Being the new kid on the block is hard. You have to blaze new trails, forge new relationships and gain the trust and respect of strangers. Challenging as it may be, though, it’s important to get it right, because the initial impression you make at a new job can set the tone for everything that follows.
Consider these six steps critical to your success.
- Know your best attributes – and how to frame them.
Whenever you start a new job, people are busy feeling you out. They want to know who you are, what makes you tick and what, exactly, you bring to the table. Before you ever set foot in the door, know what you’re good at, and think about the ways these attributes can benefit your new organization, colleagues and your onward career. Keep these things in mind as introductions are made, and let it frame how you discuss yourself. Remember, though, that while knowing and acknowledging your expertise is wise, being humble is key - arrogance leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths.
- Mingle – just enough.
There’s a fine line between being friendly and overly chatty. When you’re starting a new job, you need to figure out how to walk that line. You want to let new colleagues know salient points about you while allowing your personality to shine. At the same time, you don’t want to go overboard and get too personal or be perceived as too social. Show restraint, and ease into revealing things about yourself. Because it’s not always easy to jump-start connections, you may want to consider brown-bagging your lunch or eating at the office cafeteria. Use that time to get to know your co-workers, since break time is when everyone is at their most relaxed.
- Do your research.
When you’re just getting your foot in the door, it’s more important than ever to know your stuff. Read up on your company before your first day of work. When you’re there, be a sponge, absorbing all valuable information that comes your way. Master the workplace culture and figure out ways to maximize your contributions. Then, during your free time, keep up on company news by reading the paper. Knowing how your company is performing, both internally and in the eyes of the outside world, may prove invaluable.
- Dress the part.
You’re going to have to do some shopping because your wardrobe – and how you wear it – makes the first, lasting impression. Take note of what others are wearing and heed office policies when it comes to appropriate dress. That means steering clear of sloppy footwear and attire, crass or too-casual pieces and clothing and accessories that do anything other than flatter - including on casual Fridays.
- Keep track.
You’re going to have a lot thrown at you all at once. That’s why it’s important to keep notes, maintain a calendar and commit names and job functions of those you meet to memory. If it’s easier to do so electronically, go for it. If a pen and paper are preferred, so be it. Just be sure to jot down what you need to know so you can quickly reference details, discussions and deadlines at will.
- Ask questions.
No one likes know-it-all behavior, especially from a newbie. Be realistic about the fact that you don’t know everything about the job, field and workplace. Ask questions, and be honest when you don’t understand a task you’ve been asked to perform. It’s much better to look earnest and concerned than to end up appearing ignorant or out-of-the-loop.
Jennifer Olvera is a Chicago-based freelance writer.
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