Starting a new job comes with its challenges – especially within the first month, when you’re still finding your sea legs in your new position.
And whether you like it or not, it’s a time when you’re being judged.
“In a lot of ways, this is an extension of the interview process,” says Salvatore Ciolfi, editor-in-chief at Workopolis. “You might have the job, but now you need to prove that you can do it.”
It’s also a time when co-workers are trying to get a sense of who you are, and a time when the hiring manager that offered you the job is seeing if they made the right choice in hiring you, Ciolfi adds.
Not to mention, it’s an opportunity to show off your stuff, says Angela Payne, general manager of Monster Canada.
“During the first few weeks, your soft skills will be put to the test in terms of time management, communication and proactiveness,” she says. “In this time, expectations for your new role will be agreed between yourself and employer, setting the stage for the months to come.”
But during this probationary period, nerves can set in and mistakes can be made. Don’t worry, though, it’s a common occurrence – and hiring managers are sensitive to that, Ciolfi says.
In reality, settling into a new job doesn’t take days, but rather it can take up to between three to six months, Payne adds.
So Global News spoke with Ciolfi, Payne and career coach Lee Weisser of Careers By Design, who all offered up some of the most common blunders new employees with encounter during their first month on the job, as well as how to bounce back from them.
You might want to prove to everyone that you were the best choice for the role, Ciolfi says, but you can’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Seek out advice and opinions from those who are more experienced – it will only help you,” he says.
“We hear time and time again, there is no such thing as a stupid question,” Payne says. “Asking questions shows your colleagues that you are interested in learning, growing and becoming a reliable member of the team.”
By not asking questions, it can lead to avoidable mistakes, Payne adds.
“Being the new kid is tough, but fight the urge to keep to yourself,” Ciolfi advises. “Be friendly and sociable, and make sure not to eat alone.”
This, he says, will give you a chance to get to know your co-workers. It also ensures that you can lean on people when you need help.
“It’s natural to feel uncertain about how you will fit in and perhaps you think you should get right to work,” Weisser says. “But take the time to introduce yourself to others and ask about them – their names and what they do.”
“Bringing a positive attitude into a new workplace is key to establishing relationships with your new colleagues,” Payne says.
However, talking poorly about your former workplace or colleagues is not the best way to make a first impression, she adds.
“Speaking positively about your new workplace or colleagues and role can mitigate moments where we come off as a negative Nancy,” Payne adds.
“Fend off the urge to hit the snooze button one last time and make sure you’re arriving on-time consistently,” Payne says.
If you really want to make a good impression, then arrive 15 minutes early, she says.
“The extra time can be used as an opportunity to prepare for the day ahead and chat with a few of your new colleagues,” Payne point outs.
What are the office dynamics and politics? How do people dress? What is the approval process?
“Some of these might seem trivial, but if you ignore the way things currently work, you might stand out in a negative way,” Ciolfi warns.
Also before you go making any suggestions for improvement, listen to how and why things are done, Weisser says.
“It’s tempting to give your expertise about how processes could be improved as soon as you see opportunities, but it’s always best to just observe and listen for the first while,” she says.
“You might be used to a boss you can interrupt any time with questions, but your new boss may prefer you arrange a weekly meeting or list your questions in an email,” Weisser points out. “Ask your boss directly what works best for them.”
At first you might want to skip lunch or stay late to get in good with the boss and your teammates, but if you do that then you’re setting yourself up for problems later, Ciolfi says.
“You don’t want to burn out – and even worse, you don’t want to set the expectation that you’ll always be able or willing to burn the midnight oil,” he says.
This may create the impression of not being committed to the workplace, Weisser says.
At least during the first week, use your personal phone only during breaks, until you see what the office norm is, she adds.
“Again, there is a difference between impressing new colleagues and setting yourself up to fail,” Ciolfi says. “At the beginning, it’s much better to focus on doing a great job with the work that is given to you.”
Once you’ve gotten a handle on that, Ciolfi says you can then look at taking on more responsibility and tasks.
While you may not want to take on too much from the start and it may not be a good idea to make suggestions from the start, there are other ways you can take the initiative in your new role.
“Don’t be someone that doesn’t take initiative,” Payne says. “Saying ‘yes’ to whatever learning opportunities might come your way is a great way to establish yourself as a team player, while also accelerating personal growth.”
If your co-workers are curious, then they will ask about you and your experience, Ciolfi says.
However, you don’t want to be that person who mentions it all the time.
“It gets old, fast,” Ciolfi says.
The first month of a new job can be information overload, Payne says, so don’t forget to write things down.
“Writing down as much information as you can shows your colleagues that you are engaged, and ensures that you won’t forget anything,” she says. “if you don’t have your notebook handy, make an effort to follow up with your colleagues to make sure you haven’t missed any details.”
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