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How to Be the Best New Employee Ever

It’s your first week on a new job. You are the new kid in the cafeteria, the one unfamiliar with the lingo and the customs of this environment. You will be awkward. You will be a little too formal on Monday and a little too casual on Wednesday when you overcorrect. People will forget your name and they will stare at you in meetings. You will get lost on your way to every conference room and you will agonize over whether to sign your emails with “Thanks,” “Sincerely,” or just your name. You may get stuck in a stairwell.

picture from behind of a woman seated at a desk with a computer monitor.
via Flickr (Victor1558)

There is good news though, in the midst of this embarrassment: someone hired you. Someone decided that you, of all people, would make the very best awkward new kid, and that is a huge vote of confidence. So now that you’re here, holding a notebook or a laptop hesitantly, waiting for direction. How do you make the most of your first week? How do you convince your new team that you were the right choice? How do you show everyone the rock star hiding beneath your button-up?

1. Invite Yourself Everywhere

On day one, tell your direct supervisor that you want to be invited to any and all meetings that he or she is willing to include you on. A smart boss will know that this is the fastest way for you to learn the ropes and the players and will admire your foresight.

Don’t ever show up out of the blue to a meeting, or shove your way in. Rather, try something like “I noticed there’s a meeting about X initiative on Tuesday. I’m really trying to get up to speed, mind if I sit in and observe that meeting?” Then do exactly that, observe, take notes, absorb things.

If you want to be a decision-maker, a “key stakeholder” (the first of many lame biz terms coming your way), you’ve got to be in the room. When you’re new, it can be intimidating to invite yourself to the big kids’ table, but that’s the table with the cool crayons, so get over there.

2. Build an Internal Network

Institutional knowledge is one of the most valuable and hardest to acquire assets at any organization. Where is the fastest copy machine? Who reports to whom? Which department head is the most open-minded? Which group is the most overworked and who has a little time to spare? Who does what? There’s really no shortcut to learning all the ins and outs, but broadening your internal network is a good place to start.

For many jobs, understanding the big picture of how your company operates will make you more effective in your own role. In your first week on a new job, ask your supervisor for connections in each department. Email or call to request a half hour or hour of their time to pick their brains. Buy them coffee if necessary. Furthermore, meeting folks across departments now will help you down the line when you need an expert to answer your questions about another facet of your organization.

3. Get One-on-One Time

Bosses are busy people and managing a newbie like you is a big timesuck. Make yourself an efficient employee by scheduling weekly (or bi-weekly, whatever makes the most sense), time with your manager.

During your first week, if your boss doesn’t suggest it, ask if you can set up a recurring “touch-base” (more of that biz lingo!) for you two to sync up on projects. Go into each of these regular meetings prepared. Gather all your questions from the meetings you’ve observed and the other employees you’ve shadowed. Use this time to connect the dots and show your boss how fast you’ve caught on.

4. Be Useful

It will inevitably take you a few weeks to become a functional contributor to your team. In the meantime, jump in on any task you think you can accomplish to show your boss how eager you are to get going. If after a meeting there’s a follow up call to be made, offer to make it and report back. If someone needs to summarize the take-aways from a conference, be the summarizer. If there’s a draft that needs to be written, offer to take the first crack so your manager can just respond to your work instead of starting from scratch.

5. Learn ALL of the Things

Any training your company offers, take it. Public speaking? Done. Powerpoint? Excel? Networking? Speed-dating? Chocolate making? Done and done. Not only does it show people how much of an information sponge you are, you will develop some new skills, meet people across the organization, and start building evidence for the next promotion.

Bottom line: Be inquisitive, be helpful, and be resourceful. First impressions matter, and you only get to be the new kid until the next new kid comes along. Can someone point me towards the color printer?

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Emily Heist Moss

Emily Heist Moss is New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works at a tech start-up. She blogs every day at Rosie Says, and writes regular features for The Good Men Project about dating, relationships, sex and gender. She has also been featured on Jezebel and The Frisky. You can reach her at sayhitorosie@gmail.com. Find her on Twitter @rosiesaysblog.

5 thoughts on “How to Be the Best New Employee Ever”

  1. I really liked this! Very good advice.

    I think no matter where you’re at in your career, being the new person always feels weird, and can come with a sudden drop in self-esteem. A few gaffes are inevitable. It helps to remember that’s just how starting a new gig goes, and it’ll smooth out after a while.

     

  2. I agree with the other commenter, some of this is useful but some of it just doesn’t fit all jobs. My new job is being a school librarian for a school that’s never had a strong library program. So I’m observing how things are done and planning how to change them while constantly talking to everyone involved to make sure they know what I would like everything to look like. Its nervewracking and confusing especially because I have these moments where I feel like they don’t get how a library can work and their ideas are too old. The newest thing is I don’t have a desk because the old librarianish person worked in a room off the library. I’m not doing that because the best libraries always have the librarian visible and present. This seems to be effective as I get into conversations with students and staff.

    So I’m looking into getting a desk and I pointed out in one of these discussions of reorganization that my phone is currently attached to the wall in the back room/prior office. Well my bosses reaction was could you take phone calls in the library, why would you? It made me want to headdesk as she doesn’t get it, a library is a living, breathing space especially with middle and high school kids, sometimes they’re quiet, sometimes they’re loud and the library is my office. Also every teacher has their phone in their main room, why wouldn’t I as well? Yes, its nice to have a space with a door I can shut but I’m going to be present, which means I don’t have much time for lunch.

    This got rather long but this entry just gave me a good place to talk this out as its hard being the one to change the culture and finding out that not everyone gets what you’re trying to do even though they helped hire you.

  3. I started a new job this week. I was too formal on Monday, too casual on Wednesday, and today I’m in my happy medium.

    I am usually doing all those things you listed, but I am so exhausted already. How do you motivate yourself to be the Best Employee Ever when you feel like all the past effort hasn’t yielded anything?

    As a below-minimum-wage contractor, I’m feeling very blue about the future and need some tips on how to find my enthusiasm again. Right now, my attitude is friendly and dedicated, but nothing special. And in this market, I need to make myself special! Like, yesterday.

  4. Hmm. As someone who is starting a new job next week, some of these pointers are okay, but some are definitely not appropriate for every job/position. This does seem like something perhaps better suited for a first office job, or a VERY entry-level role.

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