Being new on the job can be tough. As someone who’s had countless internships and has started a new job three times in the past few years, I know that being the “new kid” can have its occupational hazards. I remember the time I felt exhausted for three straight weeks, no matter how much coffee I drank—turns out, I hadn’t realized that the carafe I was depending on was filled with decaf.
Then there was the time I made at least five trips around my floor before I (re-) discovered the bathroom. And, of course, the time I accidentally sent an email to the entire office listserv announcing how bored I was.
Okay, that last one wasn’t actually me (phew!), but it happened to someone—and it didn’t end well.
These humorous glitches aside, starting a new job can be challenging. You constantly feel the need to make a great impression. Every task—from sending a quick email to creating a presentation—seems critical. What if you’re two minutes late to a meeting or make a punctuation mistake? Who are the people you really need to impress? What’s actually important in the grand scheme of things?
Ironically, once you’re no longer “new,” you might forget how stressful it was to start fresh. Before long, you’re the one wondering why the new girl isn’t speaking up in meetings or the new guy is spending way too long crafting a three-line email. But then you start fresh in a different place with different people, and all the old confusion comes flooding back. So, no matter if it’s your first job or your fifth, here are a few tips for making the first few weeks on the job a bit less uncomfortable.
1. Ask if You Can Ask More Questions
“Ask questions” is common advice whenever you start something new. However, when you’re absorbing so much information in such a short time, you may not even know which questions to ask—sometimes it’s all you can do to simply not appear totally lost. So, I’ve found that it’s helpful to ask people if you can speak with them again once you’ve had some time to digest the information they’ve given—i.e., when you can muster up a more structured form of confusion.
2. Write it (All) Down
In the first few days and weeks, your brain is going to be on overload. So, give it a break and don’t expect it to remember all of the things you’ll be learning. Instead, write everything down. I’m serious—carry around a notebook wherever you go and scribble down anything you learn, from where the Help Desk is to when weekly meetings are held to all the job-specific duties you cover in training. Then read it over at the end of each day. You’ll make sure you’re not forgetting anything, and you’ll avoid having to ask your co-workers the fax code (for the 12th time).
3. Go to Everything
During my first few forays into the corporate world, I was way too cool when it came to work events. I was afraid I’d look like I didn’t have “real” friends or a “real” life if I spent too much time with my colleagues. But, like it or not, after you leave the cocoon of college, work is your life. You don’t have to live at the office, but you should know that it’s important to your career and to your mental well-being to develop relationships with the people you spend every day with. This is especially critical when you’re new. You can gain first-hand insights about company culture and get the nitty gritty on what impresses (or really bothers) the higher-ups. Plus, work events give you the opportunity to form alliances and friendships with your new co-workers. They're important. Just go.
4. Don’t be Too Hard on Yourself
It’s natural to want to know everything right away, become BFF with all your new work buddies, and fall into the comfortable routine of being an office veteran. But remember that these things take time. By working hard, building connections, and really, just being yourself, you'll get there.
And in the meantime, just focus on the best part about being new: It’s a great—albeit temporary—excuse for the many awkward moments office life will throw at you.