Starting a New Job: How to Kill It in Your First Few Weeks

By Katherine Jarvis, Business Development Manager at Joining Vision and Action

So you got the job—now what?

The worst is over. After months of tedious online applications, stressful interviews and heartbreaking rejection, you’ve finally accepted an offer for an exciting new job! Your hard work is done, right? Well, not quite …

Although a job or career transition can be stressful and should involve your best effort, there are some ways to set yourself up for success from the beginning.

I joined the JVA team as the new business development manager at the end of March this year. While the role and major responsibilities are similar to those of my previous position, the day-to-day is quite different, and I certainly had some stressful moments as I made the transition.

After a few months, I am beginning to feel more settled into my role, and fortunately I have learned a lot along the way. Continue reading for a sampling of these lessons …

Lessons Learned

Make your first day count

Hopefully, your first day on a new job is mostly planned out for you through a formal onboarding process, with opportunities to get your questions answered, too.

Fortunately for me, JVA is made up of incredibly smart, organized professionals, and I received an agenda ahead of time for my first three days. I was scheduled to meet with staff from various departments so I could learn about their roles and projects at JVA, but I made sure to research my teammates ahead of time on the JVA website and LinkedIn. I also made note of questions I wanted to ask when I met with them.

Make sure you communicate with your new manager between signing your offer letter or contract and beginning work on your first day. Asking what you can expect on your first day is a great way to prepare in advance. Take some time prior to Day 1 to reflect on what you learned during the interview process and jot down any lingering questions you might have.

Think of your first few days almost as an extension of the interview process. It is an opportunity for you to learn more about your company as well as showcase what you are bringing to the team. Take the opportunity to ask all the questions you might not get a chance to ask later.

Don’t go in too hot

This is my own personal perpetual struggle. I am an easily excited and enthusiastic person, and, like most of my characteristics, this can be an asset as well as a liability, particularly when it comes to taking on tasks. Thus my schedule is generally packed, because I get excited and say yes to everything.

I was so excited to start work at JVA, an organization I had heard wonderful things about before even applying for the job. I had actually enjoyed the interview process, I was inspired by the people I had met and their work, and I was thrilled to be able to combine my passion for the nonprofit sector with my experience in business development. It was a dream scenario all the way around, and my enthusiasm level was through the roof by the time I started work.

This excitement fueled and motivated me through the first few weeks, but by a month in, I was beginning to feel to effects of saying “yes” to everything and actively seeking out more and more.

While I thrive on days of back-to-back meetings, I soon realized the challenge of balancing days like these when I also had three RFP responses due within a five-day period and no time to write them. I had brought this stress on myself, of course, by overscheduling, overcommitting and over-enthusing (yes, I made that word up just now, but it is a real phenomenon in my life).

I saved myself by taking time off over Memorial Day, and on returning, I made a conscious effort to reorganize and restrategize my priorities and my schedule. This effort is an ongoing one, and some days I do better than others. For the most part, I have learned what is feasible for me in my new role and what makes me too stressed to function.

Overcommunicate

This is advice I would give to everyone at any point in their job or career trajectory, but when beginning a new job, I think this is especially important.

Are you leaving an hour early for a doctor’s appointment one day? Let your boss know, even if the culture is generally not to.

Are you pursuing an opportunity or project that you discovered on your own? Share with the team so they know what you are working on (and how awesome and self-motivated you are)!

I have a tendency to overcommunicate regardless of my tenure in a position, because I am a communicative person (hello, business development!). When beginning a new job, this overcommunication serves to accomplish a few things, including the following:

  • It helps with expectation setting. Hopefully, within your first few days you will have communicated with your supervisor(s) and teammates what the expectations of the job are, but we all know there is more to a job than the job description. Each workplace has its own unspoken, unwritten cultural expectations, and part of your job your first few weeks is learning and navigating these. Communicating things explicitly that might generally be implicit or unspoken helps you to learn the unwritten rules.
  • It shows you are intentional. Being thoughtful and intentional can go a long way in establishing your reputation as someone who can be trusted and relied upon to get the job done. When you are starting a new job, you have not had the chance to earn your co-workers’ trust and respect yet. Your first few weeks are the perfect opportunity for this. Letting your co-workers and boss know what you’re up to, where you’re going, when you’re going to be in or out of the office—all of these are important to establishing a reputation of dependability while demonstrating your work ethic.
  • It sets you up for more independence later. After the first few weeks, you likely won’t have to (or be able to) overcommunicate quite in this same way. If you’ve been intentional in your communication, after the first few weeks, you will have established your reputation as someone who can be trusted, and you will not have to let your supervisor know every time you are heading across the street to grab a latte.

Of course, everyone is different, and every job is different. Perhaps the lessons I learned (which are based on my own pitfalls and struggles) will not apply to you.

Either way, I encourage you to think about your own experiences starting jobs. What worked well for you? What do you wish you had done differently? How can you take the lessons learned from the past and apply them to your next new venture?

The main kernel of wisdom I hope to leave you with is that your first few weeks and months in a new job are critical to setting the tone of the remainder of your time at a company. Make the most of them by bringing your all! And please comment below with lessons you would add to my list.

2018-07-31T19:00:45+00:00 July 23rd, 2018|2018, Blog, Tools for Changemakers, Unconsultants|0 Comments

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