There are a lot of potential new employees in America these days. Since the recession killed so many jobs and economic conditions haven’t improved enough to gain them all back, we have a lot of folks that have been out of a job, partially employed, under employed or just plain tired of working for their current company.
Someday (hopefully) soon, you will have the opportunity to start a new job. Even if you don’t actually change companies, starting a different job in your current company can look and feel like a brand new job and you should treat it like one.
In my career I have job hopped several times. Starting each new job is just as novel and almost as frightening as starting was the first time.
What are the things that you can do to jump start success at your new job?
Build your confidence.
Make sure you have an appropriate outfit to wear on your first day – comfortable and professional clothes, shoes without worn down heels and scuff marks and etc.
Before your first day, scope out the route to work at the time you will need to start – checking traffic, road conditions, parking spot availability and etc. so you will know how much time you need to allow to get there with ease. Check out alternate routes as well, just in case there is an accident your first day.
Look for a place to eat close to your work area or prepare to take your lunch and check out any additional facilities you may want to use – such as a fitness center to use after work.
Set your expectations.
Do some research to find the most information you can concerning the corporate mission, strategy and goals and really think about how you can move the company forward. If you can, call your new boss, the person you know who referred you to the job or the HR department to see if you can now access more internal company information. This will give you a head start in understanding how your first assignments fit into the corporate mission.
Don’t expect that you will get your own office, or even a cube to yourself. When I first started as a computer programmer at TWA, I had to use the desks of vacationers the first two weeks of my employment – they didn’t have a place to put me yet!
Don’t expect a glorious orientation/training regime. HR will most likely give you some kind of orientation, to tell you about the policies you must follow and get your binding signature on all kinds of documents, but once you are in your new work area, you may be on your own.
When I first started as a project leader at a mutual fund transfer agency, my introduction to my work area was to be shown to an empty cube, with no computer, no manuals, no paper, no pencils and nothing to read. That cube was right outside my new Vice-President’s office. Ever try to look busy with nothing? Bring your briefcase full of those corporate missions and goals to read again!
Don’t expect to be taken around and introduced to everyone. You may have to walk around and do it yourself. Be careful to keep it short and not interrupt work in progress. If you have a contact inside the company you may be able to use them, either in person or on the phone, to help you learn more about your area.
When opportunity presents, meet with your new boss to refine his or her expectations of you during the first month or so – but don’t be surprised if they are unable to articulate expectations! At least find out what you will be first be asked to do.
Walk around your area, your building and the complex. Locate bathrooms, common meeting rooms you may have to use, and introduce yourself to personal assistants and security guards. Find the lunchroom, the break room, the printer room and the video conference rooms. See where your access card will work and when.
Learn how to set up your computer, to sign in, to send something to the printer and figure out any other desktop equipment. Learn how to use the phone system, find out what tools of the trade you need to understand and start figuring out how to use those.
If you are lucky enough to have a work area orientation, take full advantage of it! They developed it to try to get you up to speed faster and will expect you to work through it. I know this because in every company in which I had authority, I caused orientations to be developed. If the new employee didn’t utilize them, I was inclined to rate him or her poorly.
Find sources of help – people, libraries, databases, orientation manuals, even customers!
Examine any databases to which you may have access to see what they are about. Find a company knowledge base, such as a company wiki and learn how to access it.
There may be new twists on things you thought you already knew. Although in my profession (computer mainframe development) most companies use many of the same vendor products, each one configures them differently. For instance, most used an editor called ISPF, but each menu at each company was totally different – because the product allowed customizable configuration of the menu.
Even if you are starting an hourly job and worked in a similar one before, don’t make the mistake of thinking you know everything. I used to run an electronic cash register for JC Penny, but then had to change jobs and became a waitress at Pizza Hut. One day I bragged to the assistant manager about my cash register experience and he promptly made the smart ass suggestion that since I knew it all – take over the register. Of course it was a different type and I had no idea how to just step in and take over. Very embarrassing.
Watch the people in the area. Who asks for help and who gives it? Try to identify the formal and informal leadership hierarchy – who has admin control vs who really does everyone listen to, respect and consult?
Find who is hooked into the rumor mill and introduce yourself, but under no circumstance should you add – just listen and learn.
Don’t start suggesting changes or acting like you know everything. Keep low key for a few weeks or months until you get a feel for the company and work area culture and politics. Even if you were brought on board to make changes or do things fast, keep it low key for awhile.
Meet everyone with whom you will be working.
Once you have been there a week or so, start having a formal or informal meeting with each person in your area (if you are meeting on company time, make sure your supervisor will support this before you start scheduling these).
I started a new job in a new group in my company once. I went in to take over as the project manager of a very large project that a lot of people had worked on for a year already. One of my first self assigned tasks was to meet with everyone, from the executive on down, to understand their view of the project – what was their prior role, what did they think about where the project was, how it was managed and what were the good and the bad things about it. Not only did this open up lines of communication for me, but it also gave me insight into the personality, role, ability and bias of each party involved. It also allowed the project team members to get to know me and feel as if their input was being valued by me (it was!).
What tips do you have to get started right on a new job? How did you jump start success on your job?