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A New Employer: 8 Steps to Put Your Best Foot Forward

A New Employer: 8 Steps to Put Your Best Foot Forward

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    When 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.

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    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.

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    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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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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