Starting a new job is almost always a bit nerve-wracking. You might be wondering, “What if the work isn’t what I expected? What if my co-workers and I don’t get along?”
These are understandable questions to ask, but you can easily overcome these new-job challenges. Keep reading for a guide to common first-week challenges and how you can make the most of your introduction to a new workplace.
During your first week at a new job, you might encounter the following obstacles. The good news is they have solutions.
One of the most difficult aspects of starting a new job is having to quickly catch up to the rest of your team, especially if you’re replacing someone. While good managers are understanding and expect there to be a learning curve, the business can’t pause for too long. Therefore, new hires often find themselves bombarded with tons of information and details almost immediately.
“The biggest challenge I faced during my first week … [was] information overload,” said Stacy Shade, head of studio at Trick 3D. “What works best for me when I need to synthesize a lot of new information is to take a few minutes at the end of the day to review notes and jot down questions. I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to ask too many questions in the beginning.”
While some new employees do face an overload of work, others face the opposite problem: not enough of it. If your manager or fellow team members have a particularly packed schedule the week you start, it’s likely you’ll end up doing some menial tasks that don’t have a lot to do with your overall job.
You can still learn a lot from grunt work, though, like the inner workings of the business. But if you feel like you don’t have enough to do, don’t be afraid to take initiative and ask for meaningful work. Sitting around twiddling your thumbs can reflect poorly on you, so even if everyone is too busy to lead the way or assign tasks, try to learn something on your own and figure out a way to be productive that relates to your new role.
When you’re excited about your new job, it’s natural to want to start contributing ideas right away. Participating from the very start shows you’re interested in collaborating with your colleagues and helping the company. But there’s a fine line between confidence in your ideas and arrogance. In fact, employees who have been at the company a while tend to not like the newbie who thinks they already know everything even though they just started.
“The goal of every new employee is to jump headfirst into [their] new role and begin adding value, which is great,” said Cheryl Kerrigan, chief people officer at BlueCat. “However, without having the base knowledge of company procedures, norms, and team dynamics, the attempted added value could be misconstrued. Find your balance … [and] process all new information before recommending alternatives to existing procedures.”
Write down your ideas instead of immediately sharing them, and add to them over time. Once you’re more settled at your new job, then you can suggest them. Learn the company’s communication tools so you know the preferred way to initiate such conversations.
Caitlin Iseler, founder and CEO of Happyly, said that employees with very dominant personalities should try to keep that dominance in check during their first week, especially if they have a managerial position.
“The best leaders don’t come in like bulldozers,” she said. “Good leaders come in respectfully, observing the current work environment and how the company has succeeded before they were hired. Current protocols in a company usually exist for a reason. Take three months to absorb your surroundings before making changes.”
It’s likely many of your new co-workers will be friendly and introduce themselves to you in your first couple of days, but if you want to form lasting bonds with your office mates, you’ll have to continue the conversation. It can be difficult to remember the slew of names and faces you learn those first few days, let alone any personal details about them. Shade recommended adding people to your phone contacts right after you meet them (even if you don’t have their number) and adding notes about them, such as “loves rock climbing” or “lives downtown.”
“Making notes on the new contacts I meet jogs my memory and better enables me to ask them follow-up questions or reference something from our initial conversation the next time that I see them,” Shade told Business News Daily.
Some companies announce when a new employee starts. If you’re asked to provide some information about your background, that can be a great way to let your new colleagues know a little bit about you. Someone with a common interest may even reach out to you to connect.
You’re not going to have the exact same relationships with your new boss and team members as you did at your last job. It’s your responsibility as a new employee to learn your immediate colleagues’ preferred communication and work styles so that you can find a place for yourself within their existing dynamic.
Kerrigan noted that understanding your team’s personalities and motivations can be an initial challenge, but it’s important to build good relationships from your first meeting with them and make a good impression. Shade agreed, saying that committing time to figuring out your team’s expectations will help with goal-setting and communication moving forward.
Most new employees get a general sense of the company’s culture during the interview process, but hearing about it and actually being a part of it are two different things. Once you’re officially employed by the company, you need to embrace the culture to really become a part of it.
“Be an actively engaged new employee,” Kerrigan said. “Volunteer to host a happy hour, join a committee, participate in philanthropic opportunities, and get involved. Actions speak louder than words, and your colleagues will appreciate your enthusiasm to be a part of the company culture.”
Kerrigan noted that employers should also do their part to help newly hired employees feel welcome, included and engaged from the beginning of their tenure. Managers should be prepared to use proven employee training tactics to initiate their new employees and give them plenty of feedback to encourage them as they learn the ropes.
“It’s vital that new hires know exactly what is expected of them in the first week,” Kerrigan said. “Be sure to create weekly and monthly checklists … and schedule frequent check-ins to maintain momentum. By preparing the new employee to take ownership and act as a participant in their onboarding, it creates a sense of accomplishment when the learning and tasks are completed.”
Although formal dress codes may seem increasingly less common, you probably can’t just show up to your new workplace in jeans and a T-shirt. But how casual can you go? To avoid the embarrassment of showing up underdressed, consult your company’s attire policy. If you visited the office in person for interviews, recall what everyone was wearing for hints about what you should wear.
Dress code considerations also apply if you work remotely. Sure, your new team can’t always see what you’re wearing, but you probably shouldn’t show up to team video calls in your pajamas.
If you have questions about your new job’s dress code, ask your supervisor. This might seem embarrassing, but it shows you take initiative and want to make the right first impression.
Let’s say you easily struck a reasonable work-life balance at your old job. If your new company expects you to be available on Slack more often than your old one, you could have trouble adjusting at first. And if your boss unexpectedly asks you to spend several extra hours per week working, that could prove troubling too. Bringing your concerns to your boss can be the first step toward finding a balance that better suits both you and your team. [Make sure you know how to use Slack if it’s your new job’s preferred communication platform.]
Since first weeks are sometimes hectic and don’t follow a normal schedule, try to clear your personal plate the first week of your new job. Cancel any unnecessary appointments, understand your day may not end at your ideal time, and be sure to get a good night’s sleep so you’re energized each day. If you find yourself needing more personal time in your week, consider asking your leader about a compressed work schedule after you’ve spent a few months proving your dedication.
Whether you encounter some, none, or all of the above challenges, here’s how to have the best possible first week at your new job.
Max Freedman contributed to the writing and research in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.