.
Be proactive. Volunteer to help your boss or coworkers in any way you can. Your colleagues will appreciate your help, and it will go a long way toward building positive and lasting relationships. It’ll also help you better understand the others jobs and responsibilities.
Be prepared with plans for your next 30 days on the job. How will you tackle your day-to-day work? What do you hope to accomplish? What would you like to learn? Who would you like to meet? How will you add value to the company?
The answers to questions like this will provide you with a month of goals. Work toward them. At the end of the month, sit down and take stock of which ones you were able to accomplish and where you need to improve.
Beginning a new job is stressful and making mistakes is par for the course. So don’t be too hard on yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. Eat well, exercise and get lots of sleep so you’re at your best during this challenging time. As stressful as the first 30 days can be, remind yourself that you’ll be a veteran in no time.