What to do on your first day, week and month at a new job

The sense of excitement/relief can quickly turn to anxiety about fitting in and contributing. But it’s important to remember that they hired you for a reason !

Unlocking tech talent stories

November 10, 2015

Accepting a job offer is always a great feeling, whether you’ve been looking for months or just a few days. But of course, it’s just the beginning. You’ve spent time telling them that you’re the right person for the job, and now you have to show them.

The sense of excitement/relief can quickly turn to anxiety about fitting in and contributing. But it’s important to remember that they hired you for a reason — they believe in you, and if you hold onto that, it can make navigating a new job so much easier.

It’s a good start, and there are many other things you can do to adjust to life on the first day, week, and month at your new job.

Conquering the first day

You’ve picked out your favorite outfit, had plenty of coffee, and gotten to the office early. Now what?

It largely depends on the company. Some companies have onboarding and training systems in place, and others don’t even have a computer ready for you the first day (I worked at a company like that — let’s just say that people’s first days were pretty chaotic), and most companies fall somewhere in between.

If you’re working at a startup, onboarding may still be a work-in-progress, especially if you’re one of the first hires. Go with it! You may be able to help shape what that experience should be like.

1. Be yourself

The best professional version of yourself, preferably. You’ll hopefully be working with these people for a long time, and first impressions really do matter!

There’s the standard stuff: be polite, introduce yourself to everyone and be genuinely interested in them, smile a lot, make a few jokes so people think you’re cool (just make sure they’re appropriate), and so on.

2. Get on the same page as your boss

It is so, so important to be on the same page as your boss from the very beginning. This doesn’t have to be a long conversation. Just make sure you understand:

  • How quickly you’re expected to get up to speed — this could be anywhere from a week to six months, and it’s hopefully something you already discussed in the interview process;
  • Goals and milestones you’re expected to hit. If you’re a marketer, are there certain numbers your boss wants to hit? If you’re a programmer, is there a feature you’re expected to ship? If you’re a PM, when is an upcoming release expected?
  • Day-to-day and long term expectations. Are you supposed to ship code daily, or to make significant long-term-contributions to the product?
  • Find out if your boss is more process or results oriented. Do they care about seeing daily progress, or do they just care that the project is finished on time and is awesome?

Again, this doesn’t have to be a super intense conversation. You’ll definitely be talking about these things as time goes on, and you’ll also be able to fill in the blanks about your boss by talking to your coworkers about observing how things work around the office.

3. Understand the company culture

One of the most important things you can do on your first day is get a feel for the company culture. Hopefully you know a decent amount about the culture from the interview process, but now’s the time to fill in the blanks.

Getting to know the communication style really helps here. Do people spend the day chatting and posting gifs in Slack/HipChat/Gchat? Or is everyone heads down and quiet, focusing on their own work, only popping into reality to ask a question or collaborate on a shared problem?

If you have questions, ask them! You know, unless the culture is “don’t ask questions.” That could be a sign that the company sucks and you’ve made a horrible mistake. Sorry. Go here and look for another one.

Navigating the first week

The first week is all about making an immediate impact and a great first impression. You want to induce the halo effect here, so people will always think you’re awesome and will give you the benefit of the doubt along the road.

1. Work long hours

You should go the extra mile in terms of hours worked at the start. You don’t necessarily need to be there until midnight every night, but giving the impression you’re throwing yourself in and making an effort to get up to speed will prove your commitment and buy you a lot of goodwill with your employers and colleagues.

2. Take initiative, take on the dirty work, and say yes to everything

Seriously, take on all the dirty work. It shows that you care about the company and not just yourself, and that perception will linger for as long as you work there. Again, be mindful of the type of company you’re dealing with. Startups love people that take the lead and deal with problems, but this approach might be frown upon by more corporate companies that require you ask before starting to sort things out.

3. Quick wins

You want to make an impact before the first week is over. For a programmer, this means shipping code, usually even on your first day. In other roles it’ll vary, but it’s something you should ask as soon as you get the job.

4. Get a feel for the social side of things

Do people hang out outside of work? Does everyone go their separate ways? What’s the mood like at the tea-making point? You’re going to spend most of your waking life with these people, make sure you find the appropriate levels of social interaction.

5. Buddy up

Along those lines, finding a buddy or mentor helps a lot here, both on a personal level and as a person you can go to with questions and problems. There are always a lot of those the first few weeks on the job, and it’s so much more comfortable when there’s someone to ask for advice and help.

6. Learn, just so much

Keep your eyes and your ears open. Find out all you can about the company, your coworkers, the teams, their goals, the products and services. Read as much as you can on internal servers and organisational tools like wikis, Trello and Slack.

Killin’ it in the first month

First off, continue doing all of the things you’ve been doing above. Learn, contribute, and socialise. But you should also add a few new goals to your list, mostly concerning your boss.

1. Get to know your boss on a more personal level

This doesn’t mean getting drunk with them — unless that’s their thing, then by all means go for it, just don’t get too drunk. Even if they’re pretty reserved you can still get to know them — what do they do for fun, do they have a family, do they like jokes, and so on. It’s nice to have something to talk about other than work.

2. Understand your boss’ worries

What keeps them up at night? Does anything about you concern them? Figure this out and you’ll figure out how to their lives easier, which is really the reason they hired you. Make your boss look good. Make them relaxed. Make them super glad you’re on the team.

3. Don’t be afraid of change

I mean, we’re all afraid of change and that’s not gonna… change. But be open to doing things differently than you have before, be open to trying new things, be open to putting yourself in new or uncomfortable situations. This is how you learn, and really, when it comes down to it, that’s the most important thing to do the first month on the job.

Jessie Wood

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