No one should show up to a new job on the first day without a tip. Still, that’s exactly what I did at my first job after college. I moved 2,000 miles away, to a city where I didn’t know anyone, and was confused when I walked into the office. Not wanting to appear naive, I didn’t ask many questions. I showed up unprepared, not knowing the dress code or even if I could take a lunch break.
To be clear, a company’s human resources department needs to have a solid onboarding process, and managers need to work hard to make new hires feel welcome. But what if your company doesn’t have a human resources department yet? Or what if your driver is less than available?
Even if you start off on the wrong track (it happens!), If you keep challenging that first experience in different environments, your co-workers may change their minds about you.
You have to take care of your success in the first week. I’ve talked to HR professionals, career coaches, and managers to get their best advice for new hires starting on the right path, and here’s what they have to say.
Why is your first week at work important for long-term success?
First impressions are made only once and can last a lifetime. No pressure right? But how important are first impressions to your long-term professional success? Let’s see what research shows about your first period in a new job.
Most managers give new hires less than three months to prove themselves. A 2016 study by Robert Half found that 63% of CFOs allow a new hire in less than three months to show their worth, and 9% give them less than a month. 91% of employees consider retirement within the first month. This is just one of Robert Half's 2018 polls of 9,000 job seekers across 11 countries. Poor management, a mismatch between how the job is advertised and how it works in real life, an inability to adapt to the corporate culture, and a poor placement experience are all reasons for a new hire. How you start has a big impact on how things go in the long run. Science shows that first impressions are annoyingly repetitive. According to a 2010 University of Western Ontario study, even if you later present yourself in a way that defies someone's first impression of you, their initial decision often remains, especially in the context in which they met for the first time
“Imagine you have a new colleague at work and your impression of this person is not particularly favorable,” said Bertram Gawronski, lead author of the study. “A few weeks later, you meet your co-worker at a party and realize he’s a really good guy. Even if you know your first impression was wrong, your new experience only affects your gut about your new co-worker in a context like a party. But in all other contexts, your first impression dominates. “
63% of CFOs allow a new hire to show their worth in less than three months and 9% in less than a month.
Good news? Even if you start off on the wrong track (it happens!), If you keep challenging that first experience in different environments, your co-workers may change their minds about you.
- The Week Before You Begin: Do your research
Experts recommend researching the company before the first day. Check the social media posts to get a feel for the culture of the office and appropriate clothing.
“If the hiring manager doesn’t give you a day on the initial checklist, contact a few days in advance and ask them to bring or pack something,” advises Jon Hill, president and CEO of The recruiting firm. Energists. “Receive a copy of the employee handbook before your first day on the job so you can review it and know in advance what questions you have.”
Depending on your role, this can also help
Research your company's competitors. Try the software you use at work. Search your colleagues' LinkedIn profiles.
- The week before starting: try everything
If you work locally, try your commute. If you work from home, check your internet connection, computer, software, and other equipment you need for your work. Know that everything will go smoothly to help you relax before the big day.
"Showing a desire to be ready and prepared impresses and shows your employer that you want to get off to a good start and be productive from day one." - Christa Juenger, Vice President of Strategy and Education Services, in the United States
- Three days before: contact your manager
Your manager has chosen you and wants you to be successful. Email them or a Slack message before the first day to check in.
“Ask how people in the office usually get to work (even working from home!), If there is anything in particular that would be useful to know on the first day, if there is something special to take with you or for the day what to prepare for and what can be expected of you in your first week, “advises Christa Juenger, Vice President of Strategy and Coaching Services at Intoo USA, to get started in the best possible way and be effective from day one.”
- The day before the start: confirm your schedule
Don’t assume you know what time it is or when your lunch break will be. Even if it is in the job description, important details may be missing. That’s what happened to Jack Zmudzinski, senior consultant at software development company Future Processing.
“I started work once and according to the job description I arrived for the first day at 9 am. When I arrived, the whole team was already there and we were talking at breakfast,” Zmudzinski recalled. “Nobody thought to tell me it was a routine and I ended up feeling uncomfortable.”
Ask about schedules and activities in advance to avoid such an incident. What time are you waiting? What time does everyone usually go out? When is your lunch break and how long does it last?
- The first day: introduce yourself to the team virtually or in person
Your arrival on site (or online) shouldn’t surprise the rest of the company. HR or your boss will usually introduce you to the team before starting. But if they don’t, do it yourself. Ask your boss if you can send an email or a Slack message to let your team know who you are and what you are doing.
- The first day: arrive early
Being late for work, especially in the first week, is never a good sign. Plan your commute to avoid traffic jams, get lost and park. Zoë Morris, president of the Frank Recruitment Group, recommends arriving at work 30-40 minutes earlier than usual.
“If there is a delay in arriving, you still need to have more than enough buffer to arrive on time without panicking,” she explained. “And if there are no disasters, it gives you the opportunity to have a coffee and rest for half an hour before going to work. It is a win-win situation and puts you in the best possible position to avoid being late for the first day.
What to do if your company does not yet have a Human Resources department? Or what if your driver is less than available? You have to take care of your success in the first week.
- In the first week: find a friend
Some jobs match every new hire with a friend or mentor. If you are out of luck, find it yourself. Your LinkedIn search is helpful in helping you identify potential work friends and their interests to help start a conversation.
Worried about lunch alone? Don’t wait for an invitation. Be the person who invites someone to lunch. “You don’t have to sit at everyone’s table on day one to shake hands and shake hands, but don’t be a snob either,” says Paul French, chief executive of internal executive search. It helps to be friendly with your colleagues from day one.
French recommends introducing yourself to your peers and offering them lunch.
“He shows that you enjoy being part of the team and look forward to building a good working relationship with everyone.”
If you are part of a remote team, schedule virtual coffee chats with your new teammates to have a face-to-face meeting with everyone. This goes a long way in building a relationship.
- During the first week: meet your manager
Microsoft analyzed the initial behavior of approximately 3,000 new hires. It turns out that when new employees get to know their manager in the first week, they benefit in three ways:
They had a larger internal network, which made them feel more at home and stay longer. They fight better. They spent more time working with their team than those who were not individually successful.
During the first week, take some time to check in with your supervisor. It can pay off in the long run.
- Every day: don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you are a new employee, you want to appear competent and confident to prove your worth. But don’t be afraid to ask, especially if you are far away.
“One of the things people get wrong with distant first impressions is asking confusing questions to explain the difficulty of being distracted or being on the move,” says Tony Giacobbe, human resources director at Amica Senior Lifestyles. “It is rare for a manager to get angry when an employee explains a job to do better.”
Jacob recommends pinging your manager on Slack and being specific and unobtrusive with your request. Something as simple as “Could you take two minutes to start a conversation on XYZ?” Good
And when you’re trying to strike up a conversation to get to know your colleagues, it’s helpful to ask a lot of questions. According to research from Harvard University, asking follow-up questions makes people like you more. A follow-up question is a question where you touch on a topic that your interlocutor has already mentioned, usually before your question. A subsequent question might be:
You: “So what are you doing?”
Colleague: “I lead the content marketing team.”
You: “Oh, great! I love reading the company blog. How did you come up with these article ideas?”
The worst question you can ask? A complete change. This is when you completely change the subject. An example of a complete switch is:
You: “So what are you doing?”
Colleague: “I lead the content marketing team.”
You: “Great. What are your hobbies?”
In the Harvard study, programmers rated full switching questions as less responsive. They change the subject and signal to your partner that you are not listening.
- Every day: practice extra self-care
“No matter how experienced you are, you are probably nervous and have some stress in the first week,” says career coach Lesli Smith. “Always go back to basic self-care when you are stressed, such as sleep, hydration and nutrition.”
Additionally, Smith recommends anything that helps you calm down, including meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, exercise, or just making a list of things you are grateful for.
Farewell words: relax, they want you
Feeling nervous before the start date is completely normal. Remember, if the company doesn’t firmly believe you are the right person, they won’t hire you. With these tips, you can prove their decision is correct.
If you’re still sleepy during your first week on the job, console yourself with this advice from Kuldeep Andhare, a manager and solutions architect who regularly hires people at his software consultancy: “Always remember they hired you because they wanted you.” he says. “Not only did they love your talent and your experience, it was more than that.”