When you start a new job, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There is so much to learn–from policies and procedures to personalities and behaviors–that new employees often don’t know where to begin. Too frequently, employers don’t offer adequate on-boarding training, and new employees are left floundering, making mistakes, and wasting time.
You can avoid being one of those confused new employees by preparing in advance, setting a plan, and taking control of your own path to success when you start a new job. Remember, first impressions matter in your personal life and in your career. Make sure you make the right first impression when you start a new job and set yourself up for success by following these ten tips:
1. Ask a lot of questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you start a new job. Unfortunately, your coworkers might not be motivated to give you a lot of information unless you specifically ask for it. They might be busy (or lazy), so unless you take initiative and ask your boss and your colleagues questions, you might make unnecessary mistakes that will reflect poorly on your performance.
2. Observe coworker behaviors and relationships.
Listening and watching are extremely important skills to have when you start a new job. Learn your boss’ and your coworkers’ work styles, so you can work with them successfully.
3. Learn the company language.
Not only do you have to learn to ‘walk the walk’ as discussed above, but you also need to learn how to ‘talk the talk.” Every company has its own internal language and jargon, and you need to learn to speak that language as soon as possible.
4. Identify preferred methods of communication.
Each company you work for throughout your career will have a preferred method for internal communication. Similarly, each boss you work for will have a preferred way that she wants you to communicate with her. Some companies prefer that you walk to another employee’s desk or office to communicate everything verbally. Others prefer that you communicate via email. You might even work for a company where it is perfectly acceptable to pick up the phone and call a coworker who works down the hall. Whatever the preferred communication method is, start using it.
5. Seek out helpful people and identify those to keep at arm’s length.
There are always a handful of people in every company that know how everything works and who to go to if you need anything. Identify these people and introduce yourself. They can be extremely helpful to you over the course of your employment with the company. Similarly, identify the employees who could damage your chances for success, and make sure you keep your interactions with them professional and at arm’s length.
6. Be cautious and avoid being overly aggressive.
Even leaders need to tread carefully when they start a new job to ensure employees support them. Unless you were hired to change things quickly, spend time listening, learning, and working to get your team’s buy-in before you make changes. Your efforts will have a greater chance of success if your team believes in you and the changes you want to make.
7. Identify your short- and long-term goals.
When you start a new job, you might not get a list of short- and long-term goals. Your boss might be too busy or he might not be focused on setting his employees up for success. With that in mind, you need to actively communicate with your boss so you can develop a set of short- and long-term goals to work towards achieving.
8. Show up and be on time.
Once you land a new job, you need to actually do the job. That means you need to show up to work and be on time. There are many people who accept a new job and call in sick repeatedly within the first month of their employment. Others will arrive a few minutes late or more repeatedly. These employees are setting themselves up for failure. Don’t be one of them.
9. Establish your personal parameters.
Once you set a behavioral precedent, it can be very difficult to change the expectations that behavior creates in the minds of your boss and your coworkers. For example, if you skip your lunch break or work late again and again, your boss and coworkers will start to expect that behavior from you. Suddenly, when you decide to take a lunch break or leave on time, it could be perceived as a negative reflection on your performance because you’re not meeting their expectations based on your previous behavior. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. Instead, establish your personal parameters from the start.
10. Learn the company processes and follow them.
Your previous employer might have had a more efficient process in place to track and report expenses or book the conference room, but talking about it with your coworkers or leaders immediately after you start your new job is a mistake. That’s because they’re likely to interpret your comments in one of two ways: you’re complaining or you’re saying that the way they do things stinks. Either way you slice it, your comments will be perceived negatively and that negative perception will reflect on you, too.