There’s a distinct fear of the unknown when it comes to your first job—it might be like "Parks and Recreation" and "The Office." Or maybe you’ve never had an inbox with more than two unread emails at a time. So far, your game plan is just to show up on your first day and wait for your manager to tell you what to do. The good news is your first week on the job doesn't have to be so ominous, and you can take steps to reduce new job anxiety. New hires have the opportunity to take everything in and hit the ground running. If you do nothing else during your first Monday to Friday, be sure to accomplish five tasks to set yourself up for an easier onboarding and successful first week on the job.
How to Navigate the First Week at Your First Job
- Be a sponge. Your sole responsibility is to absorb everything you can during your first week at work. Start to understand the company culture, learn team and individual communication styles, and key objectives. Attend all pertinent meetings, go to that informal happy hour, and make it to a new hire orientation. The great news about your first week is that you can assume and get away with ignorance. Of course, make sure you prioritize obligations related to your role before hopping into someone else’s meeting, and be sure not to overcommit and overwhelm yourself during the first week of work.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for clarifications. Everyone will understand and know what it feels like to be lost in translation during your first week. Take notes to ensure you won’t have to ask the same questions twice. As you ask clarifying questions, this will also serve as an opportunity to provide input and question routine. Like all good listeners, just be sure to read the audience and know when it’s appropriate to chime in.
- Offer to help. Don’t wait for your boss or team to assign you tasks and projects. Show initiative by volunteering your time and knowledge to help new team members out. Not only will this help build rapport with your new coworkers, but also give you test projects to learn new procedures, team expectations, and how resources are allocated.
- Find a mentor. Introduce yourself to the person in the office who seems to radiate confidence, win over teams, and carry projects to completion. Ask them about their tips and tricks for navigating the culture, team, and work itself. This person should not be your go-to for every question you have, but likely a good resource for best practices and a rapid crash course on how to move work forward.
- Overcommunicate with your boss. Ask for periodic or weekly meetings with your boss. Better yet, ask your boss if you focus these meetings on learning a new skill or tracking your performance. Carving 30 minutes out of your manager’s calendar every week will create a much stronger relationship than popping into his or her office whenever you have a question.
Takeaway: It’s challenging to strike a balance between being humble and showing initiative. As a new hire, you have a lot to learn and much to prove. Above all else, practice deep listening skills during your first week on the job and you’ll be up to speed in no time. And while these tips for starting a new job are particularly relevant for Millennials entering the workforce for the first time, we believe these skills are relevant for everyone starting a new job.