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The first day: How to effectively start a new job

By Kate Southam

Leave your baggage behind. Starting a new job is an opportunity for reinvention. People don’t know you. Creating a positive perception is easier than changing a negative one. Personal brand = reputation. What words do you want people to use to describe you? Align your actions to that goal.  Be on time, have a positive attitude, get involved and even dress for the job you want next without overdoing it. Your employer will be making a judgement about your potential from day one.

Expect a bit of job drift

Don’t freak out if the job isn’t exactly as sold. Job candidates are not the only ones talking themselves up at an interview; employers also put a positive spin on things.

Use your Honeymoon wisely

The “newbie” should get a few free kicks. Be polite but not passive. Often newbies are reluctant to call a manager on an undelivered promise. Don’t make this mistake. If you were promised training/equipment, follow up. Use your nice voice but don’t set yourself up for failure because you lack the knowledge or tools to do your job. Pay attention in the “on boarding” sessions and in your first few weeks make notes about even the most rudimentary things, ask question and for help if you need it. No one should mind you asking questions but asking the same question over and over is irritating. Also, write down people’s names and what they do as you acquire this knowledge. Remembering someone makes that person feel important – and also remember you.

Manage your manager

We have all heard the term “managing up”, well, while some people take that too far we all need to align to our boss. A happy boss makes for a far happier work life. Pay attention to your manager’s routine to learn their stresses, establish whether he/she is a “morning” person (and thus the best time to approach her/him about something) and their communication style. Pay attention to your manger’s actions and body language, not just what he/she says. Clarify any instruction or expectation that is unclear to you. Your performance reflects on your manager’s standing in the workplace because they hired you. A wrong hire costs time, money and reputation.  

Good house keeping

Don’t lose the job description. If you don’t have a written job description, get one. If your boss dithers around then within the first month draft your own job description and email it to the boss or present it. This is an important document that you can use when preparing for performance review, request for job redesign or whatever. Ditto, keep emails of praise from your manager, co workers, clients or others. If things start to go awry, keep notes from the get go – if things improve, great, if they don’t, you have a record. Sorry, I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for your new role but many people wait until it is too late to create needed documentation.

Don’t rush to make friends

Be slow to judge. That seemingly rude person could just be shy while that sweet, helpful person could be the office toxic looking for a new recruit. Avoid cliques, sharing confidences, commenting on co-workers or adopting a lunch group when you’re new. Take your time getting to know people. If there are after hours drinks, go along and try to get to make connections outside your immediate team. Lots of people are able to help you do your job - the receptionist, IT help desk, boss’ PA to name a few.  

Finding the right performance balance  

It is easy to get frustrated by your dependence on others in a new job so you need to be patient with yourself. Research shows it can take months for an organisation to get a return on its investment in a new hire but this will vary from job to job. Some jobs might need you up and performing within days. You do need to perform and as soon as you can. However, it is better to take a bit of time and make a few little mistakes along the way than rush in and make huge mistakes. The new norm for probation periods is six months but that is way too long to prove you were the right choice for the job. In the first weeks, listen more than speak.

Honour the past

If you are a manager then you might well have been hired to bring in new ideas and set a fresh direction and that should re-energise your team. However, find out what has worked and what hasn’t and involve your new team in the reasons behind any change and involve them in planning for, change. You are setting yourself up to fail if you start to make changes without consultation or support from those around you. A boss sets the strategy but everyone else must then execute that strategy. You don’t want saboteurs and naysayers around you.

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