First Year on the Job-2011
Your First 30 Days on the Job
December 17, 2010 at 5:00 am by Tom Denham
Congratulations on your new job! If you’re lucky, you now have a
honeymoon of less than a month to prove you can perform and fit in.
There is nothing worse than starting out on the wrong foot. Some of
the most common mistakes to avoid include: 1. misunderstanding the corporate
culture, 2. not asking enough questions, 3. lacking integrity, 4. not
following the rules, 5. lacking attention to detail, 6. making
job-related errors, 7. communicating poorly, 8. misinterpreting the job
description, 9. poor interaction with co-workers, and 10. trying to
change things too fast. Use this important time to construct the
framework for success. Here are my tips to ease the transition and jump
start you in the right direction:
Day One - Start by getting mentally prepared for your first day.
On day one, arrive a little early, and then walk into the office with a
smile and a bag full of bagels with cream cheese. The first impressions
people have of you can have a lasting impact and it all starts on your
very first day. All of your interactions will be scrutinized closely,
and so it is natural to feel like you are under a microscope.
Co-workers - Treat everyone with respect and the way you want to
be treated. Get to know your co-workers, but avoid excessive chattiness.
Office gossip is dangerous for your career development. Critical and
negative comments can come back to haunt you. It’s just
counterproductive. Instead, find common interests and get others to talk
about themselves. Open the lines of communication by asking for ideas
and guidance. Ask them for help when you need it. Let them show you the
ropes. Observe how your co-workers dress. Attempt to blend in rather
than stand out. Office politics are inevitable. Observe how the styles
and behaviors of staff and managers as well as the current political
issues. Be keenly aware of both the verbal and non-verbal messages you
The Boss - Immediately be proactive and request an “Expectations
Meeting.” Find out what he or she needs you to do in the first two
weeks. What are the goals? Are they concrete, measurable and realistic?
How often and what format should you provide project updates? How will
your success be evaluated? Don’t guess! Be clear on what you think are
the top five priorities and then compare your notes with your
supervisor’s objectives. Really listen to what he or she is saying. This
meeting will also help you learn more about your supervisor’s
personality and work-style. Play “Follow the Leader.” Demonstrate your
dedication and effort to your boss and co-workers early on. Ask
yourself, “What could I do to exceed the expectations?”
Culture - Study the culture, respect it and then learn to how to
adapt to it. Pay close attention to the unwritten rules and adopt them
as your own. Listen for possible pitfalls to avoid. Control the impulse
to make comparisons to your last employer. This will only alienate your
new colleagues and create the impression that you are an outsider and
not a member of the team.
Orientation – Give orientation or training your full attention.
Listen carefully and be sure to follow instructions. Observe and write
down things as you learn them. Learn as much as you can early on
especially from watching experienced workers. Discover what your role is
in the department as well as the larger organization. Understand the
office policies and procedures as well as the strategic issues. Ask
smart questions about anything you don’t understand. This will help
prevent mistakes and misunderstandings.
Change - Resist the temptation to make too many changes
immediately. Take some time to observe the subtle nuances of the culture
and organization. Wait until you have established some rapport and a
credible reputation before suggesting a major overhaul. If you alienate
your boss or co-workers by pushing too hard you run the risk of failure.
Be helpful with out taking over. Pick the appropriate time to share your
ideas for improvement. Go from team player to team builder.
Attitude - Every day come in with a positive attitude. Present
yourself in the best possible light from the start. Be yourself at your
best. Stay focused on learning and doing the job quickly and
efficiently. Don’t get distracted. Don’t wait to be given work to do;
take the initiative to request it. Demonstrate that you want to be held
accountable. Be flexible and embrace the challenges of the job.
Mentors - Find one or more mentors that are willing to take you
under their wing so you can learn how to get things done. Your mentor is
someone you can trust to help you grown and develop. He or she should be
someone open to discussing ideas and helping you get connected. Identify
some of the star players and role models in the organization that you
Networking - How you are viewed is based both on your performance
and your personality. Get them to like you. You have got to get out and
meet people that can tell you the hidden rules of success in your new
workplace. Come up with a strategy for your internal networking. Seek
out the project managers, teammates, deal-makers and potential mentors.
Then start buying them lunch. Set a goal of building relationships with
three to five people in the first two weeks. Reserve two days a week for
networking lunches. Your goal is to listen and find out how the place
really works. What are the DOs and DONTs of the organization? Buying
others lunch beyond the first two weeks will help deepen the quality of
your relationships and expand your network. Start to build allies.
It’s up to you to establish yourself as a valuable and dependable
employee as fast as possible. Success in the first 30 days is more than
getting tasks done. The two things that matter the most are 1) how you
are accepted and 2) how you perform beyond expectations. Be patient and
give you and your new work environment a fair chance. This may take up
to a year before you really get into the groove.
First Year on the Job
December 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm by Tom Denham
In my last column, I discussed the critical moves you need to make in
your first 30 days on the job. Now, let’s build on how to make the
“freshman year” the foundation for your long-term career success. Your
job performance is dependent on the cumulative effect of how you respond
to each situation that comes your way. Throughout this first year, be
sure your priorities are listening, asking questions, learning,
exceeding expectations and building relationships.
The Second Month
By now you should have a sense of your real job duties, but don’t assume
your boss knows what you are doing. Many issues are simply a result of
miscommunication. Write down your job description and be specific.
Create a list of questions about what you thought you would be doing and
what you were lead to expect as well as any opportunities to pursue. Ask
yourself, “Was the initial job description written with wishful thinking
rather than written with reality in mind?” Does it differ wildly from
what you had bargained for? Take the initiative and request a “How am I
doing? Meeting” and collaborate on a clear job description that you can
both agree on. Get further clarity on what are the criteria to evaluate
your performance. Accept feedback and say you appreciate him/her helping
you do your job better. The purpose is so you don’t waste any precious
time being off track.
Bosses are looking for people that can take initiative, make decisions
and are willing to hold themselves accountable. Keep busy by asking your
supervisor what else needs to be done. Keep your supervisor informed
when you either complete a project or are not sure on how to handle a
situation. During the first year you want to become more and more
Make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes every day. This will send the
message that work is a priority and you want to be there. Resist the
temptation to bolt out the door when regular business hours end. Be the
first one in and the last one out of the office on a regular basis.
Don’t spend an excessive amount of time on phone calls or personal
Internet activity. Bring your ‘A’ game every day.
Achieve some desired results on a project that you can put your name on.
Having some small victories of your own can bolster your self-confidence
and your manager’s confidence in you. Articulate what you have
specifically accomplished so far. If you are regularly making your
supervisor look good, you are heading in the right direction.
The Third Month
You should approach your first 90 days on the job as the blueprint for
your long-term success. Have another check in meeting with your boss to
assess your progress. Continue to build on the basics you developed in
the first two months. Make yourself valuable.
Always be positive. No doubt you will come across negative people. Kill
them with kindness and be polite to them. Don’t gossip about co-workers;
it won’t get you anywhere. Keep private matters, private. Don’t share
your salary with ANYONE in your office. It can only end up hurting
someone’s feelings. It’s okay to grab a drink with co-workers or
managers, but don’t get wasted.
I suggest that you pick with whom you associate with very carefully
because it can have an impact on how you are perceived. Present a
positive attitude to begin new relationships on the right foot. Expand
your networking within the company and then beyond to the larger
industry and community. Make sure people know that you are there.
Continue to sell yourself and reinforce the organization’s correct
decision to hire you. A critical component is to create a “SAFETY
NETwork” of contacts. Don’t wait for your job to be in jeopardy before
making a concerted effort to develop strong business relationships. You
are CEO of your career.
Let your job description evolve into your strategic contribution to the
office and larger organization. Continue to observe the corporate
culture and the process of figuring out your place in the office.
The Second, Third and Fourth Quarters
Treat the rest of your freshman year as you would the first 90 days.
View everything that has happened as a learning experience. Ask to take
on additional duties, but be prepared to put in the time to make them
successful. Continue to reinvent your role. Embrace new rules,
responsibilities and relationships. Stay open-minded and keep your
Your career is not going to be built in a year so stay focused on the
Big Picture. Understand what is expected at this level and then ask what
it takes to get to the next level and how long it typically takes. Join
a professional association so you can stay current and connected. Set
some concrete goals that you will achieve in your first year on the job
and don’t lose sight of the long-term goals.
Evaluate at the end of the year. What went right and what needs
improvement? What do you need to start doing and what do you need to
stop doing? Never burn any bridges. If you have to leave at the end of
the year, then be sure to leave on good terms, because it is a small
Tom’ Tip: “Everything in its time.” – Anonymous
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