Congratulations on getting hired! All of your hard work has paid off. You got to know yourself using the career planning tools, discovered some opportunities, prepared your resume and cover letter, got an “A” in the interview section and at last you have been offered a job. Way to go! Now what?
You are likely experiencing some feelings of stress. Many questions are occurring to you. This is normal. Starting a new job is a stressful thing. Like most of us, it’s probably the unknown that fuels the feelings of anxiety. So what we intend to do here is provide some concrete information to help lessen the number of unknowns.
REMEMBER, you got the job because you were the best candidate for the position. Go forth and enjoy.
The First Impression
The first impression is important as this sets the tone for your future workplace relationships. First impressions are based upon your actions, comments, dress, and non-verbal behavior.
Because you observed how others were dressed at your interview, you already know how to dress on your first day. If you have received a written policy concerning dress, then the first day will be even less confusing. If you are to wear a uniform, make sure it fits, is clean and wrinkle free.
In addition to what you say, your body language conveys a powerful message about what you are thinking and feeling. Try to relax and avoid having your body language contradict your verbal message.
A few ideas that may help to convey the appropriate message include:
1. Be an active listener.
2. Speak confidently, avoid mumbling.
3. Shake your fellow employees hands with confidence.
4. Look people in the eye when you are introduced.
5. Offer a warm smile.
Try and remember the names of the people you meet. Of course it would be unrealistic, not to mention nearly impossible, to remember everyone’s name, but…
Strategies for Remembering Names
Work on remembering a few each day, pay particular attention to those people you will be working with directly.
Write names down and go over them in the evening, or use word association techniques.
Donï¿½t be afraid to ask. Asking someone whose name you remember for someone’s name you’ve forgotten is the least awkward.
What to Expect on the First Day
People may ignore you. They may go on with their business without noticing you are there, or may embarrass you just for fun as an initiation to the workplace. Remember, you will not be the “new” person forever.
People may also go out of their way to welcome you to the company.
High emotions, excitement, anticipation, nervousness, anxiety, fear.
Surviving the First Day
Be humble, being nervous is natural.
Be nice to others first; don’t wait for them to be nice to you.
Have a sincere desire to join the group, let them know either verbally or non-verbally you want to be a contributing team member.
Try to do everything in your power to have a positive start.
Observe what is going on around you in the workplace, this will give you a clearer definition of the way things work.
If there is any confusion about what you should be doing on your first day, seek clarification.
Your First Week on the Job
Be Part of the Team Make an active effort to become a part of the team. A major part of working is being able to get along well with colleagues. Build rapport Make a concerted effort to build rapport with others. Building rapport will help you be accepted by co-workers. Accept and ask for assistance, graciously.Pitch in willingly for tasks when needed. Expect to learn tasks from multiple people. Not important to wow everyone with your wide array of skills/knowledge. Be an effective listener. Listen carefully to all instructions you are given, many will be details on policies/procedures. Observe others’ reaction to instruction (Listen with eyes and ears.). Don’t interrupt Clarify message immediately if unclear. Write down details of complicated messages. Pay attention…don’t fake it. Characteristics of a positive attitude. Friendly, open, willing to learn, enthusiastic, a good listener, confident, prompt, courteous, hard worker. Be a comfortable person to be around, communicate openly and freely. Watch your environment. Much of what you will learn will be experiential. How does communication happen? Through email, memos, notes, verbal. How do breaks work? Length, being prompt. How Much to Produce in Your First Week? How much one produces and prepares to produce is critical to early and continual success on the job. Striving for quality is most important… practice quality from the beginning. While each job differs in terms of what is expected, do the best job that you can on everything you are given. 1. Expect to have either way too much to do – or not enough. If there is little to do, stay busy by job shadowing someone else, or look for relevant information to read. If there seems too much to do, prioritize the best you can. 2. Go over expectations with supervisor. Meet at the end of the first week go over job duties, objectives, expectations. Surviving The First Week. Grunt Work. Expect lots of grunt work – there is no way to escape the passage all rookies must go through. Recognize there are mundane, boring tasks associated with every job. Stay positive, and prove you are a team player. Expect the unexpected. There will be surprises. You will experience every emotion possible. Stay sane (If this is your first full time job consider getting out on your lunch breaks. You will break up the day and come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.) You are expected to take the initiative, don’t expect someone to tell you where you should be, or what you should be doing. Begin to develop an idea about the larger world you have entered. Understand policies and procedures. Work toward gaining a clear understanding of how you fit in to the bigger picture of your company. Try to determine what people do, and their official titles. Own up immediately to mistakes. Don’t cover them up, downplay, make excuses, or blame someone else. It will only make the situation worse and make you look immature, dishonest, and/or unprofessional. Figure out what are the most important things to learn. You will not be able to master everything at once. Determine what you need to do in order to be productive. What to Expect Within the First Week Completing lots of forms and paperwork Work site orientation.Settling into work area. Understanding workflow. Reading company literature (product catalogues, training material, industry reports). Performing grunt work/menial tasks.
Your First Month on the Job.
Learning. You may feel non-productive during your first month on the job. There might be a bit of reality to this feeling because, in fact, you are still in the learning phase. At this point, you should have a handle on your responsibilities at the new job. You know where to go when you get to work in the morning. You also know where to get coffee and where to eat lunch. And you know who to ask for help. However, you may still be wrestling with the larger issues. Where you fit in the company’s big picture: You’ve likely gone through new staff orientation and been given a company handbook if there is such a thing. Continuing to ask questions is your best strategy for further learning. Your initial tasks and routines have probably been outlined. Clarifying exactly what is expected of you is important. You may be assigned tasks, which you find menial. Take all jobs seriously! If your employer can see that you have a professional attitude and respect the fact that all tasks, no matter how small, are important, it won’t be long before you find yourself working on the more complex and interesting jobs. Politics of the company: This may be the most difficult aspect of your job to deal with. Company politics is what is going on beneath the surface of day-to-day activities. Answers to these questions come from many places. What do your co-workers spend time on? (Is socializing acceptable? Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues.) Rituals; does the workplace celebrate employee birthdays? Are awards given out? Is the actual physical setting of your workplace conservative or relaxed? Do others strictly adhere to start and stop times? Is overtime expected? Each workplace and situation is different, but existing research has identified three common grouping tendencies: Camps for and against management, the union, a co-worker, or whatever the cause. cliques: people who stick together exclusively, both in and outside of work critics: hold very negative views of some aspect(s) of the workplace Try to avoid having to make a choice as to where you fit into the picture. Find the middle ground in all work relationships. Relationships By the first month you will have established some kind of relationship with co-workers and supervisors. It’s still early, don’t judge too quickly! Mind Games Feelings of doubt are not uncommon during the first month. You may find yourself asking: What am I doing? Is this the right place for me? Does everyone really hate me? Am I as popular as I think I am? Learning something new, and adjusting to a new environment don’t happen over night. One month is really not enough time to judge everything, don’t panic. Concentrate on performing your tasks. Talk to a co-worker you trust about issues which are concerning you. Often times your feelings of insecurity can be easily dismissed. Assessment Toward the end of the first month it is appropriate and beneficial to review your new job and assess your satisfaction with the direction things are going. A personal assessment can be as simple as asking yourself a few questions. Am I happy? What do I like about this job? What don’t I like? What can I change? Where can I go from here? Do I feel I am making progress? Have I updated my resume to include my new skills and experience? Asking family or friends for feedback will also help in your assessment. People close to you will be able to offer insight into any change in your behaviour (good or bad) or mental well being (including stress level) since you started at the new job. Personal assessments are beneficial not only at the end of the first month but throughout the duration of any job. The best way to prevent issues from getting out of hand is to stay aware of how you are dealing with them. It is a lot easier to change them before they grow too unmanageable. Performance Reviews Many companies conduct performance reviews of employees. These usually don’t occur until the three, or six-month mark, but it is important to prepare for them or at the very least have some idea what they entail. A performance review is an evaluation of how well you are doing your job. It will likely cover: Both the specifics (team work, time management) and your general performance. Discussion of your strengths and weaknesses. Creation of plans to improve on problem areas.Setting objectives for the next year. Discussion of potential for promotion. Discussion of the possibility of a raise. Very few people look forward to performance reviews. Anticipating an analysis and evaluation of yourself can be nerve racking. Accepting criticism is never easy but it is essential. The best way to learn and grow is to know your weaknesses so you are able to work on them. And the truth is, it is usually easier for others to identify those weaknesses. We can always improve. Accepting this fact graciously and working to strengthen your weaknesses will both demonstrate your professionalism and allow you to move ahead.
Beyond the Basics
Showing your stuff. Welcome to one of the most nebulous areas of the world of work: Showing your stuff. Depending on the nature of your work environment, and the nature of the people you work with, revealing hidden talents, good ideas, or suggestions for change, brings with it many different results. So before “taking the plunge” and unleashing your plans, take some time to observe what goes on at your place of work. Watch who dominates discussions, who participates in the discussions, and how people react to new ideas, or change. Keep in mind that changing anything, even if it seems insignificant to you, can be scary for many people. Never underestimate the “we’ve always done it like this” factor. While observing, make notes — mental, or physical — on how the people who seem most persuasive deliver their thoughts to the group. Watch who reacts positively, and who doesn’t. Listen to their objections, if any are vocalized. Are they based on common sense and the facts at hand, or are there more personal issues behind the protest? Try and determine why those who seem to have the least amount of influence fail to successfully put their ideas forward. Once you get an understanding of the environment, then you can anticipate questions and begin to understand why things are done as they are. A good way to find out what may be in store is to discuss your ideas with a co-worker you have come to respect and trust before revealing them to everyone else. Regardless of the type of work involved, you’ll have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with your supervisor. This may be the best time to make your ideas known. For one, you won’t come off as a hot shot. Secondly, the boss may feel more comfortable about making changes if he/she has an opportunity to share it with the larger group at a later time rather than being put on the spot. Armed with a bit of knowledge about the working environment and your colleagues, chances are you’ll make a better impression on everyone when you decide to show your stuff. There’s no best time for anyone in any job to show their stuff. Based on your observations, you are the best one to judge when the time is most appropriate. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions if you believe the time is right. Results When showing your stuff at the workplace, seldom does the basic law of physics stating that for every action there is an equal, and opposite reaction, hold true. Fortunately, the positives tend to out-weigh the negatives. For instance, your supervisor will be impressed that you’re interested in the future of the workplace, and in taking more responsibility. If nothing else, coming up with new ideas and concepts shows others your ability to take your experience/education/understanding and turn it into constructive concepts. If impressed with the ideas, some supervisors will offer you more challenging, more important, or simply more, work. Good bosses like to have thinking workers on board, not only does it reduce their workload, but increases their confidence the work will be done satisfactorily. Some colleagues may even turn to you for help, or consultation, on work they’re doing. Unfortunately, sometimes bringing up suggestions for doing things another way can be looked upon as questioning authority. Some supervisors may take the suggestion personally, believing you doubt their wisdom, and may saddle you with meaningless, or extremely difficult tasks and deadlines. Some bosses may also willingly take credit for your work with those higher up the food chain. Even if your ideas have been publicly rejected, others may support your suggestions, even if that backing is not vocalized. Don’t be discouraged. Colleagues may also scorn your offerings. Some will look at you as a “boss’s pet” for trying to be an achiever. Others will discredit the idea and label you as incompetent, or a troublemaker simply because they didn’t come up with the suggestion. Dealing with negative responses, no matter how tactfully, may, or may not work. Preventing a situation from occurring is the best method to avoid hard feelings, or conflict. Dealing with negative responses Most importantly, take a cooling off period before taking further action to ensure you can deal with the situation calmly. If a supervisor seems agitated by your suggestions, meet one-on-one and explain where you’re coming from. Ask for a clarification of his/her position to ensure you know why they’re upset. Make it clear that no offence was meant, and outline the reasons behind your suggestions. If your supervisor is taking credit for your work without passing on the credit, ask a colleague if this is common and how it was handled before. If no one has approached the issue, discuss ideas with your co-workers to develop a plan that will effectively communicate your concerns to the supervisor. Approaching a colleague who gives you a hard time and explaining your take on the situation may be enough to do away with the hotshot stigma. Asking this colleague how she/he would have approached the situation could alleviate the tension. In all cases, stick strictly to the issue-related difficulties, not personality conflicts or problems. Show your stuff checklist: Have others suggested ideas for change? How were those suggestions dealt with? How were the suggestions presented? Were they demanded, recommended, or put up for general discussion? Could the suggestions have been presented another way with better results? Who seemed receptive to the changes? Who seemed opposed to the changes? Was opposition to the suggestions given verbally or non-verbally? Do you know how the person making the suggestions for change is generally perceived by everyone else? Workplace Relationships Relationships you encounter at work are different than the ones you have anywhere else. There may be people you wouldn’t normally choose to spend time with whom you find yourself spending lots of time, perhaps even as much as 40 hours a week! It is essential to recognize that work is not foremost a social situation. While it is probably to your advantage to be friendly with people, you should be most interested in establishing and maintaining constructive and professional relationships. Do not let your personal feelings, whether they are good or bad, interfere with your ability to succeed in your new job. If you happen to make a new friend consider this an added bonus, icing on the cake. If there is conflict with a certain individual, try and remain focused on the task at hand. Concern yourself less with a person’s behaviour than with your need to work together. Very briefly some basic rules for establishing and maintaining professional relationships include: Treating people with respect and in return expecting to be treated the same. Recognizing the difference between frivolous socializing and necessary. Networking. Avoid using people for personal gain. Listen to “company” gossip; you can learn a lot about an organization by listening to what employees say about it. Avoid personal gossip and those who spread this kind of gossip. People who gossip to you are probably gossiping about you. Make your own judgments about people. Take the high road – don’t assume the worst from someone’s behavior or treatment of you. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Learn to forgive – don’t hold a grudge. Recognize that not everyone will agree with you or approach a situation in the same way you do. Avoid using company time for personal business such as personal visits, phone calls, and emails. Why Do People Act the Way They Do? There are in fact many many reasons that can really only begin to address the complex issue of why people act the way they do. It can be helpful to consider different styles of communication and interaction commonly displayed by people, including you. Following, are two inventories available on the Internet at no cost to you. They have been selected because they are relatively simple to use, your score is available immediately, and are widely recognized as being valid indicators. * Index of Learning Styles. This survey seems to be geared to the student crowd but is still applicable in a work situation. It is valuable as an introduction to learning styles and how they are linked to information presentation. * The Keirsy Character Sorter.The Keirsey Character Sorter is designed to identify different kinds of personality temperaments. This measure is slightly more complex but again provides a good indication of differing styles of interaction, which may help to explain the rationale behind your behavior and that of your colleagues. Most importantly, however, it is necessary for you to pay attention to the way people act and interact around you. You are your own best judge of character and situations. Dealing with Peers This could be the trickiest relationship to develop and maintain. These are the people with whom you are competing with for promotions, raises, and recognition. They can, however, be your closest allies and confidants. Colleagues don’t have to be best friends, but you do need to be able to work with them in order to effectively perform your job and ultimately to work toward the goals of the organization. Again, do not let your personal feelings, whether they are good or bad, interfere with your ability to succeed in your new job. While you may have an instant rapport with some individuals, there are bound to be awkward moments. Some individuals are reserved in their attitude towards newcomers, offering little support. Perhaps a friend of theirs applied unsuccessfully for your position? Maybe they resent having to train you? Maybe it just takes them a while to warm up? It is difficult to be certain. Some co- workers will accept your ability to do the job from the start. Others will need to see it. Maintaining professionalism, asking for and accepting advice and being friendly is a good strategy for handling these relationships or lack there of. The More Experienced Colleague Another layer of complexity in the peer relationship involves working with more experienced colleagues. You may have been hired for your enthusiasm, stated commitment, and your ability to get things done, however, recognize that things worked in the organization, perhaps even prospered, before you arrived. It is really easy, and not uncommon, for recently hired employees to think they know everything. Assume, in light of not knowing anything to the contrary, your colleagues probably know more about the organization than you. Act humbly and consider the situation an excellent learning opportunity. You may, in fact, have more expertise in some areas. Working with a more experienced colleague may provide the perfect opportunity to use the best of the both of your experiences. Again, consider this is an excellent learning opportunity. Dealing with Supervisors Ultimately it is your boss who can ensure or prevent your success on the job. (Keep in mind everything in the previous section about establishing and maintaining relationships with peers.) Consider your supervisor’s style of interaction. Observe how others treat your boss, and how they are treated in return. Pay attention to those behaviors and people who are rewarded for their contributions and those who are not. Again, it is not so important to focus on your boss’s personality. What really matters is you develop a professional relationship that fosters open communication and focuses on getting the job at hand accomplished. Some basic considerations might be: Consider how he or she prefers to have information presented. Does he or she like to spend some time catching up about the weekend before commencing work or get right to the purpose of your visit? Donï¿½t waste your supervisor’s time. If you have an idea or suggestion to present, make sure you have thought it out thoroughly before hand. A general rule of thumb is if you have some problem that needs to be brought to your supervisor’s attention, provide possible alternatives or solutions to the problem. Chances are your supervisor works hard enough, or at least thinks that way, and is not looking for more work. Supervisors need to know they can depend on you to effectively perform your job. This makes their job easier, or at least lets them focus on the responsibilities and duties that go along with being the boss. Identify the supervisor’s expectations of you. Donï¿½t expect perfection or complete understanding. Address an issue before it spins chaotically out of control. If possible, don’t go above a supervisor’s head. Take responsibility for mistakes. Workplace Politics So you have followed all the rules. In spite of behaving professionally, however, you still seem to be in an awkward, uncomfortable, even unworkable situation with your colleagues, or even more worrisome, your boss! Welcome to the murky gray area of workplace politics and the subtle workings of the corporate culture. It is important to recognize there may be many things going on below the surface in any work situation. Once again your best strategy, initially, is to observe what is going on around you. Workplace politics is often a direct reflection of the style of the manager or supervisor, and staff response to that style. There are always rules to be followed, but these are both written and unwritten. You need to determine which are followed and which are not. One common misconception is that while everyone appears outwardly to be working toward ensuring the success of the organization, there may be people, including yourself, who are also concerned with looking good in order to advance their own careers. This is acceptable and even understandable. Unfortunately, empire building, when people put their own agendas ahead of the organizations, can occur. Petty conflicts may also get in the way of effective working relationships. No two-work situations will be the same. As a caution, recognize that everything is not what it seems. Once again, you can usually stay productive by focusing on the task at hand. Workplace politics does not necessarily need to be viewed as a bad thing. It is just a reality.