Last month, I started a new job. While I was on the market for about half a year, I really enjoyed searching for the best opportunity. Just like anything else in my life, as soon as I accepted the offer, I started preparing diligently for my first few days and weeks.
The contemporary employment market is very dynamic. As a result, the dream of the stable job and the stable employer where you could spend your whole life is almost dead. Because of that besides interviewing and selling yourself, you also have to learn the art of the first impression. The first few days in a new role will determine your success or failure in the mid-to-long term.
The purpose of this article is to share my experience and give you tips for your new job and/or role. First of all, the way you approach the situation. Then, the way you prepare for the first day. And finally, the way you execute it.
Time to read
Time to read: 14 minutes (150 words per minute).
Day 0: Preparation
Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.
Just like anything else, you have to do your homework before you even set foot in the office for your new job. You have a few weeks before you start your new job – use them.
Get as much inside information as possible
First of all, comes intelligence. This is rarely possible but if you have a friend, relative, or family who is already working for your future company use them. Take them out for a coffee and just talk with them.
A few useful questions that you can ask to get an impression of the culture in the company:
- What is the dress code?
- Who is your best friend? Which people do you avoid?
- What kind of work you normally do?
- Are there any weekly events I should be aware of?
You do not have to do everything exactly the same. Most companies value new employees because they bring new ways, new practices. But you also would not want to appear completely out of place (like wearing khakis and slippers in a law firm, or wearing a suit and tie in an IT start-up).
Ask somebody to sell you
Furthermore, though often not possible, ask your insider to introduce you to your future colleagues in advance. You don’t have to be present but a good word here and there works miracles.
Another very useful and interesting idea is to ask your recruiter to do that. They will benefit the most if you settle fast and if you leave positive impression on your first few days.
In my current case, I did not have an insider and I did not ask my recruiter to introduce me but she did it nevertheless. Have you ever wondered how does a rock star feel coming to an unknown city for a concert? Suddenly having all those strange people cheer your name and tell you they love you? Well, this is how I felt at my new job. It is amazing!
Research the company and your future department
Use LinkedIn, the corporate website, newspaper and magazine articles to get an impression of the company. Note the names and the positions that appear. There is nothing better than saying “Hi, Mr. Smith. I’ve read so much about you“, when you meet your manager or your skip-level manager for the first time. And make sure that you have really read something about those people – do not fake it.
Research the way to the office
And finally, make sure to research and test the way to your new job. I admit it sounds a bit too much but you do not want to be late on your first day. Or keep worrying that you will be late and to arrive exhausted.
- Are you going to travel with a car?
- Where are you going to park?
- Or with the public transport?
- Where can you buy tickets?
Day 1: First impression
You never get a second chance to make a first impression!
This is it! The day has come, you’ve put your best set of clothes (in accordance with the company culture). Probably you’ve arrived with plenty of time to spare. As a result, you’ve come at the reception and introduced yourself and you are now waiting for your new manager to come and get you.
Bring a gift
First of all, think about bringing something. It is usually not against corporate policies but make sure to discuss it with your manager. “Hi, Mrs. Welson, I’ve brought a few donuts for you and the team. Is it ok?” Usually, anything will be appropriate – coffee, muffins, donuts, chocolates.
Elevator speech of the new job or role
Prepare you elevator speech in advance:
- Who are you?
- What is your background?
- What are your strengths?
- In which department are you going to work?
- On which projects or programs?
If you want to read more about elevator speech, click here: Elevator Speech – How to Present Your Ideas in 30 seconds.
Meet everybody around you
Then, as soon as the initial procedures are done (access card, laptop, phone, account setup), start going around the office and introducing yourself. Make sure that people are not busy and ask them for permission but try to meet as many people as possible. Once again, your homework will come in handy – hopefully you already know the names of some of them. Use your elevator speech but try to sound personal not like a robot.
If possible, try to find the structure of your department as soon as possible. Make a list of the important people and make sure to meet them in your first few days.
Setup your laptop and desk
Finally, you come at your desk. There are some roles where you will be expected to go around the whole day and getting to know people. But at some point, you have to sit down and start setting up your work environment.
If you are interested in tips about setting up your desk, click here: Organization Skills – How to Organize Your Desk. And if you are interested in tips about setting up your email, click here: Email Organization – How To Organize Your Inbox.
Week 1: Knowledge
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
My most favorite part when starting a new job is the exposure to all the knowledge in the first few weeks. You meet a lot of people from the different departments, you are introduced to all these projects, you get to know the business from inside. As a result, I have developed a whole toolkit for acquiring and storing that information.
Relationship mind map
The first thing I usually do in a new position, is to create a mind map with all the departments, domains, groups, teams, and projects to which I am exposed. A mind map is an excellent tool for that. I usually have it open at any time during my first few weeks and it helps me organize the knowledge and my email folders.
You start with the head of the department, or with your skip-level manager, or with your manager. Then, you start creating the company structure. Add finally, a few notes to every node (who is that person, where does he or she sit, any other information). I prefer to use this method instead of any org chart that is available online because I can create my own structure and I memorize better if I have written something myself.
Tools mind map
I usually create the same structure for the tools that are available. The more technical the company is, the more tools there are for anything. You are usually so overwhelmed in the beginning that you hardly have time to use all the tools and even less time to remember them. This is why I just put them in a mind map and add some notes (what is it, when would I use it). I call this tool “the survival guide“.
I also use the knowledge gathered in my mind map to propose suggestions to the on-boarding that you usually get in the bigger companies. Things change and you will probably spot a few opportunities to improve the process and the information. Do it! There is nothing better than contributing in your first week.
Along with your team, your manager is your most important concern in the first week. Try to meet with them as often as possible, take them out for a lunch, try to make a more personal connection. Try to learn as much as possible about them, the team, the structure. Use this team for expectation management, define common rules between you and them, share any suggestions that you have spotted as potential improvements.
If you are interested in more tips about approaching your new manager, click here: How to Approach a New Direct Manager.
Weekly status report
Keep collecting information about everything you do in your first week. Then, on Friday, send it to your direct manager in the form of a weekly status report. I usually, keep sending the report every week. This is a very good tool to keep the flow of information to your direct managers. But also, you will have a reference base at the end of the month, or the year, containing all your achievements.
Month 1: Results
If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
First you started getting familiar with the people, tools, processes, and tasks. Then, you started participating. And finally, by the end of the first month, you already feel comfortable at your new position. You have already made a positive initial impression. Ideally, you could start showing results.
Do what you do best
This is exactly the time to let your strengths shine. Ideally, you have prepared a 30-60-90-day plan even before your interview. If not, you better work on that during your first two weeks. Set bold goals to yourself, follow your plan, and measure your progress.
Attend team meetings
As soon as you start your new job, subscribe to all mailing lists that your colleagues suggest. Then, invest the extra effort is organizing your email and reviewing the emails the you receive. Most importantly, get yourself invited to all team meetings, org meetings, trainings, and certification courses. Your colleagues should get used to see you around. Be prepared to introduce yourself, some meeting organizers do not like strangers. Especially, if confidential information is being discussed.
Do not expect to contribute (or even understand) much in the beginning. Spend your first month with open ears and heart. Soak information like a sponge. You will be very thankful for the effort later on. Do not be offended by “who is Pete Smith” comments. Not everybody has to know you from day one.
Send out communication on behalf your team
The best way to get your name across the organization is to send communication on behalf of your team. Volunteer to write the meeting minutes from a meeting. Then, diligently work on them, even enlisting colleagues to help you. Gradually, your colleagues will also get used to your name and email address.
If you are interested in learning more about meeting, click here: Efficient Meeting – How to Get the Most of a Meeting.
Propose changes and show results.
Use that first month at your new job and your outsider’s view. There are many things that you would do differently, based on your practice. Most of your suggestions will not be useful exactly because you do not know the culture. But even if one of them is useful, you will earn a huge amount of trust and confidence in your skills.
Starting a new job is an exciting endeavor. First of all, you meet all those new people. Then, you get access to new projects, programs, information, and tools. But most of all, you get a chance to do better than in your last company. Have you ever thought, “What if I had appeared as more confident in the beginning?” Or as more reserved (depending on the situation)? Well, now you can do that!
Like anything else in life, the more prepared you are for a new job, the less stress you will feel, and the better impression you can leave. This article covered three aspects of your new job: 1) Homework before starting; 2) Tips about your first day; 3) Tips about your first week; 4) And guidance for the first month and onward.