A lot of people will beginning work this week. It’s a really tough transition. There’s that awkward, I don’t know your name even though we’ve shaken hands at least 5 times phase, that seems to last longer than it should. You have to ask stupid questions like where the bathroom is or if it’s cool to wear a button down shirt with jeans on Friday. Here are some thoughts on that process – those first few days at a firm – as well as few strategies to ease the transition.
Learn the dynamic
There will be a certain way people do things at your office. I don’t just mean the obvious things like workflow, filling out time sheets or whether your company hands you a check instead of direct deposit. I’m talking about the personal dynamic. Who eats lunch with whom. When most people leave the office. Whether it’s ok to come in at 8 and leave at 4, even though your coworkers may think you’re ducking out early. Get accustomed to the various routines in your office. And then get to know the people who make them up.
Be seen, mingle but don’t be annoying. People just have to know you’re “there” at first.
You’re a celebrity your first day. Everyone will want to meet you. But, you’re still working in an office. Don’t construe this as an open invitation to chit chat with everyone whenever you feel inclined. Definitely talk to people. It’s just important to recognize boundaries and act graciously when others look stressed or hurried.
Hang out in public areas. If you have a choice between eating lunch at your desk or in the lunch room, choose the lunch room. Be around people as much as possible. It makes it easier to meet everyone. I’ve heard stories of new hires turning down lunch invitations because they brought a sandwich. These people are shooting themselves in the foot. They’re missing out on a great opportunity to bond and get to know their coworkers. It’s important to cultivate relationships with these people. You”ll be spending upwards of 60 hours a week with them during busy season.
Speak less than necessary
This is huge for anyone straight out of university. I know you want to look smart – I definitely did – but honestly, don’t say anything at company wide meetings during your first month, unless someone asks you a direct question. You will not bring anything useful to the conversation. Trust me. Instead, write all your questions down on some papter and try to answer them after the meeting. By yourself. This is a good confidence building exercise.
Take tons of notes. I’d recommend buying a moleskin (I own one and use it often).
Write things down. Compulsively. People will be giving you a lot of feedback and explanations in a very off the cuff manner during your first month. Everything will seem simple because the people who are talking have been doing this stuff for years. Don’t confuse their familiarity with simplicity. Write things down. It’s ok to ask people to talk slowly so you don’t miss anytihng. In a profession dedicated to meticulousness, where the most detail oriented staff excel, obsessive note taking shows your eagerness to learn and you’re dedication to detail. And you can always go back to consult or update what you’ve written. It’s impressive when someone understands how to do something after only being told once.
Anyone else have any tips? Krupo? Adrienne? Or does anyone have a good “what not to do” story. It can be something you saw another junior doing (i.e. getting too drunk at a staff function). Maybe you did something stupid. I know I’ve done some “unwise” things in my day – ahem using recruiting events with opens bars as predrinks.