A new job brings its fair share of unknowns. What the company does and what you’ll generally do are clear, but the job practices, mechanics of the office, and team dynamic are not so crystalline. Employers expect a relatively seamless transition, so there isn’t time to ease into the water to find out. Instead, focus on these 5 practices and you’ll be acting like a native in no time.
Take Notes – Your brain is not like a hard drive. Unless you have eidetic memory, you cannot view info once and expect it to stick. Learning new information requires patient repetition. That can happen by asking your coworkers for the same exact instructions ad nauseam, or by keeping a tidy set of notes.
A physical notepad or a digital file can be an incredible reference. Use whatever technique works best for you.
• The Cornell Method – Divide your paper or digital file into columns, one for quick, sprawling notes and the other for shorter, more fine-tuned summaries.
• Mind Mapping – For the more visual learners, create a diagram that connects related ideas. Mind mapping can be very useful for step-by-step or cause and effect processes.
Whether you use either of these methods or another unique method, always review your notes at the end of the day until the information becomes second nature.
Accept Existing Procedures…at First – We get it. You want to prove yourself. The company hired you to help change it for the better, so you don’t want to sit idle. That’s definitely encouraged eventually, but some sage advice from the Dalai Lama applies in these early days:
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
Employers want you to help enhance their capabilities, but if you stampede through existing procedures with the reckless disregard an African elephant has for savannah shrubs, you’ll clash with the culture. It’s important to mirror existing procedures and once they’ve become rote, make any changes to company procedures incrementally.
Adjust to the Work Environment – One key question that needs answering before you leave your interview is about the work environment. Before you take a job, it’s critical to know you’ll thrive in the atmosphere. Even when you know whether you’ll be closely managed or independent, part of a collaborative team or autonomous, it’s still important to learn what that means in practice.
Who will you be reporting to? Who will you be working with? When are you expected to give updates? How often does the team meet? Learn the answers before day one or as early as possible. Your performance will increase depending on how fast you can acclimate to the job with this knowledge.
Connect with Coworkers – No man or woman is an island. Firm connections with coworkers are essential to your success in those early days. They can be your friendly reminders, your sounding boards, your safety nets, or even simply your friends. That’s why it’s important to make a concerted effort to connect from the start.
Asking questions is one great way to connect on the clock. It shows you’re eager to learn and that you value your coworkers’ experience. On the flip side, your lunch break is a great way to connect off the clock. It’s an open time frame to learn about someone else and catalyze the connection process. Bring your own lunch the first day until you determine whether it’s a lunch room or eat out culture. If everyone frequents the nearest fast food joint, don’t be afraid to let your lunch sit for a day as you plant the seeds of your work relationships.
Keep Calm – Even if you are being buffeted by a hailstorm of responsibilities, you need to remember it’s your first day on the job. Not everything is going to snap into place like IKEA furniture. Learn what you can, adjust to the atmosphere, and build relationships that last. As long as you’re doing those things, you’re on track.
So, keep it up and let the stress roll off your back like water droplets on a waterproofed deck. Your workplace will seem natural soon enough.
by James Walsh