5 Things You Must Know Before Your First Day at Work
Today’s post is written by Samantha Leal, a writer and editor living in NYC. She is currently the assistant editor for TheNest.com, the sister site to TheKnot.com, where she’s a jill-of-all-trades covering everything from entertaining to money.
Nothing is quite as nerve-wracking the first day at a new job. And when that job is your first job or first in a new industry, it can be completely terrifying… but also slightly exhilarating! You can’t wait to see where you’ll be working, get to know who your coworkers, and – perhaps most importantly – show them what you can do!
Hey, you were hired for a reason, right? Although your employer obviously did see something in you – something enough to hire you – it’s important to take a step back and realize a few things before your first day on the job.
Here are some things I wished I had known my first day:
Let Others Explain Themselves to You, Not Vice Versa.
Titles aren’t everything. When introducing yourself to your new coworkers, feel free to ask them what their job entails (if they haven’t already volunteered that information). A big no-no? Assuming that “assistant” means they assist, that a senior title means they’re not hands-on, or that their title matches up with how many years they’ve worked there and/or seniority. It’s not always the case, and you definitely don’t want to unknowingly insult someone by saying something like, “So you mostly help out so-and-so,” only to later realize they are the central cog to your department (and that they plan the happy hours…d’oh!).
[Related Post: How To Keep It Classy With Difficult Coworkers]
Being Bored is Okay… For Now.
Your first day of work can be easy – and you might be scared you chose the wrong job, aren’t going to be challenged enough, or volunteer to take on more tasks than what your original job description entails (Words of advice: Not yet.) Relish this downtime. Take the time to really hone in on your department, learn what you need to do the best job you can, and how the office works. Soon enough you’ll have more than enough duties to keep you busy. That’s a guarantee.
Be Gracious, But Don’t Be a Doormat.
New hires are always eager to please – which is great! But don’t let your willingness to take on everything result in you sitting at your desk until 10 p.m., while everyone left the office hours ago. Have your manager directly spell out your duties if you’re unclear on them, and if anything comes up that seems strange (like, requests from a separate department you weren’t aware of) ask politely who took care of these types of requests before you were hired. Sometimes, people just have a lot on their plate, and look for anyone to help the workload (it’s human nature). Don’t run to your manager to sort out every little mishap – instead, work it out with those who are asking of your time. They may reconsider who to give these tasks to, or clarify that it’s a favor, in which case you’ll have to weigh whether it’s a good thing to devote your time (in most cases, as a new hire, it is.)
That person will generally have your back when you need something from them later. And as a new hire, you will need something from them later.) If you find that you took on too much of a workload, or are bogged down by work that has nothing to do with your manager’s expectations, find time to talk to your manager about how you can structure your workday better. It doesn’t show weakness, it shows the maturity to know that you have too much going on – and to learn from an exec who has (hopefully) worked out a balance.
Write Down Your “Great” Ideas – and Keep Them To Yourself (At Least for Awhile).
When you were interviewing, you were probably throwing around great ideas on how you saw the role functioning in the department, and what you would do to better the company. The problem? You are working without insider’s knowledge. Most of the time, if it’s a really great idea, it probably means you weren’t the first to think of it (sorry). There may be a reason why it hasn’t been implemented (costs, deeming it too much effort for too little benefit, priority, etc.). There is nothing more frustrating than explaining to new hires why their idea isn’t the best fit… knowing that if they observed just a little bit longer, they would have figured it out themselves.
Trust your new team and coworkers (and those who came and went before you) that they may have already thought of this themselves. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying to never come up with or share your new idea! On the contrary, you should always be looking to improve your work and company. And who knows? You may have stumbled on something that was never considered or that is really a new approach to the workload (Yay for improvements). My advice? Just wait a week.
[Related Post: Get Your Voice Heard: What To Do If No One Listens To You At Work]
Go With Your Gut.
Starting new means you’re constantly looking back at what others did before you. How they formatted that spreadsheet, wrote that memo, or structured meetings with other departments. While you should observe and note how things are done (and ask your manager how they prefer things from you, including updates on your work) — most of the time, your intuition doesn’t lie. If you find that old data spreadsheet to be daunting and irrelevant, draft up what you would want to see, and ask your boss which they prefer. It may be that they got overwhelmed with the old one as well–and that they love your upgrade. And if they don’t? Well… chalk it up to “being new.”
What things do you wish you had known your first day on the job? What do you wish others knew?