The new employee's quick-start guide

Congratulations on your new job!

The first few weeks on the job can be crucial to making a good impression and setting expectations. You're in the spotlight now. So as you learn what to do and where to go, keep the following guidelines in mind for a successful entry to a rewarding career.

  • Be on time. Even better, show up early. Bosses appreciate someone who appears eager to get the day started.
  • Reintroduce yourself. Getting to know your coworkers forges strong working relationships and on-the-job happiness. We hope your boss went out of his or her way to introduce you to your new gang. But should you be expected to remember 20 or 30 names? Don’t sweat it. Be friendly and politely go up to people on your own afterward. It will help to cement names in your memory. And it will help build up a group of new contacts.
  • Know your job. It seems obvious, yes? But about one-quarter of new hires don't make it to the end of their first year in a job, according to a recent study from the Employment Policy Foundation. Most of these people simply don't know what's expected of them to be successful. They were never told, or the explanation wasn't clear enough. If you're not sure . . .
  • Ask questions. And then ask again. Always know what is expected of you, and why. If something’s not clear, your coworkers will generally be eager to help. Smile, be polite, and ask someone by name. Your assertiveness displays confidence, dependability, and a willingness to do your job well.
  • Find out how you're doing. Your boss will quickly construct an idea of how well you carry out your duties. Ask him or her to share it with you. Many bosses will schedule regular status meetings with individual staff members. Be sure to get on the schedule.
  • Find a mentor. Your boss may assign someone you can look to for coaching and confidence. If not, try to find a mentor on your own. Choose someone with experience who can share his or her years of knowledge with authority and candor. Look for an even-tempered sort—not the office grump or the hyper cheerleader.
  • Embrace the culture. Every office operates a little differently. Use your first few weeks to observe how things get done and follow the example. Are people informal or perhaps a bit more corporate? What's the preferred method of communication? How does everyone dress? Learn first, and offer helpful suggestions later. Sailing your own ship against the established office current from the outset can lead to trouble.
  • Stay late. Sure, we all have responsibilities away from the workplace, but if you can, try to stay a few minutes late—especially during the first few weeks. Bosses appreciate someone willing to stay late to get the job done just as much as they appreciate an eager worker arriving early. That crowd making a beeline for the door at 5 p.m. sharp? Stay away.

Watch the attitude

Just as there are keys to finding success on the job, there are the following keys to avoid trouble.

  • Don't complain about your old job. It might have been a pain, but no one wants to hear you kvetch about it from 9 to 5. Especially your new boss.
  • Don't complain about your new job. Negativity and an unwillingness to toe the company line are sure signs that you shouldn’t be there in the first place.
  • Don't lock coworkers out. You’ll spend more time in your job than anywhere else. Treat everyone around you with respect, kindness, and openness.
  • Stay away from gossip. Listening to it is OK. But don’t contribute to it.
  • No pilfering. Office supplies belong in the office. And the company doesn’t expect to pay for your long-distance calls. If you need to make a long-distance call from the office, use a prepaid phone card.
  • Keep personal communication personal. E-mail, IMs, and text messages can put the world at your fingertips, and focus the world's attention on you. But don't use company equipment to send a message you wouldn't want your boss to read. Don't circulate or engage in off-color humor and be wary of the "Reply to all" button. Also, don't compromise your company's security by surfing to disreputable websites. What constitutes appropriate communication is not always for you to decide.

As a new employee, you're probably receiving a lot of information about your new job responsibilities and its exciting benefits. It may seem a little overwhelming at first, but with these tips and a little common sense you'll find your way.



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