10 Things That Can Make Or Break The First Days At A New Job

Moving on to a new job is a process many of us go through at some point in our career. Some people go through it a lot more due to the nature of their field or other circumstances that may or may not be within their control. Although a lot of the responsibility falls on you as an individual to make or break your experience, the employer also needs to held accountable. It takes both sides to make a career, boss, team, and company successful. As far as I’m concerned, all parts of the equation are pretty equal when it comes to success.

Personally, I feel like I’ve had enough experiences within different office environments to speak about the “do’s and don’ts” of those critical first weeks/months of a new job. It tends to be easier for the organization, but it can be tough for the new employee coming in depending on how good the situation is. Over the years I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. When you head into a new organization, it is likely that you have a “marriage” type of mindset. You’re hoping that this is a company you will be apart of and impact for years to come. Very few of us go into a new job with the attitude that you will be leaving within a few weeks/months of the assignment.

In this piece, I will talk about ten things I’ve observed over the years that are crucial to the success and potential of a new job. It’s my hope that most professionals will see things the same way I do, but I also know that this isn’t a realistic perspective either. There are many employees and organizations who choose to take the “wrong” stance on some key things can make or break the situation. It could be the difference between a good employee staying with a company, but could also be the difference in ways that can hold you or the company accountable for the success or failure of a professional “marriage”.

Dress To Impress

One of the first questions I ask when I get hired is: “What’s the dress code?” For some, the dress code might be assumed based on the field they work in. However, something like this can’t always be assumed. It’s always good to know if you need to dress business formal versus business casual. Knowing what these rules mean to each individual organization can help you make a good first impression at your new job. For example, even if I’m told it’s ok to wear jeans I may opt to wear khakis for awhile anyway. It’s a very subtle thing to do, but it shows the company that you care about your image as well as the company’s.

Personally, I’ve never seen anybody get penalized for wearing a baseball cap or any other casual attire. Especially since I work in a field that is usually pretty casual. However, if you’re ambitious and would like to progress in your career, I would suggest keeping the way you dress in mind. When I see somebody who is dressed down to a certain point, I may maintain a ton of respect for their work, but may not take them seriously when it comes to career advancement. It shows me that they may care about their work, but may not care about moving on to bigger things. If this is the attitude you want to project, then that’s ok. However, if you are struggling with the battle of dressing casual versus the desire to progress in your career, then you may want to think about what your priorities really are. If you’re interested in bigger roles with a company, then you may need to “suck it up” and follow the dress code more closely.

Good vs Bad Onboarding

Onboarding might not be the first thing you think of when you get hired, but it can wind up being a real reflection of the organization you’re about to join. In recent years, I joined a very well known organization for a 1 year assignment through a recruiting office. While the recruiter did a good job of setting me up for the first days of employment, the organization itself couldn’t have been more disorganized. Without preaching or being too general about this point, the next paragraph will tell you exactly how NOT to do onboarding.

First of all, I spent the first few weeks without a badge. This meant I needed to call somebody from my department and have them sign me in every day until they finally made my badge. I also couldn’t use the bathroom without asking since the facility was outside of the office area. I also didn’t have my own computer, desk, or work area for months. My desk literally got taken over by a department from another office without any notice. I spent quite a few days not doing anything at the beginning of my tenure with them because I had nowhere to go and no tools to use. The company itself was very nice, but these onboarding issues were a direct reflection of the company. When my credentials expired, I had to go through some of these processes all over again. A company that moves at such a sluggish pace will also make you feel the same way. This is not a good thing.

Conversely, I have also landed a job in recent years (this was after the previously mentioned job) where my onboarding was pretty much completed half way through my first day with the company. Email was set up, badge was created, and all other pre-employment paperwork was approved and in the books. Not only that, but it even sounded like a proper onboarding experience was important to my boss. This went a long way with me. Although I think this should be the expectation every time you start a new job, it is safe to keep the expectations realistic. Also, with all of this said, I’d encourage anybody reading this to be understanding and give the organization an opportunity to correct any mistakes or oversights. However, if the example from the previous paragraph happens, that is something you might want to question.

First Impressions Of The Staff

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are on our best behavior when somebody new joins the team. We want to make sure that the new employee not only feels welcome, but also doesn’t feel like they need to run out of the building because of the toxic work environment they are joining. It should also be noted that most workplaces are very diverse. Not only from a visual standpoint, but also when it comes to personalities. Not everybody is going to be the type of person you can envision grabbing a drink with after work. Be mindful of that.

In my opinion, the most important thing is to see a certain level of professionalism within the organization. The more professional they act, the better off you will probably be. I’ve had atleast two jobs in recent years where I saw employees yelling and openly complaining within the first week of my tenure with the company. If you are reading this and feel like you have the same feeling of frustration about your job I’d advise you to be mindful of this. It’s not a good look. In both cases I felt like it was a reflection of the culture of the company. I spent ten years with a company where I don’t believe I ever saw anybody actually yell or scream at anybody else. That taught me that any issues you might be having can be resolved without all of those antics. Issues will come up. Debates and differences of opinion will happen. However, it should never get to the point where you lose your cool.

Pay attention to how you are lead by the organization. If you have bosses who are too nonchalant or run the department like they are a dictator, then that could be a huge issue too. Especially the work environment run by the “dictator” type. This person will never take responsibility for their own mistakes and tend to look down at the rest of the team. They may also try to intimidate their staff and use other unethical management methods. You want to work in an environment where everybody makes you feel like you’re apart of the team from day one. The company that lives by the mantra of “there is no I in team” is the type of company you want to align yourself with. If it’s you’re first day, but the boss or colleague says “we” will resolve the issue, then you know you’ve got a good job.

How Organized Is The Company?

Today we tend to live in an era where a lot of people’s mindsets tend to be a little more casual. However, we also live in an era that is very complex. Especially considering how much some of us change jobs, I think it is important to have some level of organization at work. This means having processes documented within the department. It also means that everybody is on the same page when it comes to more general things that affects the whole company. When everybody is on the same page, the workday becomes a much better experience.

I tend to believe that if you don’t have the tools you need in order to do your job, then this is a reflection of company that is disorganized. Unresolved issues in your workspace as well on a departmental and/or company level can cause a lot of frustration. A manager, department, and/or company that is too disorganized can lead to a trickle down effect that can lead to all kinds of problems. Productivity, client relations, and morale are some of the key areas that can really be affected by a company’s disorganization. If you find that you or your colleagues are going through early on in your tenure, then you may want to reconsider your decision to work for that company. Chances are, it probably won’t get better any time soon.

The Attitudes Projected By Management

There is no question that management sets the tone for the entire company. Broken down even further, you could also say the same thing about your own department. The more your management team cares about your needs, the better off everybody will be. This of course takes into account the understanding that the job itself is valued and is taken seriously by everybody. With that said, you want a manager who will let you attend to family emergency without giving you any grief for it. A management team that bullies, threatens, belittles, ignores, or acts indifferent towards you is not the type of team you want to work under.

A management team that makes you feel like you are apart of the team, even on your first day, is the team you want to be apart of. A manager who encourages you to speak up, network, pursue other opportunities, notices your good work, encourages creativity, etc. are all things you want. From personal experience, I would say that finding this type of environment can be difficult. When you do find all of these things in one place, it’s a good idea to cherish it and make the most of the opportunity. You will know when a management team does things the right way because the morale of the colleagues around you will reflect that.

The Little Things Go A Long Way

I’m not the type of person who likes to measure how good a job is based on little things such as free beverages and other perks. Although this certainly means something, it doesn’t always tell you everything about how you will actually be treated. In my opinion, employees need to feel like they are being heard. Your staff wants to feel appreciated and they want to feel like management cares about them. Oftentimes, I feel like management either gets this very wrong because they are insecure or a little too right because they want their staff to like them. There is a middle ground that has to be reached. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having a brief conversation with a member of the staff and other times it comes down to something like flexibility during a family emergency.

Sometimes success doesn’t come from simply getting the most out of your staff. It doesn’t always get reflected in the department’s success rate, number of new clients, or how productive the staff is. When it comes to a new job, you may want to keep an eye on the little things management does for their staff. Although the material things a company may give you are appreciated, you may want to keep a close eye on the little things that are said and done. Things such as good faith gestures, thoughtfulness, and listening don’t have a lot of nominal value, but more employees value this then a lot of companies may realize.

Adapting To The Values, Mission, & Culture Of The Company

I run the risk of sounding a little too “corporate” when I make a point like this. However, adapting to the values, mission, and culture of any company, corporate or not, is very important. Not all personalities, styles, etc. are going to be a good fit. I think points like this tend to get overlooked by many. It may seem like the company’s mission statement is just a bunch of generic BS somebody threw together and posted on their website. To be honest, this might be the case in some situations. However, I have found that some organizations do live up to the statements they make. Even if there are no missions statements or values posted on you company’s employee portal, it is important to pay attention to how management treats the staff, how your colleagues treat each other, etc. Chances are, this is a good embodiment of how much everybody “buys” into the system they are under and what they value. The more at ease you feel with these aspects of the job, the better off you’ll be in the future.

The Stories You Hear

The last thing any of us wants to do is go down on the wrong side of history. Nobody wants to be known as the employee who couldn’t be trained. However, there still tends to be employees who want to do things their way. The ones who lack the ability to reason with colleagues and management. Those who want to step right in and rewrite their department’s SOP’s. Then you have those who just happened to fall into the job and have no passion for it. They alienate themselves, play on their phone all day, and/or sleep on the job. These are just some of the stories you may hear about when you first walk into a new job. You don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons after your tenure is over. This can and will happen if you don’t have the right attitude.

Understand Your Role

Understanding your role goes beyond understanding the basics of the job description of your new job. It also requires you to show your company that you’re not egotistic and are willing to act appropriately when it comes to the new job. For example, if it’s your first day at the company, you may not want to act like a know it all or jump ahead of any training they are giving you. Even if a process or application is familiar to you, give the company some time to go over the basics and train you according to their own standards and processes. Not only does it show that you are team player, it also shows that you can put your ego to the side in order to make the team better.

The best rule of thumb when starting a new job is to follow the lead of your boss and colleagues for awhile. Only speak up if you know you can put your money where your mouth is. An overly proactive attitude can actually hurt your chances of progressing more than it can help. Ease your way into the new job. You will give yourself a better chance of having your talents get noticed when you take that approach. We all have to start somewhere when entering a new company. If your talents wind up getting ignored, then the job probably wasn’t a good fit in the first place.

The Choices You Make

Ultimately, the fate of your career comes down to you. Assuming you haven’t stepped into a toxic environment, the path your career goes down lies directly on your shoulders. Apply yourself, be a team player, and maintain good ethics and values. If the last sentence didn’t sum up everything you need to do, then just think of the word professionalism. This may sound silly to some, but I believe you need to approach the company you work for everyday the same way you would if you were running a business of your own. A company who truly values their employees will value the professional mindset and work ethic you bring to the table.

Making the choice to approach a new job with professionalism from day one means a lot when it comes to the fate of your career with that organization. Make the choice to be a listener, take notes, and follow the lead of those who have been working with the company and have built up enough trust to be training you. Any baggage you might be carrying from the past needs to thrown out the window. The new job is a new experience filled with the potential for opportunity. It’s important to stay true to the professional values of the workplace even if you discover that the environment doesn’t suit you. From my experience, eventually, you will find an employer to who shares the same values and will give you the opportunity to reach your full potential.

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