There are few things more exciting and nerve-wracking than the first few days on a new job. You’re determined to make a good impression, you’re thrilled at the prospect of future opportunities, and you’re relieved at having finished the long process of searching and interviewing. But what many may forget is that the first few days at a new job are just as important—if not more so—than the interview. In the first few days or weeks on a new job, your employer will be looking for signs that he or she made the right decision. It’s your job to show them that you were the correct choice.
However, amidst the excitement, many new employees can sabotage themselves with poor first impressions, either by trying too hard or being too ambitious when they should be taking the time to absorb and learn, or by being too shy and unapproachable. Avoid these common mistakes by following these simple guidelines for creating a lasting positive first impression in the workplace:
Read up. You should already have begun this during the interview process, but make sure you know whatever you need to know about your new company in order to do your job well on your first day. Showing that you’ve taken your time to further research their initiatives before starting will go a long way for your reputation as an invested employee. It will also give you perspective for your work, allowing you to understand the bigger picture and develop a firmer grasp on your responsibilities and their purposes.
Play by the rules. This may seem obvious, but conduct yourself as you would if you were still interviewing. Arrive early, be personable but professional, and adhere to the dress code (and remember, it’s always safer to come to work slightly overdressed if you aren’t sure what’s appropriate). Not only do you want to show your employer that they made the right choice in hiring you, you want to make a great impression on your fellow coworkers. Show them that you take your new job seriously and that you’re excited to be there.
Listen first, talk later. Many employers love an employee who can bring new ideas to the company. Those employees are usually dedicated to making a difference and are invested in the long haul, and that’s something every employer values. However, unless they were hired to do so, no new employee should be asserting a number of major changes on his or her first day. The one who does may be seen as arrogant, presumptuous, and threatening. Instead, when you begin your new job, be sure to listen to and absorb all the information being thrown your way. Learn about what’s expected of you and what the company’s culture is like. Then, when you’ve developed a relationship with your employer and coworkers, you can slowly begin to introduce new ideas one-by-one.
Absorbing all you can on the first few days—maybe even taking notes to make sure you’re not missing anything—is crucial to building a solid reputation as a hard-working employee. Most employers would much prefer someone who listens and absorbs the information to one who has to ask the same questions over and over. Should you be unclear about anything, by all means, make sure to ask. But write it down for future reference and try to avoid asking the same question multiple times.
Establish your duties and set goals. While you’re still new and asking questions, make sure you fully understand what’s expected of you. Once you’re clear, stay organized and establish ambitious but manageable goals. You want to show your employer that you can manage a productive balance of quality and quantity. To make sure you and your supervisor are on the same page, it may be beneficial to set up a short meeting with them after your first two or three weeks to go over your work. You’ll want to determine whether or not you’re meeting their needs. Ask what you can do to help further and if there are more responsibilities you can take on—if, of course, you can handle more. Taking the step to set up this meeting will not only show your employer that you take your work seriously, but will also show initiative.
Go beyond the call of duty. Should you find your work manageable enough, take on extra tasks when you can. Help a peer with his or her current project or contact your supervisor to ask if there’s anything you can help with. Let those around you know that you’re there to help. Should you finish your duties first, helping others during your downtime can not only improve inter-office relations but can show that you’re more than capable of your job. Contributing to the company’s well-being as a whole by stepping outside your realm of responsibilities can also suggest that you’re adaptive and well-suited for a higher position in the future.