Start with a Bang!

by Ada M. Palles

Starting Gate Congratulations, you got the job! Now what?

Your first day on the job may be filled with orientation, filling out insurance forms, 401(k) sign-up sheets, and picture-taking for your badge. But as soon as you are shown your desk, your new life begins.

Some companies begin training you immediately on your job. Other companies designate a mentor right off the bat — someone to show you the ropes, how your system works, how to get things done, and where to find what you need. Lucky you! Most companies, these days, don't have that luxury.

If your new job were CEO of a Fortune 500 Company after an extensive headhunting search, how long of a grace period do you think you'd have before you really had to "show your stuff?"

Probably not long.

The day the announcement is made you'd be off to interviews with the press, meeting with Wall Street analysts to explain your vision for the company, and scheduling employee all-hands meetings to introduce yourself to the crew.

No matter what your title, why expect it to be any different for you? No honeymoon, no probation period, no time to just "settle-in."

These days, when a company hires an employee with all the skill and experience you listed on your resume, they expect you to hit the ground running.

With the job market what it is, and so many willing people out there just waiting for an opening, you can't afford to relax now that the interview is over. In reality, the interview has just begun, and the first impression you make may stick with you longer than you know. Instead of trying to overcome a bad image from Day 1, make sure the image you present puts you on the Fast Track in your career.

This agenda will help you launch your new job, or kick-start your current job into high gear.

DAY 1 Introductions

Your first day on the job is bound to be full of introductions to a large number of people. Take your pad and pencil with you wherever you go, and as soon as appropriate, write down every single name. Look them up in the company directory when you have a chance. See how this person fits into the organization, and how you will be interfacing with them. This is the first step in figuring out how you fit into the organization, as well as your first resource list of contacts before you have that first crisis.

Smile

Your face may hurt by the end of the day, but you want to convey the message that you're happy to be there, right? You also want to convey friendliness, and that you're happy to meet your new co-workers.

Handshake

How firm is your handshake? With all that has been written about how revolting a limp-noodle handshake is, you'd think such a thing would be extinct by now. I can assure you that it is not, and not just from women, but from men, too. It shocks me every time I encounter it. Your handshake should be warm, firm but not aggressive, and just one "shake" will do. Women should remember to extend their hand. Men should wait for women to initiate. Those are the rules — follow them!

Energy

Pump up your enthusiasm! If you're not excited to be here, there are plenty of unemployed folks out there who would be, given the chance. If you don't demonstrate enthusiasm and high energy on your first day, don't blame people for assuming you never will.

Animation

A poker face may be appropriate in poker, but it never comes across as warm and sincere. People who are more animated with their expression, in addition to being easier to read, are also easier to like. Open, honest expression is an indication of strength and confidence — not the behavior of someone who has something to hide.

Face-Time with the Boss

Don't leave the day without thanking your boss for the opportunity and for any introductions he might have made, expressing your enthusiasm to begin, and asking for any urgent action items that require priority, along with a list of contacts you will need to achieve those objectives.

DAY 2 Beyond: Building Your Network Let's Do Lunch

Remember that list of names you wrote down on your first day? By now you've looked them all up, figured out how they fit into your world, and have identified some of the players: your fellow teammates, the project lead on the company's biggest initiative, your interface points into other departments you'll be needing access to, etc. Get on the phone and ask them to lunch within your first 2 weeks. (Do not put this off!) If they're booked, offer to buy them coffee for a few minutes of their time. Tell them you're looking for advice and their perspective on your role, and how they see you fitting into the organization. I have news for you: it is who you know! You can't accomplish much in any company without the willing assistance of other people, so you'd better recruit your allies now.

Listen

Be ready to ask questions, and then just listen to what the other party has to say. You're trying to figure out the company culture, who's who, the unspoken rules of the workplace, the major do's and don't's, the right way to communicate and interface with people (phone vs. email vs. face-to-face) and other significant insights into the role you were hired to fulfill. Remember that you're there to listen — not chat. If you find yourself doing most of the talking, immediately ask another question!

Perform

Jump on your first action items. Start getting some checkmarks on your list. Not only will this boost your confidence, but getting wins early will boost your manager's confidence in your abilities, as well. If you run into roadblocks, seek advice from any promising allies you've made to date.

DAY 30 Monthly Check-Up, One-on-One with your Boss

Seek out your boss and ask him/her for a one-on-one to discuss how you are performing. Don't be surprised if it ends up being more of a "what are you doing?" conversation. Your boss may be so busy, he/she may not even be aware of all of your activities. Come prepared with your list of completed action items, pending action items, and discuss any change of priorities. Solicit feedback. Above all, don't wait for your boss to initiate this meeting — schedule yourself into his/her calendar without fail. Also, remember that there is nothing to fear — an employee who solicits input and feedback in an effort to improve is every boss's dream.

Contacts Still networking, right? Day 60 Evaluation Meet a milestone

By your first two months, you should have met some major milestone in your job. Review and discuss how this went with your boss. Was it smooth sailing or rough seas? What were the challenges? How did you handle them? Were those the best ways to handle them? Reviewing now will set you up to tackle your next big win.

Reboot

Schedule some downtime to reflect on your new job. Is it better than you thought it would be? Worse? Is it a good fit, or does it pinch? Are you handling your responsibilities well, or just barely? What do you need to make this work, or should you cut your losses? Now is the time to consider how this job is working out for you, while there may still be some fluidity to mold it into what you'd like it to be. You've been there long enough to know whether you'll like this as a long-term situation or not. If not, are there ways to improve the job? Are there other slots in the company you might be a better fit for? A conversation with an HR rep might be in order, to discuss possibilities and options. If all is well, review your successes and plan your next 60 days.

Job Description

Did they give you one when you walked in the door the first day? Does it at all resemble what you're actually doing? Most people, when they finally figure out their role in the organization and how to get things done, suddenly discover their job has little to do with what was written down. That's because often the job description you're hired for is more a list of wishful thinking than hard, cold reality. You may have found that your job actually entails more negotiating, more persuasion and presentation techniques, and more team-building than listed. Re-write your job description, and then discuss it with your boss. Is it different than what you were led to expect? Is this the direction you really want to go in? Is this what your boss expects? Are there more opportunities here to be pursued? The purpose is to make sure you and your manager are in agreement with your job responsibilities, that you are on track in fulfilling organizational goals, and that you both fully understand your activities and objectives. You may find you'll need to begin again on a different course. Or, you may find that your job has evolved into an altogether different entity. In any case, now is a good time to review before going any further.

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