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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

3 Traps Smart People Fall Into Before Starting a New Job (That You Can Avoid)

Last year at this time I was freelancing while trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to find a steady stream of work. While I didn’t have to go into an office every day, it was in no way a relaxing break from the grind.

So, when I received a full-time job offer, I purposely set aside some time to celebrate by catching up on some TV and playing a few video games I had neglected. And those are perfectly acceptable things to do, especially if you are intentional about how you use that time.

The only problem for me was that I definitely did not have a plan other than that. And before I knew it, I was mourning the fact that I didn’t use my free time more wisely. So, while you should feel free to relax a bit before you start a new job, you should also make sure to avoid these common traps:

1. You’ll Want to Sleep as Long as You Want

Hey, I’m a huge fan of getting a little extra sleep when you have the time to do so. But I also know how hard it is to go from 12-hour nights to seven-hours. I did this at least once before I started a new job, and I would never wish the restlessness I felt the night before I was scheduled to start on my worst enemy.

If you want to catch up on a couple hours of sleep while you have a more relaxed schedule, be my guest. But just keep in mind how difficult it might be to transition suddenly into work mode when the time comes to do so. So yes, set your alarm a little bit later, but don’t forget to set it completely.

But Maybe You Should Do Some of The Fun Things You Never Thought You’d Do During the Week

OK, I bet some of you out there are thinking, “But what if “fun” for me is sleeping for 15 hours, then eating dinner, then napping, then sleeping some more?” And aside from not understanding that at all, I’d argue that isn’t the best way to maximize the time you have off before you start your new gig.

I’d also argue there are a few things you’ve always meant to do, but have been blaming your job for the fact that you haven’t had the time to check them off your list. Maybe that’s a trip to the beach, or a few hours at a typically crowded museum, or nabbing reservations at a trendy restaurant, or maybe it’s simply opening a book you’ve wanted to read for the last five years. Whatever that thing is for you, go ahead and choose a few to enjoy.

2. You’ll Want to Catch Up With Everyone You’ve Fallen Out of Touch With

This is an admirable thought, but if you’re anything like me, the list of people you don’t talk to regularly is fairly long. And while it’s not a terrible thought to get up to speed on the lives of some of your friends, making it a goal to catch up with everyone sounds terribly exhausting. You’ll find yourself running from a coffee date, to a lunch meeting, to another coffee date, to a dinner, only to quickly realize that you don’t actually have that much time off.

And once that happens, it’s inevitable that you’ll only feel disappointed in the fact that you didn’t get around to everyone. So, while this is a nice sentiment, don’t put any added pressure on yourself to get around to every single person in your network.

But Maybe You Should Thank the People Who Helped You Out

Again, you won’t be able to get around to every single person who lent you a helping hand. But, I bet you can think of a handful of people who played an instrumental role in landing the job you’re about to start. Maybe it’s an old boss, or a colleague, or someone in your family.

Whoever those people are, you’re probably feeling some amount of gratitude toward those folks (or, you should be at least). And if that’s the case, it’s always a good idea to think of ways to show them how grateful you are. It might only require a short email, but whatever you decide, the best part about this is that it won’t take you a whole lot of time—leaving you plenty of room on your calendar to relax (or do whatever it is you want to do) while you have the time before your first day of work.

3. You’ll Want to Learn Everything About Your New Company

While I celebrated getting my last job by playing video games for a week, there have been times when I resolved to be as well-versed about my new company as possible on my first day. I’d sit in front of my laptop and digest as many articles as I could find about the organization’s history, the executive team, and anything else I could get my hands on.

And while I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, a funny thing happened the last time I did this: I was able to rattle off more about the company’s background than a lot of its most tenured employees could ever imagine. One of my colleagues actually replied in jest by saying, “Yeah, but you still know how to do this job, right?”

The moral of this story? Do your research, but don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself to know every single detail about how your company got to where it is today. There will be plenty of time to learn.

But You Might Want to Make Sure You’re Ready to Tackle the Actual Job

When my teammate made fun of me for knowing the company’s entire history, he accidentally brought up a good point. I was fairly new to the industry I was entering, and although I had enough of the practical skills to do the job well, there were plenty of other elements I wasn’t as familiar with. Rather than finding out what the CEO likes for lunch on Fridays, it would’ve been a much better use of my time to learn some of the basic concepts of the field.

Again, it’s not up to you to master everything before you step in the door on your first day, but if you are into doing a lot of research before you start a new gig, try brushing up on some of the things that’ll help you knock it out of the park.

When you have time to yourself before you start a new job, you’ll have a lot of options. And that’s a good thing. The best news is that nothing you choose to do is technically wrong. But, there are definitely a few ideas that will be less relaxing, less productive, or some combination of both than others. And if you do nothing else, take some time to pat yourself on the back. After all, there’s an awesome job waiting for you—and you worked really, really hard to get it.

Photo of relaxed person courtesy of Ales-A/Getty Images.