Congrats on your new gig! You’re now a real live college grad and super excited that you’ll be able to pay something when your student loans arrive in six months. Whether you landed your dream job or are just starting out somewhere, doing something, that pays somewhat, there are unwritten rules of do’s and don’ts on your first day. I’m not talking about the basics, like being on time (aka early). I’m referring to some of the things that maybe aren’t so obvious to everyone. After all, making first impressions is important, and you want to bring more to the table than just your I-can-do-everything-smile. To make sure you are putting yourself in the best position for success at this new company, consider aiming to accomplish these five goals during your first week:
- Don’t share. You may have had an amazing time at the bar crawl last Saturday, but no one needs to know that. They also don’t need to know about your Instagram account full of selfies #summer2015. Even if you’re in a company full of young 20-somethings and hear them talking about their social lives in great detail, don’t be the newbie that tries to fit in by oversharing how much you are just like them. I’m not saying you should totally lie about yourself, but pretend like you’re talking to a 12-year-old: “I love movies, reading, and just hanging out with my friends!” Keep it short, simple, and while I’m sure you’re a smart and responsible person, there’s no need to give anyone the chance to think otherwise. Besides, your goal is to be better than everyone, so don’t act like everyone.
- Observe. This is similar to the first goal, only with an emphasis on carefully paying attention to what people are saying and doing. You may not get more than two minutes of interaction with each coworker on your first day, but subtle demeanors can be telling: Who had an obnoxiously firm hand grip? Which people look like they’re in a clique? Who looked like they were bored at work? Who’s got their face buried in their desk? Take a mental note of these things, because the more you know about others, the better you can gauge how to conduct yourself. The truth is, while there’s a possibility of developing real friendships with these people, they are still, first and foremost, your coworkers. Office politics are a real thing and don’t underestimate other people’s motives.
- To ask or not to ask (for help). If you’ve never had a job in an office setting before, that’s perfectly understandable! You don’t have to act like you know everything and you should get comfortable with asking your manager or peers about certain things. If you don’t know where the printer paper is located, just ask! If you don’t know where they keep the coffee cups, just ask! If you get asked to do something that you’ve never done before, even if it’s as simple as making mailing labels on Word, I suggest trying to figure it out first. Click some buttons, Google some stuff, and if you’re still clueless, don’t be embarrassed to ask. At least you tried learning on your own first before seeking help! But remember everything you’re taught, because asking the same question routinely within the first month is definitely not a good thing.
- Set your ego aside. Chances are, you’re not the boss or the team lead in the company (if you are, then that’s amazing!), so you might find it a little difficult to accept the fact that you are in a different position – socially and professionally. If you were the all-star athlete, honor student, or student government president in school, then starting at the bottom of the totem pole might be a hard pill to swallow. In my first job, my responsibilities included ordering the food for company meetings, ordering office supplies, and fetching office mail. Don’t fall into the mindset that you’re “too good” for it. You are not better than the job. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be, and everything is a learning opportunity. The beginning of your professional career starts with humility and integrity.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. There’s probably a good chance that you’re one of the youngest people in the company. That means you have to prove yourself in this new corporate landscape as a reliable, valuable, and impactful team member. Gaining the trust from superiors and peers is crucial, and this is done by doing what you say you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, regardless of the outcome. If you say you’re going to email back, email them back. If you say you’ll look into something, look into it and provide an update. People may forget what you promised, but when you actually do it, it separates you from everyone else as a leader. Branding yourself as the person who doesn’t just say things “just to say them” is extremely meaningful for your career.
The first few steps of your professional life can be rocky at first. Social dynamics change and you might find yourself in a lot of awkward moments. But keep these tips in mind and one day you’ll be giving advice to the next newbie!