A new job can be exciting. After a round of interviews, preparations, and self-talk, you’re finally ready to start with a shiny desk, (hopefully) better benefits, and a place to look forward to every day.
But the truth is, a new job is also uncertain. You’re leaving the stability of an old job where you likely knew how things worked, had nicknames for your old colleagues, memorised the best routes to work and where to go for lunch! It also comes with lots of questions, from the more important ones like “how does one make a mark in this organisation and have the CEO know my pet’s name?” to “where the heck do they keep the stationery?” and everything else in between.
I’ve had my fair share of job moves and being the newbie. I’ve also heard a few tips from other newbies. These are the seven tips most employees wish someone had told them earlier.
Many people make the mistake of viewing their role through myopic lens. They believe they have been hired to do a particular job and that should be the focus of their energy. So they emphasise that sole task: the data they’ve been hired to capture, the research reports or the straight jacket legal advice. But your role is really just a piece of the puzzle and you have to understand the big picture. What is the vision of the organisation? What sector do they play in? Who are their competitors? How do they make money? What are the cost centres of the business? What are their challenges? What do the rest of your co-workers do in this process? How does your role fit into all of this and how can you help?
Once you have an overview of this, it’s easier to succeed in your role. You can understand this by reading through the companies history, old reports, or offering to get on tasks that relate to broad strategy — even if it’s a note-taking exercise.
This is one many fail to recognise. As a new employee, you need to get in your manager’s good books and many even argue that your job is to make your manager look good to their boss. You may be putting in a ton of effort, but if you do not understand your manager’s style, your efforts are likely to be misaligned.
Some people want their information short and straight to the point, while others prefer more detailed background and the back end process. Make sure that in the first few days with your manager, you schedule a catch up to find out their style, how often they want to be updated, when they want to be copied on emails, what level you’re expected to be delivering on, etc.
Your personal brand — everything from dressing to speaking and mannerisms — reflects you and how you stand out in an organisation. And this is important because how people perceive you affects the way they interact with you. Many times especially as women, dressing well affects your moods and general attitude. You’re likely to be more confident and self-assured. But also, it helps make a statement about you. People notice your appearance and it’s okay to stand out — just make sure it’s in a good way. If there’s an office culture and dress code, you could adhere to it while still adding in extra touches that make you visible.
I recall a simple story in one of the best books I ever read — Tough Times Never Last But Tough People Do — about some factory workers who had to wear a blue jumpsuit to work everyday. While others wore the blue daily, one worker always wore a red hat as well. Every time the managers would visit, they would notice that one person in a red hat, and eventually that got him visibility. So as a new employee especially, you could definitely have that one thing that makes you stand out.
Building your personal brand could also mean bringing your whole self into work. Some people feel that at a new role they only have to present their technical side as ability to perform the role. But interests, hobbies and other activities you are involved in or enjoy also allow for co-workers and bosses to connect with you and form similar bonds. It could also enhance work-related opportunities. For example, an employee who is known to love travelling may be offered overseas assignments, while one who loves to plan events could be delegated to planning company events which provide visibility to higher decision makers.
When you’re new, it’s easy to simply coast and believe you’ve got time to learn, integrate or make contributions. You think no one expects much of you as they recognise you as the newbie. That could be true, but also a good way to capitalise on that low expectation. So make sure that you’re setting goals across several outputs. Whether it’s an external goal (like making a presentation or sending an email update to the team on or within three months) or an internal decision to learn everyone’s name in the wider team in two weeks, those are little ways to earn some brownie points. Whatever goals you’re setting, make sure they’re SMART ones. i.e Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-based.
One of the most beneficial things you can do as a new employee is to ask for timely feedback. Most people are wary of feedback especially when they’re new on the job, as in their opinion there’s not much to show. But aside from feedback for technical skills, it’s helpful to receive feedback on soft skills and attitudes.
If a probationary period has been set, make sure that your first feedback session is not at the end of the probation. A good timeline is at least halfway before the probation period. That way, if any improvements need to be made, you’ve got the other half to implement. So for a three month probation period, six weeks is a good time to ask for an informal or semi-formal feedback.
You’re probably ready to come full throttle and dive neck deep into your actual job description, but it’s important to realise that office politics exists — in varying degrees. It also differs from office to office and it is necessary that you also deep dive or at least explore these to get a proper understanding of the environment.
So who are the key players and decision makers? How can you get on their radar for good? What ways are there to connect with the team? How often should bond with the team during lunch? Should you buy the next round of drinks at the office hang out? Or grab the morning coffee occasionally? In what little ways can you be helpful to the team? Send a funny but acceptable joke to the department? In a nutshell, be aware of what’s going on outside of your core responsibilities — and that’s not a call to align with specific people or comment on office gossip. You’re new, so take it all in, and make mental notes.
After all is said and done, you have to do good work. That’s the primary reason you were hired. You have to deliver results, be dependable, be punctual and attentive. Know your onions but be willing to improve learn and grow. You’ve been hired to do a job and there are set metrics you’ll be graded against.
Finally, it’s one thing to do good work, it’s another for people to know you do good work. So many people — especially women — do good work in silence. As the popular legal phrase goes, “justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.” Your good work must not only be done but must be seen to be done. Don’t be afraid to speak up at meetings with your suggestions, copy relevant people in emails, and generally talk the talk! Keep a record of your achievements and feedback from others — clients or managers. These come in handy at appraisals.
In fact, being a new employee is one of the best ways to make a change and be visible in an organisation because you’re coming in with a fresh pair of eyes, not used to the status quo, and so able to see what changes need to be made or what opportunities are available for the organisation.
So be bold, and make the best of your newbie status! But also tread carefully: you don’t want to be known as the newbie know-it-all who constantly critiques or makes a call to change company policies and culture without knowing the backstory to those policies or whether similar changes had been made in the past and failed. Before you jump in to be helpful or proactive, make sure you’ve considered past history.
Remember that in the first few months of your new role, you’re laying the tiles for your stay in that organisation, and how you lay them is how people will view and work with you. If you create the impression that you’re always available to do odd tasks, white elephant projects or constantly work long hours, don’t be surprised if years in you’re still doing just that! And if you show yourself to have an attitude or not be punctual, choosing instead to be lazy or constantly distracted, even if you do change down the line, many will remember these negative attributes. So lay those tiles carefully.
Have you been a newbie at work recently or are you more an oldie? What other tips have you got?