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So you aced the interview, you got the offer, you negotiated the salary like a boss, and you signed the paperwork. Congratulations! Now the hard part: Showing up to a new job, collaborating with new colleagues, and tackling new responsibilities. Regardless of your field, settling into a new work environment can be intimidating, overwhelming, and, in some cases, nausea-inducing, especially if you’re the introverted type. Luckily, there are people who specialize in helping others develop their professional skills. Enter Eileen Sharaga, a New York-based career counselor and coach, whose brain we picked about some of the ways you can be an exemplary new employee (and keep yourself from having a panic attack in the bathroom on your first day).
As tempting as it may be to spend your first week glued to the computer trying to wrap your mind around the ins-and-outs of the employee handbook or get a jump-start on the to-do list you're tasked with, your time is actually much better utilized by trying to get to know your new coworkers—you know, the people you’ll now spend over eight hours of your day sitting mere feet away from and who you'll inevitably come to lean on at some point. Sharaga suggests making a point of introducing yourself to as many people as possible on your first day, even those you may not work with directly. “This also serves as a way for you to present yourself as more approachable, allowing others to feel comfortable with you as well,” she explains. Oh, and be especially cool to the tech team—they’ll be your savior next time your computer crashes or you forget to save that presentation you spent all night working on.
...But not too friendly
Some offices are more informal than others, but it’s never a good look to be too forthcoming about your personal life right off the bat. Which means maybe wait until you know people a little (okay, a lot) better before you regale them with stories of your wild Saturday night. Also, Sharaga suggests avoiding office gossip, even if others are quick to want to share their take on it with you. “While you want to familiarize yourself with as many people as possible, don’t get caught up in any office gossip by forming sides or partaking in negative talk of others,” she explains. “You’ll want to stay neutral, and dissociated with this as the new person at work. This will allow you to be able to turn to anyone for help, and avoid being caught up in unwanted drama.”
Aside from all the interpersonal stuff, the most stressful part of any new job is all the questions you have. Where’s the bathroom? What’s the PTO policy? When do people eat lunch? How does your new team manage workflow? Is working from home allowed? All of these are questions you can totally ask your boss or a co-worker, even if you feel annoying doing so. After all, everybody was new once upon a time. Sharaga also says it’s important to make sure your manager sets clear expectations and goals for you right from the get-go. If they don’t, ask them to. “You’ll want to get an idea of how to prioritize your tasks to ensure you’re meeting deadlines or placing emphasis on work that sets precedent,” she says. In the end, they’ll appreciate your eagerness to get it right.
Do your research
Asking questions is good, but doing your homework is even better. Spend some time on the internet learning more about your organization. Even just reading the company’s mission statement or website can help you understand what the priorities are in your new office. And don’t forget sites like Glassdoor, where employees and ex-employees can leave anonymous reviews of the company. While not all of it is likely to be complementary (or even necessarily true), it’s a good place to get the inside scoop.
Identify a mentor
While this may not happen during your first week, or even your first month, building a close working relationship with someone more senior than you is always a good thing to aim for. This person should be someone you look up to, whose opinion you greatly respect, and whose career you might like to emulate. It doesn’t have to be your direct boss, but it’s also fine if it is. Ideally, it should be someone with whom you work with often and have a good rapport with. “Building a relationship with someone who has experience at your new workplace can help you navigate workplace politics, and provide guidance when in need,” Sharaga says.