Things to do when you start a new job (and a few things NOT to do)

Things to do when you start a new job

It’s probably been a while since your last “first day on the job.” The first 30, 60, and 90 days are key to establishing a positive perception, building trust, and learning the ropes. Based on my experiences entering new roles and onboarding new employees, here are my recommendations:

Partner with your manager.

  • Meet with your hiring manager right away, and ask him or her to help you clearly outline your first week on the job.
  • Nail down the flow of the office. Ask for introductions to key people, attend meetings as an observer, and grab lunch with coworkers to begin internal networking.
  • If you’re shadowing someone, listen attentively, take notes, and write down questions that you can ask later. You should schedule the follow-up with the person you shadowed.
  • Write a brief summary of your training to take back to your hiring manager.

Although it’s really your manager’s responsibility to provide new hires with a strong on-boarding program, it’s seldom extensive enough. Instead, drive your own process and draw out the elements from your manager.

Exhibit excellent communication skills and work ethic off the bat.

  • Always be on time — or, even better, early. As a hiring manager, it was frustrating to have my new hire late “due to traffic” during the first week.
  • Dress formally. Let people say, “You can dress more casually,” then smile.
  • Be prepared. Always have pen and paper on hand, take notes, and keep those notes organized so you can refer to them later.
  • Be proactive in your communications. Try writing short bullet-point emails to your manager, sharing what your day looked like and what you learned.
  • Send email thank you notes to everyone you meet with, and close by asking them if you can set up another meeting when you learn more.

Maintain flexibility and adaptability.

A brand new boss, tasks, and workplace call for some adjusting. How can you transition smoothly and show that you’re flexible enough to succeed in this new environment?

  • Get your technology working early. Some new hires fumble around getting up to speed on the emails they should be seeing and meeting invites they should be getting. Ask for help.
  • Keep a list of any request you get — big or small — and don’t let anything drop.
  • Offer to help a co-worker, your boss, or a virtual team member.

Interacting with your new coworkers.

How do you join the new social structure? Is it best to hang back and observe office relationships or jump in on the first day? It’s not as scary as it seems.

  • Smile when you walk down the halls.
  • Introduce yourself to people, and ask them what they do. Write it down — whether you met a vice president or an administrative assistant, they are equally important to your success.
  • Structure your own “listening tour,” and call it that when you ask for meetings.
  1. When you send meeting invites, say something like, “I’m new to the team, and I’m conducting a ‘listening tour’ to learn in a quick and efficient way. I am eager to learn about your background, your role here, and how we can work together.”
  2. Prepare questions in advance. Ask for an hour, but if they can only give you 30 minutes, adjust your questions and expectations.
  3. Bring a pen and paper (computers prevent human interaction) and take lots of notes. Just listen — it’s not time to debate something or share your knowledge on any topic.
  4. Ask what materials you should be reading or which websites you should visit.
  5. Send a thank you note, summarizing what you learned from your meeting.
  6. Summarize all of your notes and send a report to your boss, inviting him or her to share it as appropriate.

What not to do during your first day, week, and month.

At your old job, you may have been allowed to make personal phone calls, listen to music through your headphones, and relax on punctuality. That was then, this is now.

  • Don’t be late.
  • Don’t use your computer for personal business.
  • Don’t wear a headset — It signals that you don’t want to engage with people.
  • Don’t close your door (if you have one), unless you are in a meeting.
  • Try not to be the first to leave.
  • Don’t eat lunch alone. Instead, invite people to lunch and get to know them.
  • Don’t do too many “drive-bys” of people’s offices to ask them questions — they’re busy too!

You all know the phrase “perception is reality,” and a great manager of mine taught me that a negative perception has a long “tail.” In other words, it takes longer to unwind a negative perception than it does to build a positive one. So start your new job with your best foot forward.

And celebrate your new job, too! Congratulations!


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