After months of job hunting, you finally landed your dream job! Congratulations! Now just kick back, relax, and collect that sweet paycheck. Kidding, of course, now the hard part begins! There is so much to learn at your new company. There is the actual job itself and HR procedures but also, more importantly, there are aspects of the job no one is going to sit down and teach you. Navigating the early days of your new company and its politics are keys to setting yourself up for long term success in your home away from home for, potentially, decades of your life.
Whether you have the ambition to take over the company or you just want to clock in and out with as little trouble as possible you are going to want to work at a place that you like. It’s just like high school! If you have higher ambitions then this is where your long journey really begins. There are hundreds of key actions to take during your first week or month but that would be a very long list so I am going to boil it down to the 4 key actions you need to take in order to ensure you get off on the right foot. A key factor to remember with these four is there are no special attributes needed to utilize these skills. In fact, the list was made by someone who is more introverted.
1- Say Hello With Names
As you start your new position at the company you will undoubtedly be introduced to dozens of new people in rapid-fire succession. There is no real trick that I have been able to find that makes this info dump able to be digested. The good news is this means most other people can’t do this either. What is important is to go back to as many of these people as possible and reintroduce yourself. The great news is this is the lowest level of difficulty of social interactions. No one is mean to people one their first day! Well if they are these are people you should be grateful they show this nasty side of them now and not down the road and avoid these people as much as you are able to.
As you do these reintroductions, you should be focusing on names. When they say their name, repeat it back, and use it as your goodbye for the interaction. In my experience, anything more you can come across is a little strange. This sets up the foundation of actually learning their name and also is a great first impression for you. As you walk around the following days, smile and say hi to everyone you can and throw in names when possible. Just don’t overdo it and be the weird person staring at everyone just saying people’s names over and over again. Or do if that is your goal and more power to you.
Remember you don’t need to hit everything out of the park in the first week. You just need to develop a baseline interaction with everyone. After that, you can start to build more meaningful relationships in time. Also, don’t get too discouraged if this takes some time, so company cultures can be harder to join their ‘tribe’. This can be due to high turnover or it is a small company but whatever the reason just have patience it will all work out.
2- Ask Questions
This is another low effort way to get to know your new coworkers. It is also very introvert-friendly! This is more than asking for work help which you should absolutely do a lot but we will cover that in more detail in the next point. This one is more about asking everyone questions about everything. It doesn’t matter as long as you are interacting with a new person. Still the more knowledge you can gain in the first week the better you will be able to stand out after just one week.
Where is the mailroom, where are good local places to eat, what is your job here, where are the restrooms? Literally anything, just an excuse to talk. Now others may recommend clever opening topics or lines but I don’t have them and I can be shy around new people. This base level small talk can better acclimate you to the company as well as get to know your coworkers. Remember to use names! What I can say is this is a low effort high return social tactic that even the shyest can manage to pull off with little anxiety.
3- Take Notes
This is one I have personally struggled with even though I am able to see the difference. When people are training you or giving you advice about your new job. Take notes; more importantly, take notes in front of the person giving you information! My problem is I have a pretty good memory, or at least I believe I do, so I can retain a lot without having to write it down. However, it can come across as though you are not taking what the person says seriously and wasting their time. Being an active listener is a great skill that everyone should be working on and this is an easy way to improve it.
The act of writing it down shows your trainer or helpful coworker you value their input. Which you should be doing anyway but, also for making great first impressions as you want people to think you value their experience. You want this so they will give you more information! Everyone hates giving information to a know-it-all or someone who doesn’t seem to value their knowledge. When others ask them how you, the new person, are doing they will be more likely to give positive feedback. This leads to building rapport with people you may have not even met yet! That is social efficiency at its finest.
The common theme as you see to emerge with these first three points is getting lots of points of contact with people early on. These points of interaction are just any social interaction you have with a coworker or boss. The more positive ones you have the closer you come to laying a positive foundation for your time with this new company! It is much harder to get to know the new guy that has his headphones in and never interacts with anyone.
4- Observe Social Dynamics
This is the more complex action and easily the one glossed over the most. You are being thrown into a company that has potentially years of interactions, conflict, and even romance involving the people around you. It is important to keep an eye out for the social structure and not just the corporate structure. This requires no special skill other than critically listening to people and observing basic body language.
Offices, any work really, are just adult high school. There are clichés, the popular, the nerds, jocks, etc. You can ignore this fact or deal with it but the fact will be there regardless of your action or inaction. Choosing who the playmakers are and who the dead weights are may not immediately be clear. Finding this out as soon as possible is extremely important to stand out in your first week. This can be seen through interactions, who is publicly praised, and who does seem to get the best opportunities.
Besides setting yourself up to align with the best opportunities in the workplace you need to protect yourself. God forbid you complain about someone early on and the person you complained to is friends with this person which I have personally witnessed and to say it was difficult to watch is an understatement! You could have potentially hurt two relationships in the first week with one offhand remark. First, find the circles and only then can you begin to work with them.
Using these tips can help anyone set their new career off on the right foot. Remember to be friendly, open, and observant. Doing this will put you on the fast track to long term, positive workplace connections. Best of luck to you on your new journey!