When I was younger, every year on the night before the first day of school, I freaked out. I was a good student, had straight-As most of my school career, but without fail, I would toss and turn until the wee hours of the morning stressing about the school year ahead. In truth, it wasn’t really the whole school year so much as the first day back that I hated. The first day sets the tone for the entire year.
Now that I’m out of school and moving through my career, my first days are an even bigger deal. Luckily, they freak me out less. On the few nights I’ve had before a first day on the job, I don’t toss and turn thinking about the next 24 hours. I’ve learned that in a new job, it’s really the first few months that matter more.
At some point, each of us is going to start a new job, whether you’re fresh out of school or doing a bit of job hopping to work your way up the ladder. Here are some tips I’ve learned on how to excel in the first few months at a new job, make the best first impression, and set yourself up for a prosperous career with your new employer.
Be Enthusiastic About Everything
I’m not saying you should start your new job by becoming your boss’s yes-man, but demonstrating a positive attitude and a willingness to learn new things can really set you up for success. Obviously, if you’re a recent grad or starting from the bottom this is crucial, but even if you’re mid-career, showing enthusiasm for your new responsibilities and company demonstrates that you’re adaptable, driven, team-oriented and excited to be in your new role. Don’t be so excited that you end up getting other people’s work dumped on you, but a healthy eagerness for your job will make a great first impression on your boss and show that you’re excited to be in your industry.
Let Your Coworkers Get to Know You
One of the biggest challenges in any job can often be interpersonal relationships. Each office has it’s own politics and culture, and adapting to these can be difficult. In fact, it can be very tempting to go to extremes—by either diving in fully or keeping yourself removed. The best thing for your career advancement, though, is to try to straddle the line. When you start a new job, make a visible effort to adopt the company culture and let your coworkers get to know you. It is possible to get personal without being unprofessional, and showing that you can adapt to the new office culture show’s you’re flexible and eager to get involved. Diplomacy is key: participate in the office, but make sure not to throw in your lot with one faction—at least, until you’ve figured out how the politics can impact your career trajectory.
If you want to make a great first impression, starting your job by bringing some new ideas is a good way to go. You were hired because your manager thought you could help move the company forward in some way—so do that. Coming in with ideas right away instead of waiting to “get your head around things” shows that you’re proactive, eager, and innovative—even if the ideas don’t work out. Just one thing to be wary of—make sure you’re not forceful about the ideas, or come off like you’re trying to shake things up when it’s not your place. You don’t want to be the new girl who seems to be trying to do things the way your old company did them.
I really believe that asking questions is one of the keys to a great life. It can gain you new friends, new jobs, new opportunities, or new love. In conversation, asking questions shows that you’re interested and engaged. In an interview, it shows you’ve done your research and are capable of critical thinking. And in a new job, asking questions shows you want to improve, you can handle feedback, and you’re trying to be the best you can be. Ask questions about processes, your responsibilities and ask for constructive feedback on how you’re doing. Don’t be a pest, always with a question on the tip of your tongue, but when learning new skills, demonstrate that you’re trying for a thorough grasp.
Know Who You Want to Be
Every new school, new town, or new job gives us the opportunity to start over. We get to decide who we want to be now and be it. I was very shy as a teenager, and even after I grew up a bit, it was difficult to break out of that role with people I knew. When I graduated college, I started waitressing and realized that no one at the restaurant knew me—I didn’t have to be the shy girl anymore. So I wasn’t. I made friends, I joked, I worked hard but didn’t take myself too seriously. I grew a lot in those months and came out a different, more self-aware person. So before you get to your new job, figure out who you want to be. If you’re comfortable with the role you had in your last job, keep it up. But if you want to be more outgoing, or be known as the hardest worker on the team, or even if you want to be the laser-focused, no-time-for-chit-chat person, well now is your chance to do it. I’m not saying change who you are fundamentally—not at all. I’m just saying new environments give us the opportunity to explore new areas of ourselves and maybe learn something about who we’ve become since our last role was cast.
Starting a new job is a very stressful and exciting experience, but if you’re intentional about it and set goals, it can be the best move you’ve ever made. What are some new job tips or experiences (good or bad) that have taught you something?