shoe in yellowWhen you’re fist starting out at a new job, it can be difficult to find your footing. You’re probably transitioning from a job or other environment where you knew everything from how to get the coffee pot going to who to ask for help with the filing system. In a new office, that’s probably no longer the case. You have to learn just about everything from scratch — even if you have the ideal skill set for a given job, you’ll be learning how to use those skills all over again within the framework your new employer expects you to use. New starts are certainly not impossible, but there are some ways to make them a little smoother.

  1. Write it all down: I realize that it may feel like you’re less that prepared if you write down every piece of advice your new coworkers and supervisors dispense, but having it in writing means that you won’t have to ask a second time. Noting routines and processes — and perhaps the occasional password — can help, even if you’re only taking notes when no one’s looking. If you are writing down passwords and other sensitive information, it’s up to you to keep that information safe. Once you feel comfortable that you’ve committed it to memory, it may be worth shredding such material.
  2. Be social: A new job is not the place to be shy. Most offices have at least some level of politics, and you aren’t exempt just because you’re the new guy or gal. The best protection you can have is to be at least sociable with your coworkers. Once you do, you’ll get the tips on information like who to avoid, who’s able to help you with particular issues and so forth.
  3. Do your work, but don’t push: It may sound strange to avoid pushing for new projects or big changes when you’re first starting out at a new company. You may want to be seen as a go-getter or you may even have been brought on for the purpose of changing things up. But give it a little time before you start pushing — even waiting a week can be enough to tell you what project you really want to join or what problems you’re going to face when changing something.
  4. Connect outside of work: If your coworkers invite you out to lunch or offer to meet up outside of work, it’s worth the time to do so. It’s even worth the expense of a lunch out if you normally brown bag — your coworkers can make your workplace more comfortable, and they can be a valuable part of your network down the road as well. Connecting outside of work can mean more than in person, as well. Make a point of adding your coworkers as connections on LinkedIn and other networking sites.
  5. Make your desk home: Even if you share a workspace, you can make your area a little easier to work in. A favorite picture or a poster can make your space feel more welcoming and adjusting your equipment to make it easier to use just makes sense. Keep it within reason, of course — especially if you share the area with someone else, you don’t want to make your space seem at all unprofessional.
  6. Check in with your supervisor: Not all managers will go out of their way to tell you if you’re doing your job correctly. That makes it important for you to seek out that information on your own, especially when you’re first getting started and can change your approach. You never want to wait until your first performance review to find out just how well your supervisor actually thinks you’re doing.
  7. Take care of the HR department: At every new job, there’s a huge stack of paperwork with your name on it. Human Resources needs you to fill out tax forms, retirement forms, insurance forms and more. The faster you can get those papers taken care of and turned in, the better. The same goes for any training or orientation. If you can keep the HR department happy, it’s worth the effort — after all, you probably won’t get a paycheck until your paperwork is complete.
  8. Learn by doing: There may be a lot of hoops you can jump through before you can actually sit down and do the job you were hired to do. But the fact of the matter is that you’ll learn more about how to interact with the rest of the company by actually completing some of your work. Even if you can only squeeze in fifteen minutes between orientation session, it’s worth your while. At the very least, you’ll probably have some useful questions for the next session.

You don’t have to perfectly mesh with a new office on your first day. Adapting to a new company is a process: it’s important because you’ll be spending most of your day with these people, and you’re dependent on this employer to make sure that you have the money necessary to cover your bills. You don’t need to take in cookies for your new coworkers, but you do need to make a serious effort to adapt.

It’s worth noting that not all companies will be a perfect fit for you. If you’re having trouble adjusting to a new employer, you should give it your best effort but also be willing to walk away if there’s no hope of it working. It’s better to do that during your orientation period, if you can.

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