According to the CIPD's People Management magazine, starting a new job 'is like going to a party where you don't know anybody - pretty intimidating and not very enjoyable'.
Regardless of the organisation, the role or your previous experience, beginning a new position has to be up there with one of life's most terrifying prospects.
You've survived the interview process and accepted the offer triumphantly. Yet, before you know it your first day has arrived and your legs are like jelly.
For this month's guest post, I'm exploring why we feel nervous about being the newbie, some effective strategies to deploy, and what to do (and not to do) in your first few weeks, to ensure a happy and successful inauguration.
Following a career change in 2017, I recently started a new part-time HR Specialist role in the City which I'm enjoying hugely. I've had a thorough induction and my colleagues have been warm, friendly and welcoming.
However, I've had lingering new girl nerves since day one and discovered that as well as the role technicalities the most unexpected things, like familiarising myself with the general office environment nuances, have left me feeling unusually shy.
Three weeks in, I'm still pulling doors that need be pushed. Despite having a good memory, names fly out of my head the minute their owner is introduced to me. I keep mistaking the dishwasher for the fridge.
I'm not alone. According to the CIPD, 'an effective induction process can help new joiners become productive more quickly and help prevent them from leaving within their first six months in the job'; which suggests it could take half a year for new recruits to feel fully integrated.
Being the rookie is overwhelming; navigating the mysteries of a new role, meeting a whole new set of people and learning about not just your team, but the wider team's dynamics. It's hard to know how to feel productive and show capability from day one without being appearing flashy.
Thankfully there are survival techniques to deploy as you wade through uncharted territory.
Writing recently for Stylist Magazine, Jason Sackett, an executive coach and contributing author to the book Compassion@Work: Creating Workplaces that Engage the Human Spirit, shared an important game plan to keep in mind when starting a new job and aiming to gain the respect of your colleagues and superiors.
He suggests focusing on others rather than talking too much about your past achievements and future aspirations, as this can unnerve or annoy people when they haven't had the chance to get to know you just yet. Instead, be curious and inquisitive; ask about others' talents, and successes - this will demonstrate good listening skills and a willingness to learn and collaborate.
Here are some other ways to ensure you survive - and thrive - in your first few weeks:
► Be prepared: Allow extra time to arrive comfortably on your first day and treat it like a first interview, even if familiar with the area and premises. Running late will send you flying into an even bigger panic. Although it's obvious, check the day's forecast and dress/protect yourself appropriately. I failed to do this on my first day at Breast Cancer Care and got drenched in an unexpected downpour en route to the building. My newly blow-dried hair stuck to my head and you could hear the squelch of my shoes a mile off. I've never forgotten to pop an umbrella in my handbag since.
► Start before you start: Pre-read as much as you can before the big day - enquire with HR if any materials are available to read in advance and get up to speed on company and people profiles via LinkedIn and Twitter. This provides a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with internal structures, policies and procedures and key people to track down in your first week. Even gleaning a small amount of prior knowledge can be provide some comfort as you venture into the unknown.
► Expect to feel stupid: Reached the end of Day 2 and still none the wiser? Try not to be too hard on yourself or be tempted to be carry on the interview façade; it takes time to embed into a new organisation and you're not expected to know it all or to excel at everything right away. All you can do is listen intently, take plenty of notes and ask questions to fill in the gaps or iron out any confusion. Use downtime to trawl the intranet and re-familiarise yourself with any induction paperwork provided.
► Audit your past: According to Management Today, it's useful to reflect on your previous role and ask yourself some honest questions; What did I do well? What could I have done better? What should I avoid doing in this role? Use your responses to create a vision of how you want to approach your new position - what to replicate, what to improve on and what to abstain from - and apply this as soon as you can.
► Use your initiative: It's likely your first few weeks won't be too work-heavy, so offer help to your colleagues where you can. Whether yours is a newly created role or you're replacing someone, it's likely your team will be swamped as they adjust to your joining and give up time in their diary for your induction alongside work commitments. Any tasks, whether menial or unfamiliar, form part of the learning process and it will help you feel part of the team.
► First impressions: Carefully consider how you present yourself and savour the first few meetings with your colleagues; preliminary interactions may seem trivial but first impressions really do count. When I left my last job, I was touched when a few colleagues said 'I still remember your first day' and 'you were the first person I met/who interviewed me and I'll never forget it'. When you're new, your initial impressions of the company have a lasting impact on how you see the employer brand but don't forget, it works the other way round too. As a general rule, be friendly to everyone you encounter!
► Bring your entire self to work: When you feel ready and when appropriate, reveal the true 'you', like your hobbies and interests (but avoid anything too political or contentious). At my new workplace, new joiners are encouraged to post a 'hello' message on Yammer (a social networking site for businesses) which outlines not just their role and team, but where they worked before, their interests, where they live and anything else of interest. I received some lovely, inquisitive responses and emails following my post and have already discovered one colleague with a mutual love of music, running and Dave Grohl. Our interaction has really helped to ease my nerves and made me feel less lonely.
The first few weeks in a new job often mean experiencing a steady torrent of newbie nerves and smiling so much your face hurts.
However, enjoy the discomfort if you can; as difficult as it may seem, this means you're pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone and doing great things. Your new role will provide a fresh start; the opportunity to break from the past and help shape a new and exciting future.
Soon, you'll be enjoying the party. In fact, you'll be the life and soul.
Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist & Freelance Writer
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