How to Navigate Your First Week on the Job
Congratulations! You got the job! Once you’ve finished celebrating and the dust has settled a bit, you’ll probably begin second-guessing yourself, wondering what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into. If you're feeling a little anxious, you’re not alone. Every new employee, no matter how confident, will confront some first-week jitters. Here are some ways to prepare yourself for your new job:
What To Expect
As you anticipate your first week, you’re probably feeling eager to impress, yet uncertain what will be expected of you. You want to be relaxed and true to yourself, but you also know that first impressions are often lasting ones, and you don’t want to make any critical missteps.
Fortunately, your first week is unlike any other week you will spend at your new job. Remember, no one is going to expect anything spectacular from you the first week. A lot of what you will encounter during your first few days on the job may strike you as mundane, even menial. This is very typical. Your first week most likely will involve the following:
- A lot of paperwork and forms to fill out
- Reading company literature on policies and procedures
- Getting acclimated to your assigned work space
- Familiarizing yourself with workflow and expectations
- Other orientation activities, both formal and informal
Get Ready for the Big Day
Before you begin your new job, consider ways to make the process a bit easier on your nerves. The more prepared you are, the better equipped you will be to handle the unexpected.
- Try not to go from one job directly into the next. Take some time off, if you can. You need to separate emotionally from your old workplace, even if you are leaving an unpleasant situation and are eager to move on.
- Learn as much about the corporate culture at your new job as you can. Although you may have researched all of this in preparation for your interview, it’s a good idea to have this information at the forefront of your mind as you begin your first week.
- Before your job begins, do a dress rehearsal of your morning routine. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the new workplace, so that you feel relaxed rather than harried when you walk through the front door. Try different routes and take note of any traffic difficulties. Record how long it takes to get from door to door. This dry run will do much to allay your anxieties.
- First impressions are important. In a sense, your first week is an extension of the interview process. Make sure you are well-groomed and dressed appropriately. Although you may feel a little out of place, it’s best to dress more conservatively the first week, as this will reflect a serious attitude toward your new responsibilities. Plan what you’re going to wear for each day of the week. You don’t want to wake up to discover that your favorite button-down shirt needs to be dry-cleaned or your only pair of pantyhose has a hole in the knee.
- Find some space for yourself. Emotions and pressures run high the first week, so you may want to use your lunch hour and breaks as a time to regroup—take a walk, read a book, do something non-work related. Gauge for yourself whether it would be better to socialize with co-workers, or to take some time alone.
Establish Your Game Plan
Your objective during the first week should be to establish rapport and connections with people, learn the corporate culture and gain a clear understanding of what will be expected of you. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Come to work with a positive, high-energy attitude
- Accept all tasks with enthusiasm, even the grunt work
- Always be on time and show that you are a team player
- Help out even when you are not asked to do so
- Follow through on all tasks and take initiative whenever you can
- Get to know your co-workers
- Learn the lines of authority
- Be good to yourself; get plenty of rest and “down time” to alleviate first-week stress.
Traps to Avoid
The know-it-all trap. Admit when you don’t know something or when you’ve made a mistake. Ask for help graciously and keep an open mind. People aren’t going to fault you for mistakes, but they may hold it against you if you refuse to learn. Although it’s tempting to compare how things were done at your old job with how they are done at your new job, keep these observations to yourself. Even if you think you know “a better way,” it’s best to pay your dues first before you try to revolutionize the company.
The complaining trap. Inevitably, there will be some things about your new workplace that bother you or that you’d like to change. Now is not the time to verbalize these things. Do not criticize your boss, supervisors, co-workers, etc. Do not challenge or actively disagree with the duties and work processes you’ve been assigned. Although you should keep your eyes and ears open, do not contribute to company gossip. Remain as detached and equable as possible.
The “show me what to do” trap. Don’t hide behind your “new kid on the block” status. People will be looking for you to take initiative and show some spunk. Tackle every task you are given with as much confidence as possible. Go the extra mile, demonstrate you have high professional standards and are willing to take on challenging assignments.
The alliances trap. By being friendly, yet keeping your distance, you’ll have the opportunity to evaluate the team dynamics to determine who is truly helpful, who knows their jobs, and who to keep at arm’s length. By confining your conversation to business issues and limiting information about your personal life, you will control and manage your entry into the group. Remember, it’s best to keep your mouth shut and leave people wondering about what you’re thinking than to open it and remove all doubt.
Processing the Week
Although managers try to welcome a new employee into the fold by creating a functional workspace, things don’t always go as smoothly as expected. If your phone extension still isn’t working, or your email isn’t sending/receiving, or your chair is broken, now is the time to review those issues with your manager. Discuss with your manager in a cordial, business-like manner how to get your issues resolved.
As the week draws to a close, ask that your supervisor or employer give you a few moments of his or her time to review how the week went. This is an opportunity for you to clarify what your duties are and how your work and accomplishments fit into the big picture. Ask for feedback. This mini-review will show your employer how important the job is to you and how much you want to make a positive contribution to the company. You might even request that your supervisor recommend a high-performing co-worker to be your mentor the first month on the job. This builds tremendous goodwill and shows that you are a team player who is eager to learn and grow within the position.