Sunday, January 6, 2013

Monthly Topic #6: Shine on your first day

Yay! You got the job. They were stunned at your ability to juggle flaming torches, while finalising the accounts; and your promise to bring in $10 million of new business at the same time. Now the girl that dazzled them in the interview has to prove it all, become a star team-player, and take that career ladder leap that this new job was all about. Nervous? It's understandable. But here are a few tips for taking the stress out of your first day on the job.

Do your research

So it's your first day at work – all prepped? Well, check out these tips to make your introduction easier.

By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of your new company, and a clear vision of what your new role is all about. Hopefully you've met your immediate boss, and understand the specifics of the job ahead.

Even after you've signed your contract, doing additional research before you start will help enormously in your first few days. Scan the company web site. Talk to people in the industry who have contact with the firm. Read up on industry news – trade magazines are a good source (do try and ignore the gossip section until you really know what it's about!). The more you can learn, the easier it will be, particularly if you've gone for a major step, or a different field.

Make nice with co-workers

On your first day you're going to meet a lot of people. Be confident and friendly, but don't gush. Try and be sociable, but not too social within working hours; remember you've been hired for your skills and professionalism, not for your promise to making gourmet coffees for everyone.

You're bound to be nervous, but do your best to remember names. Make a point of repeating the name as you're introduced, to help them stick in your mind. It's also vital to project a positive, enthusiastic and confident image to colleagues at all levels. Remember that the power of networking extends beyond having a good connection with those with big offices. Know that the mail guy, who's funny too, might be the one who can find you a decent filing cabinet. And that your director's secretary, who is a good lunchtime buddy, might also be your greatest ally at promotion time.

It takes time and interest to create effective and comfortable working relationships. You're not expected to do it all on day one, but you'll need to put some effort in, to go from being the “new girl”, to a respected employee, a reliable co-worker – and one of the gang.

Know your boundaries

Ensure you meet the HR manager on your first day. She will be able to fill you in on office politics on things like taxis, overtime and using the internet. It's good to understand the “code of conduct” before you submit your expense claim, or arrive an hour after everyone else!

In the first few days, you'll be a sponge. Look, listen and learn. Ask questions. If you don't understand, say so, and ask to be shown another way – you'll be doing it on your own next. Take detailed notes; if you ask the same thing three or four times, the person showing you the ropes will lose patience.

Dress the part

If you were paying attention during the interview, you should have worked out what the dress codes are before you start (and therefore what best to pre-spend your first pay cheque on!). If not, ask your employer for guidelines. If you're working for an Internet hot-shop, a navy suit and court shoes is going to raise eyebrows. Even so, your first day isn't the day for a coffee-stained T-shirt and cut-offs, no matter what the creative director is wearing. Err on the more formal side, but make sure you're comfortable. Believe it or not, your boss is interested in you, not what you're wearing.

Make changes gradually

You're not a revolutionary. You're not required to “leave your mark” on every task and process. Initiative is vital, and is a key hiring trait. But don't change for the sake of changing. The filing system you used at your old company seems so much more organized and efficient than the way they're doing it here, but will it work with the different suppliers they use in this company? Of course you'll change things, but do it gradually, and when you are certain of the impact of the change. “We used to do it so much better at my old company” won't endear yourself to your new colleagues, and may well backfire once you really know the way things work at your new firm.

Ask for feedback

At most companies, the first appraisal is done after three months, or a year. Why not ask for an appraisal to discuss objectives for the first period of your employment? Why wait for three months? Try and agree on goals and discuss ambitions up front. An immediate appraisal allows us to have a clear picture of the team member's needs and goals, and also for her to understand on what criteria everyone will be measuring job performance. Be prepared to discuss your goals and objectives very specifically.

And, relax!

Finally, have some faith in yourself. You got the job. You got it for a reason, over and above the other candidates who all wanted the job. You're bound to fumble with the fax on your first day, or wander by mistake into the fire escape when looking for the ladies' executive toilet. Remind yourself of that when those first-day nerves hit, and you're feeling a bit anxious and confused. It'll pass!


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