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Your first week on the job: What to do (and not do)

10 Jul

As the first day in a new job nudges ever nearer, nerves and anticipation can settle in for even the most seasoned professional. Each new work environment brings with it new social structures to navigate, rules to follow and challenges to overcome. At the same time, a new job also offers amazing opportunities, potential to grow and learn and hopefully a whole set of new friends. What’s more, it offers an insight into the future of your career. One third of employees know whether they’ll stay with their company long-term within their first week at work, according to research by Ultimate Software. This makes the first five days crucial in terms of fitting in and figuring out everything you can about your new workplace.

If you’re about to start a new job – or simply want to be prepared for when you do – the following tips should help you to thrive in your new position.

Introduce yourself to everyone you possibly can

You’ll likely have some form of induction and onboarding process that will see you introduced to key members of your team and business. Where you can, go beyond the basic “Hello, nice to meet you” conversations and find out more about where people sit in the context of your role, the team and wider business. These connections are vital to not only help you become part of the social fabric of the office, but also down the track when you may need to draw upon the knowledge and experience of these people. Just because someone might not be connected to your role within the first few weeks, doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable knowledge to share with you. It might feel a little awkward at first, but make a habit of proactively asking people their names and what they do when you come into contact with them. It can be as simple as saying, “Hello, I’m [your name] and I’ve just started as [your new position]. What do you do here?”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

One of the biggest mistakes new recruits make is being too afraid to ask questions in their first few weeks of work. While it can be overwhelming absorbing new information and you might want to appear like you have everything under control, your manager and peers will expect you to have questions and things you don’t understand in this initial period. Think of this time as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. No one expects you to know everything, and if there are things you haven’t quite yet mastered, you won’t be judged for asking how to do them. Master the power of saying “I’m new – can you please explain...” and you’ll quickly progress your knowledge and training. It is better to put your hand up and ask questions in week one than it is to pretend you know what you’re doing, only to have to ask the same question several months down the track. Take advantage of your newness and soak up all the fresh knowledge while you can!

Set expectations

Your employer will have expectations of you in your new role, and similarly you will have expectations of your work and your potential career progression. The first week in a new workplace is a crucial time in ensuring these align. Make sure you have a sit-down meeting with your manager within the first couple of weeks to establish what your company thinks your success will look like after a month, six months and a year in your role. This framework doesn’t need to be rigid, but it’s a good idea to be clear on what’s expected of you in terms of your roles and responsibilities, not to mention career development. Other areas such as office hours, breaks, communication style and how you will work with your manager and other team members should all be established during this time.

Absorb the company culture

Observation is key during this first week, especially when it comes to assimilating into your new work environment. Pay close attention to social structures within the office – are there social groups you can get involved in? Do people eat lunch together? Is it acceptable to take personal calls during office hours? Things such as dress code and office hours can vary from official company documentation to the day-to-day reality, so take note of this and act accordingly. If your new workplace puts on social functions after work, make the effort to attend in order to show your willingness to fit into the team.

Provide a status report

Your first week will likely be a whirlwind of introductions, training and simply observing, and it can be easy to forget to touch base with your manager if you are spending most of your time doing onboarding throughout the business. However, it’s important to touch base with your manager at the end of the week to provide an update on what you have learnt and done during this time. This is a good opportunity to get feedback on how they think your first week has been, and also discuss what you can expect from the following weeks. This informal catch-up is a good routine to get into early on and shows your commitment and organisational skills.

No matter how much you prepare for your first week in a new position, there will always be nerves and jitters that crop up. Follow the above steps to ensure things go as smoothly as possible and you’ll feel like a seasoned professional in no time.

If you’re looking for your first job, take a look at our Apprenticeship programmes here.
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