Starting off at a new job is a scary proposition for even the most seasoned job hoppers among us. For one, you are giving up the equity, camaraderie and comfort that you enjoyed in your old workplace. You also feel the need to create positive first impressions. Then there the newfound demand to hit the ground running when joining small and medium size enterprises. It can get intimidating.
One way employers can help is by ensuring a sound, comprehensive onboarding process. But I am a big believer of taking charge of your own career development and its many components including learning and onboarding. So what are some things you can do as a new employee to ace your first week at work?
Workplaces are not necessarily like high school. I have found people to usually be much friendlier at work than their hormonal adolescent selves. You don’t need to wait for someone else to approach you, introduce themselves, or ask you for lunch. Don’t be over-bearing. But being friendly and approachable in your first week can help break the ice with the people you will be working closely with in the coming months.
If your manager has had to hire more resources, chances are he or she keeps busy. But it is important that you proactively block some time with him or her in your first week at work. Talk long and short term goals; understand expectations beyond the JD, client, management, or business sensitivities. This will be crucial in order to hit the ground running.
This goes without saying. There could be many ropes you will need to learn to have a good working experience with your new employer. This includes everything, from lunch and coffee situation to policies and regulations. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and check in regularly with relevant people beyond your immediate team. Speak to support functions like HR and admin too, in order to understand the culture deeply and quickly.
Let’s cut to the chase. Nobody likes a know-it-all. When you ask questions, listen to the answers. If you have valuable contribution, go all out. But don’t talk just for the sake of talking. There are far more serious implications to it than just a few petty dislikes or insecurity. You don’t want to come across as an attention seeker, or worse, someone who doesn’t want to understand the nuances of the new workplace and/or industry. It will be difficult to change this perception in the long run. Listening carefully is the only way to avoid these pitfalls.
From new projects to company-wide initiatives, raising your hand and saying yes more often will give you the visibility and lasting impression you need in your first week. But more than just taking initiative, keep the commitments you make. It might mean a few extra hours but the outcome in terms of your visibility and equity will be worth it.
First week is usually slower in terms of regular deliverables and responsibilities. Use it to start working on the larger objectives and the reasons you were hired for in the first place. Promised your employer you can make the best videos for their social media handles? Sold them on your professional networks that will help bring in business? Showcased your people management skills? Use the first week to plan how you will start delivering on these skills. Proactively share your plan with your manager for his or her inputs. Your initiative will not go unnoticed.
If I had my way, I’d tell you not to get involved in office politics and gossip even a year down the line. That has been my time management mantra ever since I can remember! But everyone needs some entertainment and “navigation assistance” once in a while. Just that you’d be better off easing into it instead of being the curious cat who asks all kinds of uncomfortable questions and is over-familiar with absolute strangers. Draw some boundaries and stick to safe topics of conversation.
Being new to a workplace is both challenging and exciting. There will be new challenges but also, new opportunities. Whatever you do, be sure to make the most of the hand you have been dealt and have an open mind about what you can or cannot do, deliver, or deal with. You will see that it is a good way to start off on the right note.