There are few things more exciting than landing the job of your dreams. There are also few things more heart-stopping than leaving at the end of your first day only to realize you’re probably the least experienced person on your team.
First things first, let’s do a quick pep talk: You’re there because you’re qualified—don’t feel any differently. Now that we got that out of the way, here are some things you can do to catch on quickly and make everyone forget that you’re the newbie.
1. Always Run Ahead of Schedule
When it comes to proving yourself in the workplace, you can’t go wrong with always being early (unless you show up, say, two hours before a meeting). By giving yourself this extra time, you’re not only making a very physical statement—“I’m here, I’m present, and I’m ready to work!”—but you’re also giving yourself time to play catch up if needed.
So, get to the office 10 minutes earlier than you’re asked to in the morning and stay 10 minutes later in the evening to get a head start on the next day. Whenever possible, show up to meetings in advance and give yourself some time to grab a seat and look over any related notes before everyone else gets there.
Along those preparation lines, turn in projects a day (or more!) before they’re due—so that if changes are needed, you won’t be behind schedule, and your boss won’t look at you like you’ve very possibly ruined everything.
2. Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time
Your manager and your teammates know that you won’t walk in on day one knowing everything. So, you’re not only encouraged to ask questions, but in most offices, it’s expected that you will. (Fun fact: Doing this is an easy way to sound smarter!)
Following up on anything you’re unsure about shows that you’re proactive and doing your best to get the hang of things as fast as possible. By inquiring throughout your training (and not after a week of trying to figure out how to access the shared drive), you’ll not only learn faster and waste less time, but you’ll show that you’re actively listening.
Pro tip: “Why?” is a completely valid question (assuming you don’t ask it like, “But whyyyyyyy?”). Unlike other ones that pertain to your specific duties, this one shows you’re curious about the entire process, and not just your part of it. Right off the bat, it proves you’re a big picture thinker who’s interested in putting all the pieces together.
3. Ask the Right Person (or Search Engine)
When looking for certain answers, try doing the research yourself first (Google is your best friend)—that way, you’ll be able to approach your manager with as much information as possible. Now, obviously, you shouldn’t be searching the internet high and low for in-office processes, but rather industry acronyms you’re unfamiliar with that keep getting brought up or people or companies mentioned as major influencers.
And if it’s time to ask a live human being for assistance, think about whom you’re approaching: Is your boss the right person to be asking about your healthcare policy, or would HR be a better choice? Does your co-worker really understand the project you’re designing for another department, or should you contact someone on that team?
In general, you always want to gauge your audience. If the person looks busy, keep your questions short—or choose another peer who’s more available. And, if he or she seems excited to talk to you, take advantage of the opportunity to ask even more!
4. Make Yourself as Available as Possible (in the Beginning)
Let’s start this one with a disclaimer: You do not need to be answering emails at 2 AM. Burning out before your first month’s over is a bad idea. But rather, you should expect to work longer hours in your first few weeks as you get the swing of things. Not only will you pick up more information, but you’ll show from the start that you’re reliable (even if you’re not the most experienced).
If a project sounds up your alley (and you can do it without learning an entirely new skill), volunteer to take it on or help out. Overall, be willing to volunteer for a number of responsibilities, no matter how big or small. For example, be the one to step up and take on more of the “busy” work—your boss will notice your work ethic and flexibility, and you’ll be soon be considered for more significant assignments.
5. Don’t Remind People of Your Age or Inexperience
After all your hard work, you’d hate to ruin your reputation with a joke about how funny it is that you still don’t know how to use Excel, or that you’re not used to waking up before noon, or how back when you started in marketing, the Twitter founder wasn’t even born yet. These comments rarely make people laugh, but rather remind them that you are in fact the new amateur in town.
So, rather than kidding around about what you don’t know, talk with others about what you recently learned about your job, your company, or even about the industry. Rather than highlighting areas you’re not strong in, this instead points out how eager you are to soak up knowledge. Even when you’re speaking more casually, make sure they’re highlighting your competencies, rather than the areas in which you’re still lacking.
Just because you’re inexperienced doesn’t mean you can’t make a good impression. Use these tips to prove right away that you’re a key member of the team—and someone with a lot of potential to do really big and impressive things.
How do you overcome your inexperience in a new job? Let me know on Twitter!
Photo of co-workers courtesy of Shutterstock.
As Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Motto, CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author