How to Survive the First Week at Your New Job
Renee Weisman | Excelle
Starting your first job, changing positions, trying a new career, moving to another department or location — all of these can be frightening experiences. You’ve left where you were comfortable and successful and now you have to establish yourself all over again. You go to the new area, and your first day is a disaster! Surprise! You are not alone.
Your first day at something totally new cannot possibly live up to your high expectations. Give it time. Here are just a few examples of typical first days.
My first day at work, my manager forgot to pick me up. He asked another employee to show me the ropes but unfortunately that employee didn’t know anything about my job. Since no one had shown me around the very confusing windowless building, it took me several tries to find the right door to the parking lot. The eight hour workday seemed like 30 hours.
My female friend who worked in a largely male company was introduced by her boss to the secretaries so she would “have someone to eat lunch with.” He didn’t have an office or even a desk ready for her and was surprised when she needed a place to lock up her purse.
Another friend was given a project immediately with little background and was overwhelmed by the jargon her manager used. She had no idea what he was asking. (It reminds me of a request my first week to generate an EC to the ES for 969 on the IO’s. I had no clue what that meant. What was even more scary was that a week later I did!)
Finally, a new hire was given a load of books, binders and websites to read with no clarity on what was important and what wasn’t. By the end of the first day, her eyes were bleary, and her head was swimming.
When you are about to launch into something new, it is important to keep an open mind about everything you experience. If I had made a decision about my job too quickly, I would have left after my first day and missed out on an amazing career.
Everyone needs time to get settled in, find his or her place, learn the culture, speak the jargon, and know who’s who. Smile, ask lots of questions, write things down (especially names), and be patient. Understand that your new company or assignment may be very different from where you had worked before and is a world different from college life, even if you interned.
Try to understand and accept the differences. Never say, “When I was at my prior company, we did it differently.” I had one coworker who said that so often that the other employees suggested he go back to that firm. If somewhere else really did it better, slowly suggest some changes without saying where they came from and be sure they are better, not just more comfortable.
Network. Be professional. Observe. Find ways to get to know your coworkers. Join them for a coffee break. Put candy in a dish on your desk (I used to have a jar full of tootsie rolls). You’ll meet people as they stop by to have some. Attend meetings and learn how decisions are made. If there is a problem or serious issue going on, get involved. My second day of work there was a delivery-impacting technical problem which caused all the experts in the area to assemble. I learned more in one week than I could have learned in a month under normal circumstances!
Spend time with each coworker as well as your boss to understand what they see as major challenges, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. It will take time to win their respect so start earning it right away by listening.
While first impressions may be made in minutes they fade away just as easily. Impressions that last are the ones that count, and they don’t happen instantly. Those first day horrors will be something you will look back and laugh at in the years to come.