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How to manage your first week at a job

There are probably many emotions you’ll be going through as your prepare to start a new job. Excitement, anticipation and nervousness are all very common, but you should also feel a sense of pride. This is the culmination of a journey that has seen you put in a lot of hard work – from starting the job search to researching to interviewing and even navigating that tricky notice period at your old workplace.

One common theme during all of those stages would have been the preparation you put in beforehand. Very few things will have been done off the cuff. It makes sense to apply that same approach to your first week at work.

But how should you prepare and what exactly should you prepare for? Allow us to help, with a few top tips.

 

Get as familiar as possible before Day one

You probably know a fair bit about the company from the job application process, but the days leading up to your start date should be seen in the same way as the days leading up to your interviews. Do your research by looking through their website, social media posts and staff handbook if you’ve been provided with one. Also look again at the job description and any notes you took during the interviews, to prepare yourself for the actual duties you’ll be doing.

Finally, it’s worth reaching out to your manager – firstly to just let them know how much you’re looking forward to starting, but also to ask them if there’s anything you need to know beforehand. Don’t feel shy – even if you’re unsure about the dress code, just ask and they should be happy to let you know.


Introduce yourself with authority

Your opening week is likely to be jam-packed with introductory meetings. These could be a mix of in-person and virtual, but in both scenarios, you should present yourself with a quiet authority. Nobody expects you to be an expert on the company, and if you’re switching careers, then they’ll recognise that this is an even bigger change. At the same time, they’ll expect you to be confident in your abilities and what you’ve been hired to do. Introduce yourself, your background and what you’ll be doing. Practice this beforehand if possible. Don’t be afraid to show some personality as well – colleagues will be keen to see how well you’ll fit in.

 

Be a sponge

Of course, it’s not just about you. Use these introductory meetings to ask as many questions as possible. Show that you’re curious and actively want to improve your knowledge. There are no silly questions, so don’t be nervous about this. Before each meeting, jot down what you want to ask. This could revolve around how the person you’re meeting will be working with you, or even more specific questions around ways of working. With the vast majority of colleagues, you will probably have a rough idea of what they do through their job title – so prepare questions that branch out from this. For example, if you’re meeting with the Social Media Manager, you may want to ask questions such as: “Do you use any specific scheduling software for your posts?”

You’ll probably undergo lots of different types of training – some will be on the job, whereas others may require you to do a course online. You’ll also have to do a lot of reading, for example, induction guides, products brochures or recent press releases. Be a sponge and absorb everything. Take plenty of notes during each meeting and training session and review at the end of the day.


Get into good habits

A new job normally means a new routine, so try and establish one as quickly as possible. Try a few different routes to work during your first week and find one that works best. Don’t just try and arrive on time either – be 10-15 minutes early each day. This shows how seriously you’re taking this job. As time goes on, you may be able to relax a bit, but in that crucial opening week, you want to give the right perception.

Ideally, you will have been given a tour of the workplace, but if you haven’t, feel free to ask someone for one. Familiarise yourself with key amenities such as restrooms and the staff kitchen or canteen. It’s also worth checking out the local lunch spots.


Crack the company culture

We mentioned the importance of showing your personality earlier. Aim to leave a positive and friendly impression on everybody you meet, whether you’ll be working closely with them or not. Cultural fit is a huge factor nowadays, and while you may have an idea of company culture from your research and interview, nothing is as good as actually sampling it.

Spend some time understanding the company dynamic. Normally, your email account will have been set up a while before you start, so any messages that go to your team, department or the whole office will be there. Take a look at these and see if you can get some clues about how the business operates. The faster you can work this out, the smoother the first few months will be.

Some companies will partner you up with a buddy or mentor, but if this isn’t the case, try to use someone as a sounding board. They should be able to give you tips that will help you navigate the company. If you feel nervous about approaching someone you don’t know that well, you can always use the person you sit next to or someone in your immediate team.


Nail down your targets…

Find out what your manager expects from you in your opening six months. Are there specific things you’ll be working on, or judged by? Try to get these down in writing, so you know exactly where to concentrate the majority of your efforts. You can also use these as a guide to jotting down some internal goals for yourself. Try to make these realistic – remember you are new to the company – but if you feel like you can achieve something, then go for it.

 

...While taking an interest in the bigger picture

While your immediate concern will be around your day-to-day activities, you should also show how keen you are about the bigger picture things. What are the company’s KPIs for the year? What products are on the roadmap for development? Ask these types of questions to your manager, or any relevant people. It shows that you have a thirst for knowledge and want to help the business achieve its goals, as opposed to just ticking along with your work.


Plan your time carefully

Along with meeting different people, there’ll be lots of administrative things for you to sort out in your first week. For example, you could be creating accounts for software to use, setting up your profile on various internal systems and filling out different forms for HR. Try to set aside a dedicated slot each day for all of these tasks, to ensure nothing slips.

At the same time, ensure you manage your time in a way that allows you to relax properly at the end of each day. The first week can be a tiring experience – even if you’ll be sitting at a desk most of the day, your brain will be working overtime as you try to take in all the new information. It’s a good idea to not arrange any social events for that first week, so you can recharge your batteries after work. And at the end of your working week, treat yourself to an extra-long lie-in the following morning!

 

Ultimately, the reason you’ve got to this stage is that the company and your hiring manager liked you. If you keep that in mind at all times, it should help ease any nerves you have. In addition, by going the extra mile – in terms of your work and fitting into the company culture – you can ensure that the first week sets you up for success in the medium and long term.

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