Written by Jacquelyn Smith,
Starting your first “real” job can be nerve-racking. You’re probably excited to have landed a full-time gig–but also scared about meeting new colleagues, learning office etiquette, and making the transition from your college classrooms to your corporate cubicle (or whatever your new work-space may consist of). The days of slacking off — rolling out of bed and running to class in whatever sweats you can find, taking naps between Spanish 101 and college algebra, and staying up until 2 a.m. doing yesterday’s assignments — are over. That doesn’t fly in the professional world.
Starting a new job requires some preparation and lifestyle changes. “A lot of people look at getting the job offer as the finish line, but really it’s the start of another run,” says Rosemary Haefner, the vice president of human resources at Careerbuilder.com.
Dress for success. Start by recreating your wardrobe and sprucing up your appearance. Dress appropriately for the job you’ve landed. Remember that first impressions can be lasting. If you’re dressed to impress, you probably will. “One size doesn’t fit all,” Haefner says. “People assume ‘professional’ means a suit, but it depends on the company or industry.” Haefner encourages new employees to ask what people typically wear, before your first day. “You don’t want to show up in a suit if everyone wears jeans,” she says. But it’s better to be a bit overdressed the first few days.
Relax. If you exhibit apprehension, you may not be taken seriously. Be aware of your nervous habits and try to control them. If you ramble when you’re nervous, make it a point to limit your chatter.
Be confident. Don’t be narcissistic, but show your colleagues that you deserve to be there. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts, and believe in your ability to succeed in your new position. One way to exhibit confidence: invite your colleagues to lunch. Haefner says this tactic shows that you aren’t the typical quiet new employee.
Be innovative. From day one, confirm that you bring something new to the table. If this applies to your new position, be sure to offer your boss or colleagues ideas for how to enhance the product or company. Most young professionals in a new job take the back seat the first few days, but Haefner suggests jumping right in. “Be there to contribute, or to volunteer for a project when nobody else raises their hand.”
Separate your personal and professional lives. Once you’re settled in, avoid making personal calls, sending personal emails or taking long lunch breaks. Show that you are dedicated to your new job and that you want to be there. If you have nothing to do, offer to take on another task or help a colleague who looks overloaded. Not only will you impress the boss, but the days will fly by.
Communicate. Always be in touch and in tune. Speak up and ask questions, make suggestions and periodically check in with your boss. “Listening is just as important as speaking,” Haefner says. “Start a conversation with your boss to ask how you’re doing.”
Challenge yourself. Just because you did some research before your interview doesn’t mean you know enough to be successful there. Haefner says it can take time to get to know the company itself, but it is important to do research, look back at old projects, and find out what has worked for the company or your team in the past. Once you’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with your new workplace, evaluated the work environment, observed your fellow employees, and surveyed the office protocol, work flow and discourse, you should set goals for yourself.
Getting through the first few days, weeks or months in a new job is tough, but remember to focus on what you want to get out of the experience.