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.
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?