Nervous, anxious, clueless.
These 3 words perfectly describe what I felt as I walked towards an unfamiliar office on my first day at work. That was a few moons ago and since then, my little experience at work has prepared me to successfully handle ‘the new and the unfamiliar.’
So, if you’re unsure of what you need to do on your first day at the new job, rest assured you’re in safe hands. From trying to impress my new colleagues to failing at a task on the first day at work, I’ve seen it all. And here are the things I learned that leave a lasting impression on your new boss and colleagues.
Tip#1: You don’t have to leave your personality at the office door
Oh, how I wish I hadn’t made this mistake on my first day at work. But to be honest, it was my first job and I assumed I had to behave in a certain way. I thought I’d learn how to communicate in the office by watching others and just copy them to look professional. Big mistake!
As the time passed and new employees joined after me, I realised that the ones who really made an impression had at least one striking personal touch attached to everything they did. Whether it was the story guy with quirky snippets about startups, or another cricket fan who’d give cricket analogies to marketing strategies.
Sure, it’s odd, at first, to talk about things that no one talks about in the office. But if your email has the same signature like everyone else, or you talk about the same things at lunch, things get pretty boring pretty fast. What’s worse, as a new guy you’ll probably drown in the generic sea and your initial impressions will turn forgettable.
That’s why it’s so important to follow office manners but still do things with a distinctive flair. You’ll pop out like a red dot in a sea of blue.
Tip#2: Start working on your personal brand immediately
Right on the heels of my first point is building your personal brand from day one.
Ask yourself – What differentiates you from everyone else in the office? Does your work speak louder than anything else? Do you like helping colleagues, building teams, or keeping your teammates entertained? Do you offer anything your coworkers will remember you for?
I had a new teammate who used to ask questions in excruciating details until he scratched the bottom of the problem. Even during his induction on the first day at work, he asked some really great questions that stuck with me and the team. And that was his dazzling personal brand. He’d not look for a solution until he ripped the problem apart, as opposed to some folks who bang their head on a problem without getting the basics right. Needless to say, he turned out to be one of the best employees in the company.
Thinking consciously about your personal brand is important because your values and mindset will define how you work. And how your work impacts the business results or your team. Remember it’s not about what you do, it’s how you make people feel. Whether you do it with your words or your work or a mixture of both, that’s totally up to you.
Tip#3: Don’t be a ‘Newbie Victim’
At the risk of coming across as a total loser, I’d like to announce I’ve made this mistake too. On my first day at work, I was given a task. I tried solving it for about 5 minutes. But then my habitual lazy self took over and I gave up, running straight to my superior.
Although he helped me solve it, looking back, I should have taken more time to solve the task. And that’s what I wanted to tell you here.
When you’re new in the office, you don’t have a burden to uphold an image. Everyone knows you’re new and you’ll make mistakes. You’re free to try and fail as many times as you can before going to the manager.
“But what if I have no idea where to start?”
Believe me, I’ve been through that too. It doesn’t matter where you start from. All that matters on your first day at work is you tried to solve a problem. Instead of going with a problem to the boss, you went to him with some solutions and shared the exact points where you got stuck.
It’s sad that too many newbies take advantage of their “new employee” tag and run straight to managers for help. That only wastes your manager’s time and you end up learning nothing. Believe me, I can testify that self-learning is your most powerful tool in the office.
Tip#4: Use the onboarding process to make friends
This is one thing I did right. During my onboarding process, my manager gave me an office tour. I was lucky it was a small company so I could exchange pleasantries beyond my department.
I won’t be superficial and say I loved meeting everyone, but getting to meet folks from each department turned out to be a great insight into the company culture. I got an idea about how the developer team functioned differently from the sales team in terms of collaboration and teamwork.
Now I understand that underneath every business, it’s the people who run it. And a company can be as strong as the bond between its employees. Therefore, I suggest you start making friends as soon as you set foot on your first day at work.
One of its many benefits is that you’ll know the functioning of the firm faster than any training or induction. You’ll get info about the clients, how the company makes money and so on. Plus, your network will expand fast inside the company (which is always a great thing). And that brings me to my last point.
Tip: Remember as many names as you can. It helps!
Tip#5: Connect with colleagues on Linkedin
Connecting with you colleagues on social media may look like overkill on day one. But you can play it safe with Linkedin (professional network remember?). I did it too. And I found two unconventional benefits of doing so.
First off, it makes remembering names of your new teammates super easy. And the other thing, I could read about their full professional history and interests too. The flip side of this is, your profile needs to be squeaky clean and impressive as well.
So, as I dug up info on my new colleagues on the first day at work, I had all the talking points for lunch. Come lunch, I identified a few employees who looked in the mood for a chat and one by one I talked to most of them about their interests. They were happy that I took interest in what they were interested in.
The only catch here is, you need to be genuinely interested or it doesn’t work. Focus on forming real relationships rather than making cold business alliances.
My last advice – always ask for feedback on your first day at work. Do not be afraid or shy to ask your colleagues or superior for feedback. Being open to scrutiny shows you’re willing to improve. And generally gives you pointers about the things you can do better from day two onwards.