Posted by: LYF | September 10, 2009

The First 30 Days aka how to impress everyone really really quickly

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.

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Responses

  1. On an absolutely practical level – feel free to take your sandwich with you to lunch if your colleagues are going to the food court. Restaurant? Ok, leave it in the fridge and eat it on the way home. 🙂

    I push writing things down 100%, to the degree that I insist you watch Hot Fuzz if you’re serious about knowing why. *Your* greatest weapon is also your notebook. If practical, use your laptop to write, if not, use a plain paper notebook. (Practical = you’re able to keep your laptop open without turning it into a shield that hides you from the person you’re speaking with.)

    Keeping track of what people told you will be the difference between being “clueless newbie” and “hey, that kid is paying attention, very good.”

    Years down the road it’s wonderful to memorize who’s who after seeing them so many times, but if I strain a little (or watch the new hires stumble) it’s easy to remember how difficult it once was to remember those names. What to do? Writing things down is also an effective way to “cheat” at remembering peoples’ names more quickly – I’ve even tried doing layout/floorplans (esp. at boardroom tables meeting with clients or in other offices where nametags/plates aren’t visible) to make it easier to get to know people.

    Don’t we all wish recruiting events still had open bars (lousy economy… grrr…) 😉

  2. I haven’t managed to be that successful new person myself, but I’ve heard from my parents’ stories that they like the new kid better when they are very quiet and do their work. If this is true, and not just the culture of the firms they work at, it’s an interesting change from recruiting, where you have to be super outgoing and speak up to get noticed.

    • I’d argue it depends on the firm, and who you’re working with in larger firms too – when you’re big, you develop freakin’ sub-cultures within the main culture of the firm. Yes, we could get into some socio-anthropological commentary here. Actually, too late, we have already. 🙂

      There’s a wide range of personalities that are either “tolerated” or “appreciated” depending on your point of view. The fun-loving extrovert still needs to get work done, and the quiet-hard working opposite stereotype needs to be able to speak up when necessary to get important messages across.

    • “I’d argue it depends on the firm.” Krupo’s right. But so are you parents. There are two situations here that often get confused for the same thing. Fitting in with your coworkers vs. building credibility.

      You have to come at these from two different perspectives, even though your behaviour has an impact on both. You have to get along with everyone, while doing good work. And the intermingling of the two will determine how well you “fit.”

      Recruiting events are strange. I never felt comfortable at them. But I hear you. It’s weird how you feel the need to act a certain way, given the situation.

  3. Which moleskin? lol

  4. Thanks! I bought one today, but I opted for the ruled notebook. I need the lines to keep my writing straight, lol.

    • Yeah, you’re normal. Everyone I show my notebook to comments on the no lines. I’m a pretty visual person, so I end up drawing lots of pictures.


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