You finally landed that job you were praying you would get, and Monday is here and it’s your first day. Here are some tips to help you ‘settle in’ those new digs with confidence and a positive attitude, along with some caution.
1) Try to arrive at work at least 10 or 15 minutes before the normal working hours. This not only gives you time to settle in, turn your computer on, or listen to voice mail messages. It also gives you a relaxed frame of mind for friendly good mornings instead of rushing in at the last minute or a few minutes late and get a reputation for ‘always being late’. Employees who arrive before the workday begins are usually the ones who get good reviews and/or promotions. Likewise advice on leaving at the end of the day. Plan on staying 15 minutes or so after work if possible; never leave early – somone always loves to make an issue about that and the reputation will stick; the people who usually get ahead in a workplace arrive a little earlier and leave a little later.
2) Start the new job with a To Do List. This List itemizes tasks that may have been sent to you via email, voicemail or verbally. Jot it down so it is not forgotten and when you have a few minutes, prioritize the List by importance. If you don’t get to it all that day, start the next day’s List with the undone items so they can have first attention. Keep a file folder with the checked-off ‘Done’ items, date they were completed, with any information that may needed in the future for follow-up. Not only do ‘To Do’ Lists give you a reputation for getting things done, they also give you a feeling of accomplishment as you go over the list and view the things you did that day. On a hectic and busy day, those accomplishments will help neutralize the feeling that you ‘got nothing done today’.
3) Go slow getting to know your new co-workers. In your ‘being new’ nervousness, you may reveal more about yourself than you really want to. You may be telling your life history to the office gossiper. If you are asked to lunch with the group, be neutral to everyone, polite and friendly. The work environment is revealed at lunchtime, and you will hear inside scoops of what is going on with work, projects and people. Don’t make judgments or remarks. Wait until you get to know the people and the issues and even then, don’t make judgments or remarks. And don’t repeat what you hear at lunch or in the halls to your cubicle co-workers. Gossip spreads through offices faster than forest fires. And your name will be attached to it.
4) Go to lunch at your appointed lunch time and take the one-half hour or whatever the rule is. Some companies allot 45 minutes or one hour for lunch. Long-time employees may stretch their lunch times from the one-half hour lunch to a 45 minute or one hour lunch. That’s their choice, but as a new employee, you don’t want to get a reputation that you ‘take long lunches’. It’s a title that you may earn quickly and it will stick with you. Your supervisor will know about it sooner than you think. Co-workers usually stagger lunch times so that someone is always in the office, and you will get off on the wrong foot in your office if someone is waiting for you to come back from lunch and you’re late and taking time away from their own lunch.
5) Start off your new job with a team attitude. There are different ways to help someone out even if it is picking up their mail or copy order at office services. Your helpfulness will reflect back from your co-workers who will do the same for you. This becomes invaluable on a really busy day when you need an extra set of hands; kindness goes a long way and people react positively to it. When someone turns their back on being a team player with the rest of the group, the group usually reacts in the same manner.
6) If your office surroundings are efficient-situated…..which usually means a phone, PC, desk, and chair in a cubicle with only enough room to turn around in. You will hear others’ conversations on the phone and normal business interchanges during the day. Most office workers tune out these distractions, but it’s hard to tune out loud or noisy social gatherings or constant social talking on the phones and/or laughing. A certain amount of sociability is expected in the office, but if you constantly stop at someone’s station and gab or allow someone to come to yours and do the same, someone is going to complain about the ‘noise’. And if you’re new, you don’t want to start off with that image. If someone lingers, you might just say, that you need to get something done and you’ll ‘see them later’. Don’t socialize more than you have to at work. You’re there to do a job, not listen to someone’s problems or the great time they had at a party last night. Or to talk on the phone with personal calls or send zany emails. Companies monitor both calls and PCs, so be careful what you say and write.
7) Every office has a Don Juan Casanova or Flirty Feline who will try to engage you somehow. They can’t help it – it’s in their genes. Be friendly, but keep your distance. The more time you give them, the more time they will devote to hanging around you. Be busy, and they will finally move on to the next new person. Don’t be flattered or taken in; you are one of many.
8) Keep wearing to work the kind of clothes you wore on the interview. Now that you have the job, you don’t want to slip out of your good shoes and wear athletic shoes and sweats to the office. Most offices have dress codes or ‘business attire’ or ‘business casual’ which is a suit or pants, shirt and tie for men and suits, dresses, or pants outfits for women. Leave the décolletage necklines home as well as stretch pants that reveal all. Jeans may be allowed on ‘Casual Day’ but don’t wear them on any other day. The saying goes “Dress for the job you want to have” and that’s pretty good advice. Good grooming and neat appearance go a long way in the office. You never know who is going to stop in the office that day or what meeting your boss may ask you to attend in his or her place.
9) Never discuss with your co-workers how much money you make or what your bonus was or the percentage of your merit raise. Salary levels are the same for most positions, but other factors may reflect different salaries for you and the person next to you who do the same kind of work. That person may have more advanced education or a degree that requires a specialty in their work or they may have been given a larger starting salary than you if they had more experience. Sometimes an employee is not given extra money for the same work you both do, but may have been given an extra week vacation as a negotiation factor in employing them for less pay than what they were getting. There are many variables in salaries and it’s only going to cause stress if workers compare salaries. Having worked on compensation issues and raises myself, I could not believe hard workers getting a lower merit raise than someone who did not work as hard getting a higher one. My boss always told me to just kick the desk when I saw glitches like that – it was beyond our control. I did kick the desk a lot. Avoid this upset — don’t ask and don’t tell.
10) As a new employee, you will need to find out about the company your work for in a short amount of time. Read the annual report and study the organizational charts. Find out where people sit so you aren’t wandering around the building, getting flustered and nervous. Find out what the pecking order is so you don’t mistake a Chief Executive Officer for a co-worker. A new worker once turned unknowingly to a vice-president and complained that ‘this place is a nuthouse’. It became a joke between them, but not all V-Ps have sense of humors like this one did. Tread lightly until you know the waters. Put your best foot forward, as they say, and you will be an asset to the company you work for – and be rewarded as such.
Remember – statistics show that it can take up to six months before you feel knowledgeable about what you are doing. Good luck!
©Marie Coppola March 2014