Monday, May 4, 2009

Starting a New Job: 5 Quick Tips

With all the focus on the people who can’t find a job, it is easy to neglect the people who are starting a new job — more than a million this week in the United States. With jobs being more scarce than usual, it’s easy to be extra nervous about a new job, but you shouldn’t be, and here’s why: your new employer likely picked you out of a large pool of qualified candidates as the one most likely to do the job well. If you are about to start a new job, these ideas may help you get started:

  1. Don’t try to do everything on the first day. You might be anxious to show how productive you can be, but at the outset you have to focus first on access. This could include getting an ID card, keys, telephone, network accounts, and a parking sticker. The company may need your attention for several hours to get you signed up for health coverage or other employee benefits. Another focus on the first day is places — depending on the job, you may need to know where to find your boss, coat, desk, supplies, and conference rooms. In any new building you need to locate the rest rooms and exits, including emergency exits. It’s obvious enough that you can’t expect to do any work at all if pedestrian details such as these aren’t taken care of, but what may not be obvious is how much of your first day or week could be taken up with just getting in the door. Be patient.
  2. Be friendly when you meet people. At a new job, you’re likely to be introduced to far more people than you can remember. It is easier for them to remember you than for you to remember them, so smile and focus more on making a good impression than on remembering everyone’s story. Later, go back and reintroduce yourself to people at a more comfortable pace, perhaps one person per day.
  3. Don’t expect your new company to be the same as your old company. If you got laid off at your last job, look at it this way: a company that is hiring must be doing something better. Expect to learn the company’s way of doing things.
  4. Adjust your style. You probably won’t find out how people actually dress in your new work place until you get there, so start out with something clean, simple, and classic, and adjust your clothing style based on what you see as you go along.
  5. Put in an extra effort during the first few weeks to adjust to the new job, but don’t let the effort show. For example, if you hear that you’ll be working with databases all day in your new job, and you’re not sure you know what a database is, spend half an hour in the evening finding out the key ideas and terminology of databases. But try to avoid being seen putting in long hours in the office in your first few weeks, unless you want to continue working those hours for as long as you have the job.

If you’re on your way to your first day on the job and totally don’t know what to expect, here’s a list of things to take:

  • pen
  • small note pad or notebook that fits in your pocket
  • everything you know about where you’re going and who you’re supposed to meet first, including telephone numbers
  • a map if you will need it to find your way
  • calender (or at least know what day it is), because you could start scheduling meetings the minute you arrive
  • proof of identity (whatever cards or papers are needed to establish that you are legally entitled to be employed)
  • something that tells the time (this could be your cellular phone)

Finally, one of the best ways to make a good first impression on a new job is to show up on time. If you’re going to a new place, give yourself extra time to find it, find a parking space, find the right building, and so on. If you have already driven to your new workplace for an interview, consider that traffic patterns may be different during rush hour, and plan accordingly. Good luck!