With the job interview out of the way, new hires must quickly prepare for their next challenge: the first days on the job. And that stretch is no honeymoon, according to Alan Vengel, owner of the Vengel Consulting Group and author of “20 Minutes to a Top Performer.” With a new boss and colleagues making quick assessments, the process for determining whether a new hire was a good hire “begins day one, minute one,” he says.
Still, the thrill of landing a new job, particularly in a challenging economy, should outweigh any fears and inspire an all-out effort to show that bringing you aboard was the right call. Here are some tips for leaving a positive, lasting impression with your new employer.
1. Come with questions. Before your first day, make a list of possible questions that not only touch on your responsibilities, but also what the boss expects of the team as a whole and his or her vision for the organization. Gaining such information allows you to be on the same page with your supervisor and work toward a shared goal. “You want to be able to align with your boss’s goals and vision for the future,” Vengel says.
2. Arrive on time. During the interview, you may have stressed how punctuality has been a hallmark of your work history. Showing up late the first day or for an entire week will cast doubt on your claim and cause your boss to question your dependability. So make sure to get to the office on time, Vengel says. He also suggests clocking in early to signal your enthusiasm about the company and your new role. Either choice you make helps your boss “feel more confident that they made the right decision,” Vengel says.
3. Take notes. As a student, you always broke out a notepad and pen when learning new material. Apply that same habit to your early days on the job when your boss or a co-worker dispenses valuable details about your position or a particular policy. This studious approach can shorten the learning curve and keep you from having to ask about something only hours or days later, which can make you look inattentive. Vengel adds that it’s best to avoid asking for a repeat of directions. “That [boss or] employee sees you as not knowing how to do something that you should know how to do,” he says.
4. Take initiative on assignments outside your scope. If offered the opportunity to work on a project outside your job description, take it. Surprised by your penchant for quick learning and versatility as a worker, your boss may start pondering your potential in a management role. Plus, if you have your sights set on a senior position, you’ll need to know how the entire organization functions, not just your department. “If you want to get into leadership, you need to know how all the pieces go together, all the products you sell, all the services you offer,” says Stacey Hawley owner of Credo, a Chicago-based careers consulting company.
5. Ask for a regular meeting with your boss. Depending on the pace of the work and your boss’s schedule, you should request to meet with him or her on a regular basis. The meeting can be for 10 minutes at the end of each day or a single 20-minute session during the week. Vengel gives an example of how you can frame the proposal to your boss: “I could really use 20 minutes to make sure I’m accomplishing what you want me to accomplish and for you to give me any new direction.”
6. Stay on solid footing with your boss. It almost goes without saying that having a cordial and productive relationship with your new boss makes life around the office much more peaceful. To stay in your boss’s good graces, view him or her as a customer whose trust you’re hoping to earn through quality service, Vengel says. “After all, they’re the ones purchasing your skills,” he says, “[and] if we treat customers well, they come back.”
7. Get to know your co-workers. Chats in the break room or a casual lunch are great options for breaking the ice between you and your new colleagues. Being aware of what their jobs entail shows that you care. “You really have to understand how they do their jobs so that you know how to work together as a team,” Hawley says. Plus, for those interested in a management position later on, it’s an asset to have someone internally who can vouch for your abilities and character. He or she won’t be able to do that if they’re clueless about who you are.
8. Come clean on your mistakes. With a flood of new information and procedures to process, you’re bound to make a mistake here and there. Whether you’re a newly hired executive or entry-level employee, you should tackle errors at the same pace: immediately. “No matter what, you need to address the issue head on … I always think honesty is the best policy,” Hawley says. Then, she says, “Figure out how to correct it and ensure it never happens again.