Your Guide to Your First Week on the Job
You walk through the revolving door of the lobby toward the elevator, soaking in your surroundings—there’s not a familiar face in the building. You straighten out your suit, press #12, and take a deep breath: Once those doors re-open, your first week of work will officially begin.
Whether it’s your first position or your fifth, those first few days on the job can be more than a little intimidating. But with these key rules, you can get comfortable in your new surroundings, get up to speed quickly, and get off on the right foot with your new boss and co-workers.
Do: Be a Sponge
One of your most important duties your first week is absorbing everything. Getting to know your company’s culture, the working and communication styles of your teammates, the problem projects, office politics, and department or company-wide goals means that you’ll be able to start your real work sooner (and be more effective when you do).
So, go to the new hire orientation, sign up for professional development classes, and attend all the team and office meetings you can, even if you’re not yet sure what’s going on or they don’t 100% pertain to your work. Also join in on the informal events. If you get asked to lunch, happy hour, or the office softball league (either as a participant or onlooker), say yes. It’s a great way to meet people, and it shows that you’re excited to be part of the team.
Don’t: Overcommit Yourself
Do be careful, though, to balance your schedule—you want to have plenty of time to learn the ropes from your desk. The last thing you want is to look like you have too much to juggle, seem overwhelmed, or show up late to a commitment because you’re stuck somewhere else.
Do: Ask Questions
As you learn about new processes, projects, and people, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need to get up to speed, and people will expect it from the new person on the team. Also take down detailed notes about everything you learn, even if it seems simple. Your brain is going to be on overload this week, and writing everything down will make sure you don’t have to ask the same question twice.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Speak Up
At the same time, don’t be afraid to contribute and add value—you do want to reinforce that you’re the right person for the job! No, you won’t know everything (nor should you act like you do!), but you can make suggestions in team meetings or brainstorming sessions, or ask questions like, “Has this been tried before?” And if you have a skill or ability that you’ve been hired to bring to the team, pipe up and share that knowledge. But be careful to read your audience. You don’t want to come on like gangbusters or step on someone’s toes.
Do: Offer to Help
There may be some down time during your first few days on the job as your boss and team adjust to having you there. But don’t sit around waiting for others to figure out tasks for you—volunteer to help your new teammates on a project. You’ll show initiative, you’ll build rapport with your boss and co-workers, and you’ll learn about expectations, procedures, and how things are done.
Don’t: Turn Down Help or Advice
If your boss or co-workers give you advice or offer to help you with a task or project, take them up on it—yes, even if you’re totally capable of handling things yourself. It’s a great way to bond with your office mates, plus you may get valuable insight into the company’s expectations or a more efficient way to do the work you’ll be given.
Do: Find a Mentor
It never hurts to have an experienced, knowledgeable, successful professional to bounce ideas off of and be groomed by, but it’s especially useful when you’re the newbie. Look around. Who are the stars of the organization—the ones who radiate likability, confidence, and initiative? Introduce yourself, and pick their brains.
Don't: Rely Only on Your New Mentor
Undoubtedly, the people who make you feel most comfortable will become your go-tos as you navigate your first week. But remember the time it takes for people to help you out is time being taken away from their own tasks. Be sensitive to this by trying to figure things out for yourself first, asking a variety of people when you do have questions, and showing appreciation for everyone who helps you out.
Do: Keep Your Boss Informed
Throughout the week, ask for periodic meetings with your boss (instead of popping in her office for every question you have!). In addition to getting her direction on projects and tasks, you should use this time to update her on what you’re learning and who you’re meeting with.
Ask questions like “Are there additional tasks I should be taking on or skills I should be learning?” and “Can you give me feedback on the project I just completed?” to show initiative, but also do a lot of listening, too. Your boss’ feedback and insight is going to be one of your greatest resources at this point—after all, you’re going to be spending the next weeks, months, and maybe even years working for her, and learning how she thinks early on will serve you well.
Don’t: Compare Everything to Your Last Job
Surely you could rattle off things you loved (or loathed) about your last job and how this position compares—but don’t! You want to give yourself every opportunity to shine, and that means keeping your initial first week impressions to yourself. You’re in a new place, and this is a new opportunity, so embrace it and move forward!
Photo of woman walking courtesy of Shutterstock.
About The Author
Laura Katen is President of Katen Consulting, a women-owned NY-based professional development training company. Katen Consulting facilitates soft skills workshops in the areas of First Impressions + Business Success, Personal Brand + Appearance, Effective Communication, Interactions + Building Rapport, Strategic Dining, Networking Savvy, and Presentation Skills—all geared to help employees, entrepreneurs, job seekers, and students appear polished, professional, and make a positive impression in the workplace. To email or tweet: www.katenconsulting.com or @katenconsulting.