You knew that first impressions were important in your interview, and you obviously aced that, because now you've got the job. However, did you know that first impressions are equally as important when starting a new job?
During your first hours, days, and even weeks on the new job, your new boss and coworkers are going to form their opinions of you, and these will likely color the rest of your time with this employer. For instance, if you earn a reputation as a slacker early on, it will be difficult to shake that label for long enough to earn a promotion, even if you deserve it. Conversely, if you work hard during your first few weeks on the job, your boss and coworkers will be much more likely to overlook rough periods in your performance later on.
Here are ten tips for creating stellar first impressions when starting a new job.
Take Time Off Between Jobs
At a wine tasting, guests are served bland foods to cleanse their palates between wines. Likewise, taking time off between jobs helps you to shake off the old routine and prepare for the new.
Humans are creatures of habit. Any job, but especially one at which you have spent a considerable length of time, establishes a sense of routine in your life that you may unknowingly be reluctant to change. Even a few days off between jobs can help you to prepare for a new routine and a new work environment.
Do Your Homework
You probably did a certain amount of research on your new employer during the application and interview stages. Now is the time to finish your research and round out your understanding of your new employer. If you are taking time off between jobs, you can use that time for this purpose.
To research or brush up on your new employer, read any materials about the company you can get your hands on, including the employee handbook. Your goal is two-fold: to understand what the company does and how you fit in, and to know what to expect in the workplace. If you or someone in your professional network knows someone at the company, plan to meet them for lunch or coffee before your first day - a little inside information can go a long way toward a smooth transition.
Presenting a neat appearance reflects positively on your work ethic and habits. Therefore, when beginning a new job you should always dress a notch or two above what is expected. Once those critical early days or weeks are over, you can relax a little without worrying about being perceived as slovenly or a poor worker.
If you have done your homework as suggest above, you should have a feel for your new employer's dress code. However, if you are unsure it is always better to err on the side of too professional rather than not professional enough.
Arrive Early, Leave Late
Always being the last one in the door and the first one out will make it seem like you don't actually want to be there - a dangerous impression to make, particularly during your first few weeks on the job.
Instead, always plan to be a little early, and don't be in a rush to leave at the end of the day. Besides giving the impression that you are enthusiastic and ambitious about your work, you will also gain a reputation of never being late unless there is a real emergency - a valuable reputation to hold.
Get to Know Your Coworkers
Part of settling into a new job is integrating yourself into the workplace's social network. Like it or not, you spend more waking hours with your coworkers than with almost any other people in your life. Moreover, these people's opinions of you can directly impact your success with the company, not to mention your day-to-day happiness with your job.
Whatever you, don't distance yourself from your new coworkers. While it may be tempting to frequently have lunch with your old coworkers, you may be inadvertently signaling to the new group that you are not "one of them." Instead, socialize with your new coworkers over lunch and coffee as much as possible. Lunch dates with old coworkers can help you to maintain a strong network, but should not be overdone.
Ask for Help
Asking for help is an important part of settling into a new job, yet many people worry about seeming incompetent. In actuality, the opposite is true. By not asking for or accepting help from your coworkers, you risk ostracizing yourself from them, not to mention wasting time and energy on avoidable mistakes.
However, you also don't want to ask the same questions over and over. If you know you may have a hard time remembering a complicated procedure, or that you have a bad memory in general, take notes whenever you get help. By only asking each question once, you will come across as a quick learner to your boss and coworkers.
The first few weeks on the job, your new employer will most likely give you a more relaxed workload than your coworkers are expected to carry. Although the expectation is that you won't be up to speed right off the bat, your employer also expects that you will let them know when you are ready for more work.
Use your light workload to focus on mastering and completing the work you have been assigned, and let your supervisor know if you will need another assignment soon. The sooner you can handle a full workload, the better the impression you will make. You may also opt to volunteer for special projects in order to really get noticed - but only do this if you are sure you can handle the extra work.
Make a Plan
Having a plan can help you monitor and achieve your goals during your first few weeks on the job. Your plan should include all of the things you are expected to learn, as well as a few goals you set for yourself to keep you motivated. Prioritize your goals to help you remember which skills are more important to master. Remember, the point is to keep yourself challenged so that you stay motivated, but not so challenged that you get discouraged.
A nice touch is to share your goals - and your progress - with your boss. To you, this may seem awkward and anal-retentive. To your boss, it will make you appear organized and ambitious.
Communicate with Your Boss
Just as sharing your goals with your boss can help promote a positive impression, communicating other aspects of your settling-in can encourage trust and confidence in your abilities. Your boss has hired you because you seemed like the best person for the job; in other words, he or she has taken a chance on you, and will appreciate updates on your progress.
Maintain a Positive Outlook
Optimists almost always make better first impressions than more negative people. Those who maintain a positive attitude in the face of a new or challenging situation tend to be looked on more favorably. Smile when you meet people for the first time or pass coworkers in the hall. Avoid complaining about anything, and stay out of the workplace gossip during these critical early weeks.
The Importance of Good Impressions
Because Americans only stay in each job for an average of about four years, it is safe to say that this job probably won't be your last. So why put so much effort into making a good first impression?
While it's true that this job is most likely a short-term solution, it still has the power to impact your career. Making a good impression might benefit you at this job by helping you to get promotions and special projects that look good on your resume and supercharge your career. In addition, starting a new job off on the right foot improves your chances of creating long-term networking contacts.
By following these ten tips and starting every job on the right foot, you can create solid stepping-stones from which to eventually reach even your loftiest career goals.