You recently accepted a new job and are pumped to get started, but you might be feeling anxious about the first few days. We’ve all been there, even if we feel completely prepared and know mostly what to expect, it can still be nerve-wracking to meet new people, understand new processes, and get into the swing of things.
To help calm your nerves, we put together a few dos and don’ts so you can start off on the right foot.
Have great job attendance
The last time I conducted mock interviews at our local high school, my co-interviewer asked a 17-year-old girl, “How many unexcused absences do you think are okay?” When she responded with “once or twice a month,” we gasped.
In the poor girl’s defense, she didn’t know what employers consider good attendance. And while there is no black-and-white answer, I can say with confidence that the fewer absences you have, the better.
A job is a mutual commitment. You agree to show up as scheduled and the employer pays you money for your time and effort. When you don’t show up, even for a day, you are breaking your commitment. Customers, coworkers, and companies suffer.
When is it okay to unexpectedly miss work? Good reasons include having a contagious illness or being involved in an accident. If you drank too much and don’t feel well the next day, suck it up and go to work.
If you have a good reason to miss work, contact your employer immediately so they have as much time as possible to plan for your absence. Good communication makes a big difference!
And because too many people have taken advantage of well-intentioned companies, you may need to provide a doctor’s note or obituary that proves your absence was valid. I worked with a person who had many “grandparents” pass away when the company realized he was abusing their generous bereavement policy. Don’t be that guy!
3 common mistakes people make
Most people want to do a good job at work and sometimes we still see things go poorly. (There’s a reason for the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”)
Always remember that you are your own best advocate. Don’t assume someone else is thinking about how to help you perform better. While companies want you to succeed in your job, all companies are made up of fallible humans who get busy with their own responsibilities.
With that in mind, the following are three of the most common mistakes we see new employees make.
1. Not Asking Questions
When you start a new job, you might be uncomfortable with asking questions even when you have relevant work experience. Rather than feel like a bother, sometimes people try to muddle through, despite not exactly understanding what they are doing. As a result, they might take too long, do the wrong thing, or make significant mistakes.
Ask questions and take notes! Make sure you know the location of training materials if they exist. Confirm that you are heading in the right direction early.
2. Misunderstanding Deadlines and Deliverables
This leads right into mistake #2: assuming you know what is expected from you and by when. In fact, this is one of the biggest mistakes that managers and supervisors also make: not clearly communicating a due date for when they expect results.
Whenever someone gives you work to do, you can say, “I will have X finished by the end of the week” or ask, “By when do you need Y completed?”
The companion activity here is then alerting your supervisor ahead of time if you are likely to miss a deadline. “I know you requested Z by Friday morning, but I still have to complete these three steps. How would you like me to proceed?”
3. Avoiding Feedback
Personally, I find it difficult to receive feedback – even when it’s positive. I understand why people avoid asking for it! At the same time, I’ve seen many people think they were doing well at their job, right up to the day they were fired.
Especially when you are new, asking for regular feedback is very helpful to ensure you are on track. “I really like it here and want to make sure I’m on track with your expectations. I’m curious about what I’m doing well and where I can improve.”
How often should you ask this question? I’d recommend after the first week, second week, first month, and then at least quarterly thereafter.
Avoid these three mistakes and you greatly increase your chances to be successful in your job for a long time.
4 tips for a great first day at work
It’s your first day and you want to make a great impression. Wonderful! Each of the following might seem like common sense and yet we often see people get tripped up by one or more of these. Don’t be like them!
- Be on Time. Leave 15 minutes early just so you can account for unexpected traffic or wrong turns. Don’t enter the building until 5 minutes before you’re supposed to be there.
- Dress Nicely. Make sure you understand the dress code and wear clothing that is clean and neat. And, as I said to my son when he first entered the workforce: wash up, comb your hair, and wear deodorant!
- Pay Attention. First days are generally full of paperwork and orientations. It’s often boring and difficult to retain all the information you’re given. Stay engaged, take notes, and ask questions!
- Stay Off Your Phone. Even if you are using it to look up information related to the job, others don’t know that. The best practice is to put the phone away entirely during the workday.
Even though there are many dos and don’ts for starting a new role, showing up and paying attention will get you far. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself right out of the gate.
Learning new things and making new connections takes time, so remember that this is more of a marathon than a sprint. We believe in you!