The first week of a new job is almost as hard as your first day. It’s kind of like starting at a new school. You need to find where everything is, learn a new process (or 8), appear competent when you don’t know what you’re doing yet, and – maybe the hardest task of all – make friends to have lunch with. The first week on the job sets the tone for how you will work and how you will expect people to work with you. Here are some steps to help you navigate that path successfully.
1. Figure out the social environment
It is not only important to get along with your co-workers, but also to associate with the right ones. In any environment there are groups that mesh better with management than others do. If you want to eventually move up in the ranks with your new employer, you’ll need to associate with the right crowd. Determine the office politics as soon as possible.
Not only is it important to understand the hierarchy of your organisation, but also who is an ‘influencer’. Sometimes it’s as easy as reading the org chart, but more often than not, this requires some investigation. In the past it might have been okay to merely ‘put your nose to the grindstone’ in order to get ahead; today it requires an understanding of the political landscape.
2. Learn the professional rules along with the unwritten ones
Most of the professional rules will come with your description of responsibilities in your first week of work. However, there is often a gap between what you should be doing and what will actually needs to happen. Some may be explained and others will be implied and subtle. Don’t be afraid to ask. Find out what unwritten rules, if broken, make people go ‘ballistic’. Watch what other people are doing and follow their lead. Think of it as being the guest in a house: you follow those house rules, not your own.
3. Be yourself… mostly
The key here is restraint. If you have a vivacious personality, tone it down a bit. If you’re lethargic, have an extra cup of coffee in the morning and practise your best fake smile. Think about what your body language is saying. We are not recommending you pretend to be someone else; we just want you to recognise that you’re the new guy. It is easier to come in at the middle ground while you learn where the lines are, and so a little restraint may help you that first week while you settle in.
Also, you may be the person who comes in and fixes all the issues you find – hold off for a while. Listen and observe. Don’t ruffle your new co-workers feathers until you actually know what is going on in a process.
4. Show some appreciation
If someone has been taking time out of their day to help you learn, show them some kindness and appreciation. It doesn’t matter who helped you out – manager, co-workers, HR or reception. Taking a moment to recognise those who helped you shows your gratitude. It will do wonders for making a good first impression. As an added bonus, those same people will be happy to give you more assistance down the line. Always thank them again. This is a great rule of thumb, not just for your first week, but for your entire professional career.
5. Get advice from seasoned veterans
If you need more training or assistance with company procedures, software, or anything else, ask the veterans. These are the people that have been at the company for longer than most and are known to have a lot of knowledge in their area. Ask them for a crash course or a little extra coaching. Let them know that ‘Stacey from Accounting said you are the most knowledgeable person on system ABC’. They’ll likely be flattered and happy to help.
6. Get in your boss’s calendar and set expectations
Within the first 2 days of employment, get your follow-up meeting booked in your boss’s calendar. Set it up for the first week, month, 3 months and 6 months. It shows that you will actively be looking for feedback to improve, allow you time to discuss tasks and projects, and help you stay on track of accomplishing work goals. Additionally it will establish rapport and a relationship with your boss that you may otherwise miss out on.
If you are starting in a managerial position, do the same with your employees. It will give you a chance to find out more about their roles and will provide you will the opportunity to set expectations with them. Your communication that first week will set the tone of how you will manage, and how you are managed.
7. Arrive early, but leave at the same time as everyone else
Until you get into the flow of your new job, try arriving a little early and leaving at the same time as everyone else. This is a way to make a great first impression before you have shown your capabilities. Over time you’ll learn when people usually come and go, and if you will be expected to work overtime. Just don’t be the first person in and the last person out, as this can lead to burnout and job dissatisfaction before you get a chance to learn the ropes.
8. Avoid office politics and gossip
This speaks all for itself. Gossip and politics are office landmines you do not want to step on. Especially when you don’t know how anyone will react. You don’t want to be associated as a gossiper or be known to be involved in trash talking. That is a hard reputation to get away from, and even harder if people start assuming this in your first week. You don’t want any unconscious bias opinions following you around. Avoid both for as long as you possibly can.
9. Keep personal business to a minimum while on company time
Don’t make personal doctor appointments. Don’t talk to your mom on your phone for 3 hours. Don’t leave early to have your hair done. Don’t come in late because you went snowboarding/surfing/fishing that morning. Unless you have caught a case of the black lung, you will be expected to come in every day that first week, sniffles and all. We all understand that life happens, generally at the most inconvenient times, but try mitigating this as much as possible.
10. Get involved – it’s networking with your internal network
Take advantage of every opportunity to network with key people in your organization and profession by attending staff meetings, professional conferences, and trade shows. Networking with key people can help you identify mentors within your organisation that you may never get a chance to meet otherwise.
11. Track accomplishments
Some of these will be measurable and others will be undeterminable. As soon as possible, start tracking your accomplishments, major contributions, and the positive feedback you receive. This will help you when it comes to your progress meeting or annual review. Your manager oversees more people than just you, and may not remember all the details of your success. By tracking your activities, you will be able to remind them of all that you have accomplished.
Take the time to set yourself up correctly in your first week and it will pay dividends in the years to follow. You’ve got this.