Word on the street is, you just landed a new job. Congratulations!
Starting a new job comes with a flood of emotions. You’re probably excited about the endless possibilities and also feeling some butterflies in your stomach about this new chapter. There’s pressure to perform. There are expectations to achieve great things. There are new people to meet. It’s a lot to take in—I get it!
One thing’s for sure: You’ll feel more confident and grounded if you spend some time preparing for this transition. Here are 18 tips for starting out strong—during your first day, your first week and your first few months.
Your First Day
Feeling those first-day jitters? Here are a few things you can take control of that will help you feel calm and have fun on your first day.
1. Don’t try to prove yourself.
You don’t have to crush all your goals or influence all your teammates on your first day. Just be a sponge—be present and soak it all up. Your first day at a new job is exhausting, anyway. You probably won’t produce much, and that’s okay! Be yourself and celebrate this new opportunity.
2. Choose your first-day outfit wisely.
Decide what you’re going to wear the night before you start your job. Your clothing makes a strong first impression, so choose something comfortable, professional and appropriate for your new work environment.
3. Plan a foolproof commute.
Don’t show up late on your first day at a new job. Duh, Ken, basic human skills 101, you might be thinking. But while we all have good intentions to arrive early, sometimes we still fail. Use these tips to be extra careful:
- Drive your commute the morning before your first day so you can get a feel for traffic.
- Scout out your parking location so you know what to expect.
- Set a couple of alarms in case you sleep through the first one.
- Budget 10 extra minutes for your commute . . . just in case.
4. Use a real-life notebook to take notes.
I’m sure you’ll be full of questions on your first day—and you should be! Ask as many questions as you can, but make sure to carry a notebook around to write down your answers. Pen and paper are very obvious ways of communicating, I’m here, and I’m ready to learn. Typing on your phone—even if you’re taking notes—sends the wrong impression.
5. Keep your lunch plans open.
Make yourself available for lunch with coworkers on your first day. You might get an invite! And hey, just because you’re the new kid on the block doesn’t mean you can’t extend the invitation. While I’m all for keeping a lean budget by bringing your own food to work, going out to eat on your first day gives you one less thing to worry about at home, and it could lead to some productive conversations.
6. Take in your surroundings.
Walk around your new workspace and just observe. Note the facilities, the layout, where the break room and fridge are, and where you can find a pick-me-up cup of coffee for your afternoon energy slumps. Also, take some time to settle into your own space. You might want to personalize your desk by bringing a few pictures or books from home.
Your First Week
You might feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose during your first week on the new job. Hang in there! Take it one day at a time, and keep these tips in mind:
7. Get to know your teammates.
Sure, you’re meeting lots of new people. And yes, you’ll forget everyone’s names and have to ask them again. . . Don’t let that stop you from extending a firm handshake, offering a big smile, and being open and warm. Here are a few questions you can keep in your back pocket as you chat with your colleagues:
- How long have you been here?
- What do you wish you had known when you first started?
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
- What are you currently working on?
- What excites you most about the future of our organization?
8. Get to know your leader.
I know what you’re thinking: Well thanks, Sherlock. Everyone knows they should meet their leader the first week on the job. But I bring this up because I want you to be intentional about your early conversations with your leader. You should ask for crystal-clear clarity on what’s expected of you so you can know your role, accept your role, and maximize your role.
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And, without getting too personal, ask your leader questions about their life outside of work! This person is going to have a huge impact on your career, so start building your relationship now.
9. Understand how the company is structured.
Most companies have an official organizational chart (org chart, for short) that explains the operating structure. Ask to see the org chart and have your leader explain how it all works. Who’s in senior leadership? How are big decisions made? What’s the process for growth? Get a sense of how you fit into the big picture.
10. Learn the company culture.
Company culture is the personality, beliefs and values of the organization all rolled into one. Hopefully you did some digging into the culture during the interview process, but now you get to see firsthand how it plays out day to day. And as you step into your new role, you get to create your company culture! You’re not sitting on the bench anymore—you’re in the game.
11. Listen twice as much as you talk.
Take in as much information as possible before you start airing your own opinions. This is especially important if you’re stepping into a leadership position. You can’t start raising a ruckus and disrupting the culture until you’ve proven that you’re worth following. As the old saying goes: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
12. Get your benefits in order.
Sometime during the first week, connect with HR to go over basic benefits questions. Here are a few topics you might want to discuss:
- Health, vision and dental insurance
- Sick leave, paid time off and holidays
- Rolling over an old 401(k)
- Opportunities to get involved (bowling league, anyone?)
Your First Few Months
As you settle in, treat every day as a new learning opportunity. Here are practical tips for maintaining your enthusiasm about your new job:
13. Be an apprentice.
Even as you become more confident in your new role, keep in mind that you’re not an expert. Nobody wants to talk to someone who thinks they know it all. Humility opens the door to meaningful relationships and opportunities to learn. Develop daily habits that will help you maintain an growth mindset.
14. Focus on relationships.
Some things take time—and one of those things is building trust. Be intentional about getting to know the people you work with so you can start forming solid relationships. Take a few minutes out of your day to chat with your teammates and grab lunch or coffee. Sometimes, the strongest bonds form outside of work! You could get a regular happy hour going with your team or start a book club.
If you plan to get a promotion at some point, start looking ahead now to learn from the people who can help you. Here are a few ideas:
- If you’re an entry-level project manager, meet a senior project manager.
- If you’re a midlevel publicist, befriend the director of publicity.
- If you’re a senior developer, get to know the VP of product.
15. Say no to gossip.
I’m pretty passionate about this topic. Here at Ramsey, we value healthy, unified relationships so much that we made one of our core values “no gossip.” Gossip is a poison that will destroy your organization from the inside out. Don’t talk about a problem with someone who cannot fix it. Don’t complain about your team members behind their back. If you have an issue with someone, go directly to that person. Pass negatives up (to your leader) and positives all around.
You can’t control what others say, but you can control what you say. Taking a hard stance against gossip has the double benefit of protecting your work environment and displaying your integrity.
16. Take initiative.
Your primary work focus is to execute the responsibilities you’ve been given. But as you grow more comfortable, look for ways to help that aren’t necessarily within your job description. Be on the alert. Be willing to raise a hand and offer a solution (respectfully) for a problem that you’ve noticed. Seek out what needs to be done and then go do it.
17. Keep an open mindset.
Organizations are made up of people, and people aren’t perfect. As you learn more about the good, the bad and the ugly of your new workplace, keep a balanced perspective and welcome the viewpoints of others—especially people who have been there longer than you have. People will surprise you and disappoint you from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you’re in a bad work environment. It means you’re in a human work environment.
18. Ask for feedback.
Develop an appetite for learning, because learning leads to growth. And one of the best ways to gain new insight is to ask your leader and team members for their feedback. Don’t wait for your six-month or annual review. Make feedback a regular rhythm with those you trust. You can ask questions like . . .
- What’s one area of my job performance that needs more focus?
- From your point of view, what are my greatest strengths?
- How can I add more value to our team?
- Am I meeting and exceeding expectations?
Be coachable. Be hungry. See each day as an opportunity to practice your God-given talent, and go at it with gusto.
You Have What It Takes
Once again, I want to congratulate you on your new job. Remember, the hard part is over. You went through the long and difficult journey of interviewing and getting a job offer. Now all that’s left is to make your best first impression and to be the kind of person who lives up to that impression.
Go get ‘em!