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 Guaranteeing a Good Start to Your New Job

By Joe Stein

There are no shortage of articles floating around the management journals about what a company can/should do to make a new hire’s initial experience a positive one. This is, of course, important, but they often fail to acknowledge the person who has as much (if not more) responsibility for making sure there is a good start in a new position. I’m referring to you, the new hire.
If you thought that starting your new job ended the need for you to “sell” yourself, then you are sorely mistaken. We are, of course, always having to prove ourselves, but this is particularly true in the first month or two in the position. Your new employer is observing and evaluating you and your response to training and the job. There are many simple things you can do to make sure that you are positively noticed. Below is just a small sample list:
• Arrive On-Time: This is important not just for your first day, but for your entire training period. The company is paying you during your training for semi-productive time and expects you to maximize the learning experience, which can’t be done if you are late. You may also have a Trainer (who did come in on-time) waiting for you so everyone can start the day. You are placing yourself in a dire situation for termination, as most employers will not let a new hire be late very often.
• Come Prepared: On your first day, you will most likely have to fill out lots of paperwork. Even though I am sure you will be offered one, be prepared and bring your own pen. HR will also need to see your ID for your I-9 document. Be sure to bring what is needed to complete the form, as HR has to have it completed within three business days and making it inefficient to “chase” after you to complete.
• Take Notes: This is one of my pet peeves. Please bring (along with your pen) a notebook in order to take notes and be sure to ask questions when you don’t understand something. I don’t think I have ever heard a more common frustration amongst trainers than the person did not take notes (or did not have good detailed notes). This makes it very hard for the Trainer to check if you understand what is being taught. It also does not give you an important reference tool to use when you are off on your own doing the job.
• Dive Into It: This is mainly for the exempt (not eligible for OT) workers, since your hours are not being tracked. Now you will want to avoid new hire burnout, which is when a new hire (in an attempt to make a good first impression) works endlessly. You do, however, want to make sure you are keeping up with the training. Try to go over your notes each evening to make sure you understand what is being taught each day.
• Take Advantage of Social Time: If you joined a company where you don’t know anyone, it is tempting to just go off on your own all the time during lunch or break (or if you know someone, only hanging out with that person). Your relationship with co-workers will be critical for your success, so consider trying to engage the group during non-work times. If there is an off-hour social event (such as a “Happy Hour”) consider attending. You can always dial it back once you have established yourself.
• Early Small Victories: First impressions are so important to how people will perceive you over time. Because of this, it is important that you attempt to collect some small victories in order to build up your reputation. These victories can be as simple as volunteering for weekend overtime in order for a big project to get done.
• Ask for Feedback: You would hope that regular feedback would be part of your orientation, but it is often not. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask your Trainer and Hiring Manager for specific feedback regarding how you are doing both positively (so you can keep doing it!) and what you need to improve. Be sure to know what your goals are, so that you can motivate yourself to meet and exceed them each week.
When you accept a new position, it is certainly cause to celebrate. It is the culmination of lots of work that you have done during your job search. There is no time, however, to rest on your laurels, as getting off to a good start in your new role is critical to long-term success. Luckily, the keys to this great first impression can be pretty easy for most to get done fairly effortlessly.