The best things to do when starting a new job
Starting a new job can feel incredibly stressful. You walk into a completely new office environment (or check into a new virtual world). Then you meet mostly new people, some of whom are going to tell you how to spend the majority of your waking hours. No wonder it feels overwhelming to many people. But it doesn’t have to be this way – there are a few things anyone can do to ease into starting a new job.
10 – Write down every question you ask (and the answers you get)
When you’re starting a new job, you’re bound to have a lot of questions. From small things like asking where mugs are kept all the way up to the big questions about company strategy, it’s natural. If you didn’t have any questions, that’s an indication that either the company is a stellar communicator or you are in the wrong job.
So when you have questions, write them down! Even if you’re able to ask them and get the answer immediately, still write them down. And make sure you write the answers you get, too.
When you write things down, you get three benefits:
Benefit one: It’s documented for you. So if you forget where things are, or how to do something, you have a handy guide to refer back to. You likely won’t remember every little detail that people share, so having it documented is really helpful. This can be either in a notepad, in a document, or a notes app on your phone or computer. As long as you keep it in a specific folder so you always know where it is, you’ll get this benefit.
Benefit two: You can help other people. If your company is growing and hiring people, it’s only a matter of time before you’re being asked the same questions you once asked when you were new at the company.
Benefit three: You get to talk to new people. Sometimes the answer to one of your questions will be “go ask [person’s name].” With you write down all your questions and the answer of who can help you, you naturally get to meet new people in the company.
Bonus: If you’re super organized, you can develop an FAQ handbook about the company and the office. It could become a handy resource for all employees to answer those nitpicky questions everyone has, but some people may be too afraid to ask.
9 – Tour the office
Starting a new job can be a very unique experience. Even with studies showing people will have multiple different jobs throughout their lifetimes, the average person will only start a new job around 10-15 times in their entire life. That means no one does it frequently enough to get used to it.
The office itself contributes to the uniqueness of each job experience. Every single office is different because of both its physical layout and how people use the space. Even when a company occupies a previously used office space and makes very few changes, it can still feel very different from when the other company was using it.
When you start a new job, get familiar with the office. This could be a ten minute tour or a whole day, depending on how big your company is. You may even have multiple offices in the same city, which is common for quickly-growing companies that can’t find one single office big enough for everyone.
If you’re starting at a very big company, it may not be feasible to tour the whole office (or every office building). But make sure you’re at least comfortable with your floor or your department’s office spaces. That way you can more easily navigate your way around and feel like a “local” at the office instead of the “new person.”
No matter the size of your company, make sure you’re identifying a few key locations: kitchens, snack cupboards if your company has them, bathrooms, exits, elevators and stairs, where you’re sitting, your team area, meeting rooms, and maintenance and IT worker locations.
8 – Figure out the company’s mission, vision, and values
Hopefully, you did this during the interview process. But if you didn’t get the chance to, this is absolutely crucial to know. If you learned them during the interview process, take this time to confirm your understanding. The reason behind this being step number one of starting a new job is that a company’s mission, vision, and values become your action principles. They help you make decisions when no one else is around, they help you choose a path of action in a difficult situation, and they guide your interactions with coworkers.
If the term “mission, vision, and values” don’t apply at your company, or perhaps they use different words, here’s a breakdown. A vision is about the change the company wants to make in the world. A mission is the high level direction the company works towards. And values are the stated moral or action principles that govern how people act in the office environment. Pay attention to specific words and phrasing. For example, many companies have some form of “act like an owner” in their values. But others may say “care” like an owner or “behave” like an owner. Ask about these specifics and what they mean for getting things done at work.
7 – Meet your team
Meeting your team is a super important part of starting a new job for a couple reasons. The first is that these are the people you’ll be working with, so you need to know them for practical reasons. The second is that these are the people you’ll be spending most of your waking hours with, so taking extra time to get to know them will make your life a lot more pleasant.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to like them all. One study found that about half of employees have at least one coworker they don’t like. But you’ll be working with these people, so what you can do instead is take stock of who they all are. Pay attention to their personality, their work styles, and how they like to engage with people. Keeping mental notes (or physical, private) notes will help you figure out how to interact with your teammates. If you want to make this digital, you could even use an app like Revere.
6 – Identify what’s expected of you at work
When starting a new job, it’s safe to assume the company had a skills or work gap that you’re filling. Now it’s your job to make sure you fully understand what that was. This can be especially difficult in startups, where the whole business may have changed between you getting an offer and you joining. The first thing to take another look at the job description so you can ask more specific questions. If the job description lists more general things but does not give Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for the role, clarify those with your manager or team lead.
Also be aware that someone else was probably doing your work before you arrived to fill the gap. You’d think people would be happy to let that work go – and many are – but it could get sticky if someone finds they really liked the work or feel that it makes them more important to the company. Once you know what you’re supposed to do, make sure you become known as the person who is supposed to do that work, but take care to not alienate coworkers filling that gap before you arrived.
5 – Identify the tools you need to do your job
Knowing what you need to do is one thing. Having the tools to do the job is another. When you’re starting a new job, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement or anxiety of it all and forget to set yourself up for success. Most companies will provide you all the basic tools of the trade – a computer in a tech company, or a tool box in a physical manufacturing company. But it’s up to you to verify everything is there.
If you find you don’t have all the tools you need to perform your job, have a quick conversation with HR or the onboarding team. It’s possible there was a slight oversight and they provide you with everything you need. If that’s not the case, though, have a conversation with your manager about which tools you need and why. The conversation can get touchy if the tools cost extra money, but it also sets expectations with your manager that you may not be able to deliver 100% on your job description if you don’t have the right tools. In these cases, you may have to make-do without every tool available or hack things together from what you have. Either way, though, it’s a good idea to chat with your manager about it to get their perspectives and feedback.
4 – Meet people in other departments
Starting a new job puts you in a unique position in the company. Almost everyone will be willing to help you (which unfortunately may not be the case once you’re more seasoned). So take advantage of this opportunity to meet people across the organization. Regardless of organization size, the more people you can genuinely connect with, the better. If you’re worried about walking up to someone and saying hi, you can use a few ice breaker questions that are common in the office – asking where the bathroom is, asking about the coffee machine, or “getting lost” in the new office space.
Making connections with coworkers across the organization is great for you personally, since you make new connections, but it’s also great for your job. Since many work projects require a cross-functional lens, having someone you can instantly chat with helps you get more done faster. As a reminder, this doesn’t mean you can usurp chains of command or known work processes, but it can also help with the “off the record” learning and knowledge that’s shared in an organization.
3 – Get to know your manager / leader as much as possible
When starting a new job, it’s important to actually get to know your manager or team leader. Depending on company size and the team you’re on, you may have a few people above you in the reporting chain – do your best to get to know all of them. The benefits of getting to know your managers and team leaders in the same way you learned about your coworkers (their engagement style, personality, etc.) is that you learn how to manage upward, a crucial project management skill for any good employee.
Be careful how you do this, though. Unfortunately, corporate politics exist in every organization. You want to build genuine relationships, but this is not about winning favour with your boss. The last thing you want to do is accidentally look like you’re trying to become the favourite or get special treatment from your boss. You can avoid this issue by using any formal channels your company has, like a mentorship or buddy program, to chat with your manager or team lead.
2 – Take advantage of onboarding
You know onboarding. When starting a new job, it’s the full day (or more) of talks from HR and all other department heads. Some are exciting while others make you want to fall asleep. But you should take full advantage of onboarding because it gives you the best opportunity to ask questions and meet more coworkers.
Often, a cohort of people starting at the same time form a special bond. Your onboarding group is the first group of people you meet and you’re all sharing the same experience of entering an uncharted environment. As a natural result, you tend to remember and stay connected with the people in your onboarding cohort. These relationships can even last after you leave the organization. Even if you’re in a cohort of one for a small company or team, onboarding is the best time to ask nearly any question, giving you a better chance to be prepared at work.
1 – Have fun!
Yes, starting a new job can be stressful. But it’s also exciting! So have some fun with it. You’re kicking off a new adventure, meeting new people, and starting new work. There’s a lot to think about on the positive side (to say nothing of the paycheque). If your company has an active social life, whether formal or casual, take advantage of it. Try out new things, for example, going to a work party even if you’re not much of a partier.
Engaging in office social life and spending time learning about the company may seem like a waste of time at first. After all, you’re there to do a job not socialize. However, you’ll find it’s much easier to get your job done if you’re with people you know and like (and who like you back). That kind of human relationship comes from the time investment when you’re just starting a new job.
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