A new job is always traumatic, whether just out of college, graduate school or a veteran of the working world. As traumatic as it may for the new employee, this is a period when opinions and judgements are made in the workplace. These judgments are made based on observations and the comments of others by co-workers, the immediate supervisor, the supervisor’s peers and those in senior management above the supervisor. What the new employee does – or does not do – during the first thirty days can have a huge impact on all aspects of the job well beyond that short period of time.
When to Arrive at Work.
Arrive the first day at the time the supervisor or Human Resources communicate officially. After the first day, arrive earlier than you are expected. Use the time to check e-mail and get organized for the day.
What to do at Work.
Do everything the supervisor expects (whether they are “to do’s” or performance objectives). If any opportunities arise to participate in a task force, special study or volunteer to assist at a work-related event, do it. The military maxim “never volunteer” does not apply in the work place. Make sure those tasks assigned are done 100%, by no later than the date assigned and that the supervisor thinks you did them effortlessly – even if you had to stay up all night or work all weekend to complete them.
If coworkers go to lunch in a cafeteria, join them. Conversation there will be more enlightening about work and the company than any meeting or conference. If coworkers go out to eat together, join them if money is not a concern. If money is a consideration, join them at least once per week. It is OK to bring lunch, just do not eat it by yourself at your desk. East with those who are at your level in the workplace or above (I know this sounds awful and snobbish but follow it anyway).
Many articles have been written about what to work – including several by this author. Dress professionally. Look to those of the same gender one or two management levels above you. Do not dress to fit in with your peers. See who is admired and viewed as being on the fast track. Dress similarly but not identically to them.
Everyone is going to what to know everything about your personal life: your spouse, kids, boy or girl friend, hobbies, college, etc. The less you tell about yourself the better. You have a clean slate. Use that clean slate to build a great story about you as a business professional on the way up.
Whether assigned a desk on the floor, a cubicle or an office, the work space speaks volumes about the worker. Keep it clear of clutter, neat and professional. Nothing cute. Nothing that evokes bad habits or wilder days in the past. Keep that for home. The office should tell everyone that you are efficient, serious and at the office to work.
If the office has a fitness center, use it. Similar to the cafeteria, there is some great networking about the office in the fitness center. Ideally you want to go before working hours or after working hours – and not during lunch. People of all levels are friendlier and let their guards down while working out and in the locker room.
Find out what the most popular and powerful professional organizations are for your function at your company. Ideally the organization will not be overpopulated with people from your company. The goal is to expand professionally beyond your company but within your geographic area.
Out of Hours Activities.
Out of hours activities range from softball to bowling to drinking at a local watering hole. Similar to attire, see what those one to two levels of management up get involved in. Also see what those identified as “on the fast track” do after hours. In all likelihood these people work later at the office rather than engage in any of these above noted after hours activities. Unlike lunch and the fitness center, these activities are usually of limited value in the work place.
Even in the unlikely event that you are allowed vacation days during the first thirty days, do not take them. No matter what. Do not take any sick days either. Become a fixture at the office from day one.
The End of the Work Day.
Observe when others leave. Consider their responsibilities and management levels. No matter what, stay a little later than your peers. First of all, your supervisor may need something. Everyone else will be gone and she will know she can count on you. Secondly, there is a tendency of more senior business leaders to observe who leaves when. Staying later than others puts your face in the category of those who “are committed”. Make sure they quickly tie that face with a name. Do not pull all nighters. If you need to pull all nighters just to get on board with a new job, your supervisor will question what you will need to do when a real crisis hits and extra hours a required to deliver the big project.
Outside of the office, read everything you can find about: the company, the leadership, the market, the competition, the products and anything else in professional journals to keep you at least one step ahead of your peers in the office. You will quickly be viewed as an indispensable expert.
New jobs are a challenge to anyone whether young or older, experienced or freshly minted MBA. What one does in the new office environment during the first thirty days sets the tone for the entire time in that office and with that company. While there is no easy road to success, following these points will go a long way to creating the image that supervisors and senior executives look for to identify those on the “fast track” to promotion, more responsibility and increased compensation.
George F. Franks III