How to Survive Your First Days At A New Job

6 min

Well, you nailed the job interview and got that offer, congratulations on your new job!

But when the euphoria subsides and clear thinking restores in your brain, get to the prepping-for-your-first-day-of-work stage.

However great expert you may be, and whichever heights in your career you’ve already managed to climb, the fact is that it is difficult to be a newbie at everything, as there’s a lot of uncertainty. You’ll encounter new people, a new culture, a new set of responsibilities, and quite a number of things working differently. And you will, for sure, need to start a new learning curve to adapt and succeed afterwards. All this is corny obvious, I believe.

But what often slips memory and can’t hurt to keep in mind on the first days is that the level of your importance for your employer and colleagues is rather low at this stage. So do not expect an orchestra heralding your arrival but rather prepare for a lukewarm reception, nonchalant attitude, combined with prejudice and inflated expectations. For companies, new-comers and leavers are a usual routine, so others will hardly be so excited or anxious as you unless they can’t wait to force some of their tasks on you or are your direct subordinates.

Jitters? Well, changing jobs is ranked among the highest stressors in a person’s life for a reason. But do not worry too much, as the goal of the first days at a new job is to demonstrate your curiosity and desire to learn and feel out your place in the work ecosystem, not to play the knowing-it-all.

And the right preparation will help you make a successful transition and raise your importance.

So, start in advance

1. Learn upfront

When receiving an offer: don’t wait; learn. If possible ask for some info to read or do ahead to play in as fast as possible.

Email to the HR Manager or your soon-to-be boss something like:

Hi [Name],

I’m happy/excited/can’t wait to be joining [Company] on [date] (and start working in the team)! Is there anything I can read/learn or do upfront that would help me hit the ground running at once?

Have a great week and see you there soon!

But if you get the reply with something for you to read or do, make sure you do your homework!

And even if not, read up on the company as much as possible. Learn the names of key influencers and/or direct reports, and what their areas of focus are. This will help you start the ball rolling, and you will pass for a proactive go-getter before you even walk through the door.

2. Take time off

Some people are tempted to start asap to avoid any gaps in their income, but it is vital to ensure that you’re mentally or emotionally ready for a new job. So, if possible, take a week/weeks between jobs to recharge.

If you’re leaving your current job because you’ve stuck there, your energy is running low, or you feel burnt out, you should definitely consider a little time between jobs. Carrying the emotional baggage from your last job or appearing world-weary on the first day at a new job, won’t add anything valuable to your professional image and portfolio. Besides, you will need this time to take the next advice.

3. Prepare an elevator pitch

You‘ll definitely be asked about your past experience and career history. So prepare in advance to be able to give a 30-second explainer of your ex-responsibilities and projects not fumbling for words. And even if you are not asked find the right timing and give a quick, energetic introduction of your professional self to the people you are talking to.

Also, do your best to remember names. If you fail to do so, say: “I’m sorry, I’ve been taking in a lot of new information over the last few days. Could you remind me of your name?” Honesty is the best policy!

4. Prepare all necessary emails

It is true, on your first day you will be pulled in a thousand different direction and overwhelmed with tons of new information. So not to spend time and make trivial mistakes, template ahead of time your replies to those cliched colleagues greetings and standard procedure emails.

On the first days

1. Listen

You may be entering a new position driven by the desire to do something immediately, but first, spend time listening and understanding the culture, processes and style of work. It’s natural to want to score a hit, if not get the Audience Award or at least fit in quickly. However, don’t try too hard, as you may appear babbling bit much when you should be listening. When you speak you learn nothing new, just sound off what you’ve already processed in your head. And the purpose on the first days is to demonstrate your curiosity and desire to learn.

2. Shut up

You probably know this is the foundation for any successful conversation!? And the number one rule for a meaningful, professional, relationship-building dialogue. Plus, without zipping your lips, neither the previous tips nor the next won’t work for you.

2. Be respectful and humble

First of all, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is still there, unexpired. The second thing to remember is that not all organizations do not have the same problems or the same solutions to those problems. What worked at your last company may not be suitable for the new one. You’ve never done this exact job in this exact setting, so no matter how much experience you have behind, keep your mind open (as well as eyes and ears). A definite phrase to avoid is “We did differently in my last company”. It’s guaranteed to wind up your new colleagues. First, meet the organization where it is, and only then you can move forward successfully.

Also, acknowledge that you cannot go alone and take the time to thank the people who are showing you the ropes and give the same impression of you – polite and respectful – to everyone you encounter, from the receptionist right up to the big boss.

Ah, and ‘Hang on … I’m just finishing up this HR paperwork.’ is not a good reply when you asked either for a coffee with colleagues or one-to-one with your both.

3. Ask relevant questions

As we’ve already figured out your main priority should be to soak up information, and you cannot do it without asking questions. No, this tip doesn’t contradict with the idea to shut up but logically updates it. By asking, you show that you pay attention and try to get the bigger picture. So, spend your first week on the job as if you were a journalist conducting interviews, just make sure your questions are pertinent and well-timed. As a general rule of thumb here, make “Ask, don’t tell,” your personal mantra for the period of adaptation. But also beware of asking too many questions. You have plenty of time to master the job. Take your time!

  1. Set expectations with your boss and colleagues

To make it a success, it helps to come in knowing what to expect. Don’t stand there shuffling your feet if you don’t know where to go or what to do. It may be nerve-wracking at the beginning. But taking a passive, standoffish approach versus proactive response would be a mistake. The first day sets the tone for the rest of your career with those who you’ll be interacting with.

So, talk to your boss and other stakeholders, to get a clearer picture for the first period and set the short-term goals.

Though, .’BTW, I have to leave early on Fridays.’ isn’t the right “proactivity”. If you hadn’t discussed it from the get-go, suddenly dropping these kinds of bombs on your employer really shows a lack of communication and respect on your part.

If everything goes beyond the pale

For example, your boss is on a 2-week-business trip or in non-stop back-to-back meeting and there is, in fact, nobody to onboard you and you have no instructions for what you’re supposed to do in the meantime. Take the “Bird in hand” approach. Do and learn whatever you find useful for your new position.

Join in any coffee breaks or anything that gives you a chance to get to know someone and ask questions. Be the one who volunteers for something, like changing the bottle on the water cooler or something. Show your new colleagues that you’re committed, mean business and also looking to integrate yourself as one of the team.

Well, anyway, every job is different. Some companies will go out of their way to make the on-boarding process exciting and positive, while other businesses might be more stand-offish and leave you to your own devices. Whatever the situation goes though, keep in it the first day not of the rest of your life, and you cannot plan and control everything. But it is up to you to choose whether to appear enthusiastic or annoying for your new colleagues and boss. And playing the cards right, the people you meet on your first day could be the people you’ll work with for years to come.

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