Personal Growth

10 Things to Do Your First Month at a New Job

Great news! After months and months of sending in applications, going to interviews, taking rejection letters on the chin, and getting back on the horse, you've finally landed a job you're excited about. In a couple of weeks, you'll be meeting your new coworkers, striving to make a good first impression, trying to fit in with company culture, hoping you don't look like a jerk to your new boss — whew, that's a lot to worry about. This great news is looking more and more anxiety-inducing by the moment. Well, fear not — we've got the definitive guide to what you should do in your first few weeks at a new job.

Trust, Teamwork, and Troubleshooting

You could see those three "Ts" as the foundation of a successful onboarding. Various employment experts encourage several different variations on these qualities. If you don't remember anything else, remember that your boss wants to trust you, wants you to work well on a team, and wants you to solve (at least some) of the problems the company is facing. Keep those in mind, and try these 10 more specific tips as well.

10. Network, Network, Network

Almost everyone agrees: The most important thing to do is to network with all of your new coworkers. If you're a new team leader, that's doubly important. Also, remember that those connections you make don't have to be just with people in your department — reach over to Sales, IT, or another department and you'll set your roots deeper and expand your horizons earlier.

9. Be Upfront and Honest, but Positive

A good attitude is contagious, and as executive coach Mark Strong told Business Insider, "We all know that first impressions matter. Smile when you meet new people and shake their hands. Introduce yourself to everyone and make it clear how happy and eager you are to be there. Your coworkers will remember." But don't let that positivity cloud your judgment of any challenges you or the company is facing — your peers will recognize it if you are putting lipstick on a pig, and you'll lose a measure of trust as a result.

8. Develop Specific Plans Early

You don't want to jump in and start changing everything right away. But that doesn't mean you can't do anything until you have a complete grasp of the company. Look for small, innocuous tasks you can perform to improve the ways that things are done — set up the coffee machine every night, for example, so the first person in can just press a button for hot joe. Or look at some of your specific tasks. Even if you don't yet have the experience to completely revamp the office's processes, you can settle on your personal strategy for tackling your responsibilities.

7. Identify Your Wins

Great news! Your set-up-coffee-the-night-before plan (or perhaps your send-a-weekly-memo-instead-of-fielding-endless-questions plan) is paying off, and things are running a little more smoothly than they had been before you came on. That's awesome — and you shouldn't let your coworkers and managers forget it. Not that you have to constantly boast about your successes, but make sure you take ownership of your early improvements (at least, the ones that work). Of course, there's a right and wrong way to take credit: Don't humblebrag or compare yourself to others; just stick to the facts and be gracious about it. There might not be a better way to cement your reputation as an efficient take-action type — and that reputation will follow you as you move up in the company.

6. Find a Buddy

Even if you've been in the business for 30 years, you're going to find that people at your new office do things a little differently — okay, a lot differently — than they did at your old place. Find a work buddy (not your boss!) that you can talk to when you've got a question about a pretty basic concept. If you ask a manager or one of your team members, you might inadvertently come off as unqualified. Better to let somebody you have a friendly relationship with give you a gentle ribbing before explaining a core concept of the business.

5. When in Doubt, Clarify

That said, one pitfall you absolutely don't want to stumble into is having such a fear of looking incompetent that you end up being incompetent. If you aren't clear on the chain of command, which individuals are responsible for what, or how a particular piece of software works, it's always better to ask for help and clarification instead of faking the knowledge. The latter is a recipe for disaster.

4. Pin Down Your Expectations

You know what would be awful? If, after 10 weeks at your new job, your boss's boss came to your desk to ask about a project you had never heard of in your life. Make sure you know what your KPIs are — not just what you or your team think they are, but also what other people in the company expect from you. It's possible that what they expect is unrealistic and/or out of touch with the directives given to you by your direct superiors. It's best to find that out now and avoid future miscommunication.

3. Get and Stay Organized

This is partially about making a good impression and partially about staying on top of your responsibilities. A messy desk can send a very clear message to your coworkers, and even more so when the only thing they know about you is that your desk is a hazardous waste site. That might seem like it's just a cosmetic issue, but one thing you absolutely don't want to happen is losing an important document in your early days with a company.

2. Learn How and Why They Do Things

When you start, you might find yourself confused or even frustrated by some of your new workplace's processes. You might even feel tempted to change them all — and maybe you should. But before you do, find out how they started doing things this way, and why. You might find that the process, no matter how unwieldy or inefficient it seems to be, is, in fact, the best way to meet all of the needs of the company. Of course, once you've learned the hows and whys, you might see a much better method. And that's where the last tip comes in.

1. Identify Growth Opportunities

Improving a poor process is a great way to make your mark on a company. So is introducing a new digital tool, or devising a more effective communication strategy. In your first month at a new job, keep your eyes peeled for pain points that could be transformed into something less painful. Just remember not to step outside of the chain of command or make a major change without bringing it to the people who need to know first. Improve enough, and you might find yourself in an even newer job — one with a corner office.

Get stories like this one in your inbox or your headphones: sign up for our daily email and subscribe to the Curiosity Daily podcast.

Having trouble landing that interview? Steve Dalton's "The 2-Hour Job Search" is packed with concrete, practical tips for making a great impression. Best of all, it's free with your trial membership to Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas August 31, 2018

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.