Congratulations on your new job! If you’re excited, that’s good. You want to show up full of energy and excitement.
If you’re nervous, that’s understandable. While you probably met some of your colleagues, there will be many new faces and names to learn. You might also be confused about what to expect, scared at the prospect of starting something new, or overwhelmed at figuring out how to be productive from day one. Here are 10 steps to take when starting a new job to ensure you’re productive and successful as quickly as possible:
Start before you start.
Even if you haven’t officially started, you can lay the groundwork for a smooth start before your first day. Contact your manager and see if s/he has any recommendations for how to prepare. Ask for reading material on the company and its products – e.g., annual reports, recent town hall memos, company newsletters. There might be paperwork you can fill out now (e.g., benefits forms, tax forms) to save time on your first day. Most importantly, confirm exactly where and when you should report on your first day. At some companies, new hires start in an orientation, while at others, you go directly to the group that hired you – don’t assume; ask!
Complete any onboarding logistics.
If you report to an HR orientation, you will probably complete your onboarding logistics right then. But if you report first to your manager, you may have to organize your own set-up. This includes HR paperwork (e.g., benefits enrollment, tax forms, proof of work authorization, compliance policy), phone and computer set-up, access to the network, and knowing the key company support functions – IT help desk, HR hotline, company intranet. Ideally the company has an orderly and comprehensive onboarding plan in place, but make a checklist for yourself just in case.
Take a physical tour.
In addition to official paperwork, you also want to attend to your creature comforts so that you can be refreshed throughout the day. Get a tour of the environment and note the location of bathrooms, coffee and water, office supply room, and privacy rooms or conference space where you can steal away for a few moments of quiet time, if you’re otherwise in an open space. Ask for lunch recommendations if you’re not familiar with the neighborhood.
Take an organizational tour.
From your orientation guide or your manager or a colleague, also get a tour of the organizational chart. Know where the major departments are, such as areas you will likely work with and key support functions such as IT, finance and HR. You may not need these groups for a few weeks or months, but by then, you’re not a newbie and people will assume you know where everything is. You’ll be glad you asked for this information early, while you’re still in the honeymoon phase and everyone is happy to answer the basic questions.
Take your manager’s lead.
Whatever plans you have for your first day, follow your manager’s lead. S/he might budget the whole day for you to do paperwork and settle in, and s/he might not have any work assignments for you. Always offer to get started, but don’t push it because you don’t yet know enough about your manager or this workplace to second-guess anyone’s judgment. Just go along enthusiastically.
Confirm how your manager would like to communicate.
One question you should ask very early on is how your manager likes to communicate – e.g., drop by the office, send an email, instant-message, call, etc. Do not wait for the manager to tell you, and do not assume s/he communicates like other managers you’ve had before. I once hired an entry-level marketing assistant who was assigned to report directly into a senior executive. This executive expected his directs to “get in his face” (his words) with questions or concerns, or else he was going to go about his very busy day. This marketing assistant thought that popping by unannounced would be perceived as disrespectful to his calendar. A few weeks into the arrangement, he wondered why he never saw his new hire, she felt ignored, and I (in HR) had to broker a new understanding. They worked very well together once open communication was restored, but don’t wait for someone else to intercede!
Check in with your manager frequently.
Until your manager specifies another schedule for standing meetings (if s/he schedules regular meetings), take it upon yourself to check in. Check in after each work assignment is completed, so you can get immediate feedback to make any necessary adjustments for future tasks. Check in generally at least weekly to give your manager the opportunity to course-correct any issues early. This shows your manager that you are open and willing to improve.
Ask your manager for introductions.
You should also check in with your manager to get to know the company. If you didn’t have a chance to meet before you started (see point 1), ask for company reading material now. Ask for organizational charts of groups you should know – ones you’ll be working with or the executive team overall. Ask for introductions to people in the other departments who you might need but will not see regularly. Make sure that you couch these requests in terms of what will help you do a better job for your group – and not make it seem like you already have eyes on transferring elsewhere.
Ask your manager for more (or less) work.
Another critical area to confirm with your manager is the pace of your work. S/he will not know how quickly you pick things up or the full extent of your skills and knowledge. S/he may give you assignments that are too easy, or conversely, s/he may give you too much work or too tight a deadline. This is where frequent check-ins, after each work assignment, are very helpful. You can get close to real-time feedback when you check in more frequently. This allows your manager to gauge how quickly and effectively you work and adjust the pace accordingly, or give you additional training or other support.
Take five with your group.
In addition to your manager, you also want to gel with your group. If you can have lunch with your new colleagues, that’s a great way to get to know people in a relaxed environment. At the very least, spend a few minutes each day getting to know everyone. Your peers will help get you assimilated. They can give you some institutional history. They may offer insight into your manager or others in senior management. Just make sure you don’t devolve into gossip – stay positive about the company and your manager at all times.
Your first 30-90 days on the job should focus exclusively on getting up to speed on the work, workplace and your colleagues. Once you feel more comfortable, don’t forget to tend to your external network. Update your LinkedIn profile for your new role. Reach out to contacts who you relied on for your job search to let them know about your new position. Join a professional association relating to your new role. You career management is about succeeding in your current company but also your industry at large.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is the cofounder of SixFigureStart, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters.
Author believes that a more precise understanding of what exactly gives someone good judgment may make it possible for people to learn and improve on it. He interviewed CEOs at a range of companies, along with leaders in various professions. As a result, he has identified six key elements that collectively constitute good judgment: learning, trust, experience, detachment, options, and delivery.
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